So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Woman at Point Zero

Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi

Written in 1975 by an Egyptian doctor who was once the Minister of Health, but who lost her job and spent time in jail once she started fighting for women's rights, Woman at Point Zero is a powerful tale of the oppression of women by men and society. According to the Preface El Saadawi had lost her job in the Egyptian government and as a journal editor because of her feminist novels and was researching women in prison as a faculty member of Ain Shams University when she met Firdaus, a female prisoner convicted of murder at Qanatir Prison. Her interviews of Firdaus eventually became the source material for the novel Woman at Point Zero.

The novel begins with a short introductory chapter told in the voice of a woman psychiatrist studying female criminals at a prison. She is told of one extraordinary woman who is to be executed for committing murder but who will not see anyone. After many attempts to see her, Firdaus finally sends for her the day before her execution.

The main body of the book is Firdaus telling the story of her life to the psychiatrist. As she tells of the many ways she has been oppressed my men and society, her voice is sparse and coldly logical . She tells of a loveless life ruled by men. All of her attempts to take control of her situation are thwarted by men and societal norms. As a last resort she kills rather than submit any longer and, for this, society will execute her.

In the final two page chapter of the book the doctor realizes that Firdaus has more courage than she will ever have.