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Saadawi's "The Novel" was our Readers Club Book selection for
From then on, there was no respite: imprisonment under the late President Anwar Sadat in
1981 was the culmination of the long struggle she had fought for Egyptian women's social
and intellectual freedom. In 1992 her name appeared on a death list issued by an Islamic
fundamentalist group, prompting her to flee Egypt for five years. When Saadawi was seven
years old, she "felt there was something wrong on earth and in heaven. At that
age, I was ready to fight, to die for my country but I ended up in jail. .
She has gained a considerable reputation in the English-speaking world through her books The Hidden Face of Eve, a study of women in Arab society, and Woman at Point Zero, a novel.
A selection of her works are :
The Hidden Face of Eve
God Dies by the Nile
Memoirs of a Woman Doctor
"I wrote Memoirs of a Woman Doctor thirty years ago when, as a young woman in my
twenties, I had just graduated from the School of Medicine in Cairo. It expressed my
feelings and experiences as a woman who was a doctor at work, but still performed the
roles of a wife and a mother at home.
Since that time, the novel has been frequently reprinted both in Cairo and in Beirut. But it has never appeared in its entirety because I have lost the original manuscript.
Despite these limitations, I still consider Memoirs, incomplete as it is in the present edition, as a fair description of the moral and social position of women in that period. Some people believe that Memoirs is autobiographical, but although many of the heroine's characteristics fit those of an Egyptian woman such as myself, active in the medical field in those years, the work is still fiction. It is one thing to write a novel, and another to write one's autobiography.
At the time I had not read any feminist literature on women's struggle or on women's status in contemporary society - this only came later - but although I have subsequently written many novels and short stories which may be more sophisticated, I still consider Memoirs like a first daughter, full of youthful fervor and expressing a reality which is still relevant today. It is a simple, spontaneous novel in which there is a lot of anger against the oppression of women in my country, but also a great deal of hope for change, for wider horizons and a better future."
Two Women in One
Two Women in One is the story of Bahiah Shaheen, an 18-year old medical student and
daughter of a prominent Egyptian public official. She finds the male students in her
class rough, coarse and alien. Her father, too, seems to belong to a race apart, and
the young woman has long ceased to be surprised at not being her real self in his
Two Women in One is not merely the story of Bahiah Shaheen. It is also the story of countless women in the Third World, their hopes and ambitions, and their quest for emancipation and dignity. It is a telling reminder for women everywhere that hope should never yield to despair, that the future does hold a brighter promise.
I live now in Cairo... I just quit a job in advertising to switch to management consultant. Having lived abroad most of my life I was introduced to Nawal El-Saadawi while at univ. (McGill Univ. in Montreal, Canada) and she, among other Arab authors, were my biggest insight into Egyptian lives that even while living here I will never come into contact with. El-Saadawi taught me about Egyptian women I will never encounter through work or everyday life, Naguib Mahfouz's characters allow me to experience a social class I will not only never see but can never be a part of... It might sound overly romantic, but it's so true. As a westernized Egyptian woman, many doors are closed to me, it's books that let me act like a voyeur into Egyptians around me with different backgrounds and circumstances. Your social class confines you and literature is what breaks down those walls.
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