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Elishva the old Christian woman longs for the return of her son Daniel. It has been twenty years since he was forcibly sent off to war but she believes he is still alive and she prays to St George so that he will return someday. Hadi the junk dealer collects and assembles body parts found in the debris of terrorist explosions and there are plenty of explosions in Baghdad. An arm from one body, a leg from another, stitching them together hoping to give them a proper burial as a whole body. One day Hadi leaves the putrid oozing body at his workshop, the Whatsitsname, to buy items for his junk shop. When he returns home, the Whatsitsname is gone. Panic ensues.
Hasib Jaafar was a hotel guard and at the age of 21 he was killed by a suicide bomber driving a garbage truck. There was little left of Hasib. His soul was searching for a body so he can be buried, when he finds the Whatsitsname lying on the ground, he magically enters it. Then the Whatsitsname with its new found soul is found by the old woman Elishva who claims him as her long lost son Daniel. She dresses him and cooks him food. But Daniel's return does not last long as he wanders the streets looking for revenge on the killers of his various body parts. When he finds and kills the murderer, that body part drops off. So he finds replacement murdered body parts and continues looking for murderers. The Watsitsname becomes a bit of a metaphor for a never ending war in Iraq. Murder and revenge. The police pursue him.
A dark satire and intriguing concept for about half of the book. Then Saadawi seems to lose his way and the book meanders in different directions with different characters, some who add nothing to the story. There are lots of astrologers, mistresses, barbers, journalist, priest, janitors and generals. All converging for one big explosion that seems very anti-climatic in the end.