The Islamic reading project still in slow progress and I have now had my introduction to the fabulous writing of Nawal El Saadawi.
I knew the name, not the facts.
Born in Egypt in 1931, unusually for a woman Nawal El Saadawi received an education on a par with that of her brothers and graduated from Cairo Medical School as a psychiatrist in 1955. As Director of Public Health Education she held a prestigious place in the Egyptian government which she lost as a result of political pressure in 1972 eventually finidng herself imprisoned in 1981 for criticising the one-party rule of President Anwar Sadat. Released one month after Sadat's assassination in 1982, Nawal El Saadawi has maintained a high profile in Egyptian politics against all the odds.
Through her writing people like me can get a true idea of what life has been like for women during these years and it is some of the simplest, most powerful reading you could ever hope to find.By simple I mean there are no flourishes, no flowery bits setting out to impress, this is pure words on the page = this is how it is.
You are in the cell, sitting on the floor listening to a woman talking about her life. A woman who makes no excuses, asks for no special dispensations just rationally and objectively tells her story.
Woman at Point Zero translated by Sherif Hatata (who I assume is the same Sherif Hatata who is Nawal El Saadawi's second husband) tells the remarkable life story of Firdaus recounted the night before her execution for the murder of her pimp.
Part true part fiction and as Miriam Cooke says in her introduction
"what matters is that it unfolds a universal tragedy...a place of pain that is utterly particular to the players but also universal"
Firdaus slowly recounts a life of abuse that inexorably drove her to a life of prostitution and eventually to murder but she walks to her death fearlessly courageous, taller and prouder.
In telling the story of Firdaus Nawal El Saadawi exposes the lies and hypocrisy that have blighted her life and in witnessing the final moments of Firdaus's life emerged with
" a need to challenge and to overcome those forces that deprive human beings of their right to live, to love and to real freedom"
There is nothing but nothing else I can say about this book because actually there is too much to say for which there are no more words.
It's another must read and many thanks to Zed Books for a book which I doubt, once read, anyone will ever forget.