£8.99 | $14.95

16 June 2007
Paperback
ISBN: 9781842778739
128 pages
198mm x 129mm
Middle East

Middle East, Gender and Sexuality, Literature

Also available as Hardback

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Woman at Point Zero

Nawal El Saadawi

'All the men I did get to know, every single man of them, has filled me with but one desire: to lift my hand and bring it smashing down on his face. But because I am a woman I have never had the courage to lift my hand. And because I am a prostitute, I hid my fear under layers of make-up'.

So begins Firdaus' story, leading to her grimy Cairo prison cell, where she welcomes her death sentence as a relief from her pain and suffering. Born to a peasant family in the Egyptian countryside, Firdaus suffers a childhood of cruelty and neglect. Her passion for education is ignored by her family, and on leaving school she is forced to marry a much older man. Following her escapes from violent relationships, she finally meets Sharifa who tells her that 'A man does not know a woman's value… the higher you price yourself the more he will realise what you are really worth' and leads her into a life of prostitution. Desperate and alone, she takes drastic action.

Saadawi's searing indictment of society's brutal treatment of women continues to resonate today. This classic novel has been an inspiration to countless people across the world.

Reviews

'Nawal el Saadawi writes with directness and passion, transforming the systematic brutalisation of peasants and of women in to powerful allegory' - New York Times Book Review

'Scorching' - New Internationalist

'A powerful indictment of the treatment of women in many parts of the Middle East' - Labour Herald

'Woman at Point Zero should begin the long march towards a realistic and sympathetic portrayal of Arab women' - Middle East International

'A dramatic symbolised version of female revolt against the norms of the Arab world' - The Guardian

'El Saadawi has a flair for melodrama and mystery' - International Journal of Middle East Studies

'It is a remarkable book. Painful, compulsive reading. I am sure some of you know all about it but for those who don't this short novel, or creative non-fiction as the author describes it, is the story of Fidraus, a prostitute about to be executed for murdering her pimp. Her life is recounted in a little over 100 pages but each one leaves an indelible mark. This is a tale of injustice, inequality and sheer bad luck to rival all those bloody misery memoirs that litter the supermarkets but it is written with such grace and skill as to be on a par with the finest literature of this or any era.

Leaves an indelible mark. This is a tale of injustice, inequality and sheer bad luck - written with such grace and skill as to be on a part with the finest literature of this or any era - haunting, poetic and fiercely relevant'. - Scott Pack, The Friday Project

'A tragic insight into a woman's oppression and downfall.' - Banipal


Table of Contents

Foreword by Miriam Cooke
Author's Preface
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3

About the Author:

Nawal El Saadawi was born in 1931, in a small village outside Cairo. Unusually, she and her brothers and sisters were educated together, and she graduated from the University of Cairo Medical School in 1955, specializing in psychiatry. For two years, she practiced as a medical doctor, both at the university and in her native Tahla.

From 1963 until 1972, Saadawi worked as Director General for Public Health Education for the Egyptian government. During this time, she also studied at Columbia University in New York, where she received her Master of Public Health degree in 1966. Her first novel Memoirs of a Woman Doctor was published in Cairo in 1958. In 1972, however, she lost her job in the Egyptian government as a result of political pressure. The magazine, Health, which she had founded and edited for more than three years, was closed down.

From 1973 to 1978 Saadawi worked at the High Institute of Literature and Science. It was at this time that she began to write, in works of fiction and non-fiction, the books on the oppression of Arab women for which she has become famous. Her most famous novel, Woman at Point Zero was published in Beirut in 1973. It was followed in 1976 by God Dies by the Nile and in 1977 by The Hidden Face of Eve: Women in the Arab World.

In 1981 Nawal El Saadawi publicly criticized the one-party rule of President Anwar Sadat, and was subsequently arrested and imprisoned. She was released one month after his assassination. In 1982, she established the Arab Women's Solidarity Association, which was outlawed in 1991. When, in 1988, her name appeared on a fundamentalist death list, she and her second husband, Sherif Hetata, fled to the USA, where she taught at Duke University and Washington State University. She returned to Egypt in 1996.

In 2004 she presented herself as a candidate for the presidential elections in Egypt, with a platform of human rights, democracy and greater freedom for women. In July 2005, however, she was forced to withdraw her candidacy in the face of ongoing government persecution.

Nawal El Saadawi has achieved widespread international recognition for her work. She holds honorary doctorates from the universities of York, Illinois at Chicago, St Andrews and Tromso. Her many prizes and awards include the Great Minds of the Twentieth Century Prize, awarded by the American Biographical Institute in 2003, the North-South Prize from the Council of Europe and the Premi Internacional Catalunya in 2004. Her books have been translated into over 28 languages worldwide. They are taught in universities across the world.

She now works as a writer, psychiatrist and activist. Her most recent novel, entitled Al Riwaya was published in Cairo in 2004.