“Now I realized that the least deluded of all women was the prostitute. That marriage was the system built on the most cruel suffering of women.”
Woman at Point Zero was written by Nawal El Saadawi in 1975. This feminist Egyptian author has quite a resume. She became a doctor in her early twenties in 1955. She campaigned against female circumcision in Egypt for over 50 years, with the practice not becoming illegal until 2008. Early in her career she lost her job as Director of Public Health because of her campaign. Later, she was even imprisoned by the Sadat regime over a political matter. And, not only that, she has written at least 16 books on women’s issues.
This book was written as a result of her visiting a woman in prison. While she was studying neurosis in women, another doctor told her about a prisoner who refused to ask for a pardon from the President for the crime of killing her pimp. After the author heard the woman’s story, she couldn’t sleep for days until she started writing this book. (Source: BBC interview below)
Firdaus tells her life story from the beginning, from being touched by her uncle inappropriately, to being married off and beaten by her 60+ year old husband, to being raped and then finally becoming a prostitute. It is a harrowing story and one I won’t easily forget. The book is short and it is structured to repeat in a few places, but this was intentionally done by the author to good effect. Highly recommended for those interested in women’s issues and feminist fiction.
“Everybody has to die. I prefer to die for a crime I have committed rather than to die for one of the crimes which you have committed.”
Author interview with BBC World Book Club:
(1975, 108 pp.)