For Halloween: Five Richly Terrifying Arab Novels

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Arabic Literature (in English)

There is a horror category in Arabic. Indeed, way back in 2011, Egyptian critic and writer Ahmed Khalifa said the genre was undergoing a renaissance:

Image from Opeth in Arabic Image from Opeth in Arabic

Yet as Lebanese filmmaker Tarek Jammel also noted in “No Zombies in Gaza,” sometimes there’s so much on-the-ground horror that the monsterized version doesn’t have as much to offer writers.

Either way, there are some truly hair-curling, gooseflesh-raising, get-me-off-this-planet Arab books. The five books below all have monsters in them, although only in Frankenstein in Baghdad is the monster non-human.

1. Frankenstein in Baghdad, by Ahmed Saadawi, translated by Jonathan Wright (2017).

Just as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein tops lists of literary horror pioneers, Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad — winner of the 2014 International Prize for Arabic Fiction — deserves its place among Arabic’s well-crafted horrors. The book features a living corpse, stitched together of different blown-up body parts and made into a what’s-its-name that claims to be on a “grand mission…

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