A Year of Feminist Classics

Because they're better together :)

More on Nawal El Saadawi

I apologize for the lack of structure in my post today, but I had a number of different items that I wanted to discuss with you.


For anyone who is interested, Lauren who blogs at Underneath a Book has offered her copy of God Dies by the Nile to anyone who is interested. She mentioned in a comment on the introduction post to send her an email if you are interested. I found a link to her email address on her profile page. (This copy has been spoken for already!) Thank you so much for helping out this month Lauren! (You can also check out her thoughts on the book while you are at it.)

Christina of The Blue Bookcase also offered her copy up to another participant this month (this copy was already spoken for) so I want to say a huge thank you to her as well. I love the sharing that is going on, especially for this title which sadly isn’t available free online.


I want to talk briefly about my effort to read more works by and learn more about Nawal El Saadawi. To this extent I recently finished Woman at Point Zero which was really another really interesting book. It was similar to God Dies by the Nile in that it explores issues of corruption, violence against women, and the lack of rights held by women in Egypt. It was completely different, however, in that the story is narrated by an unnamed psychiatrist who visits a woman who is set to be executed the following morning. The bulk of the novel is the story of the woman in prison’s story, as told to the psychiatrist. I really liked how the story examined issues of women’s sexuality and liberation and the different ways in which women sell themselves.

Definitely a lot of food for thought in this book.  I especially loved the way in which Saadawi uses repetition to show the ways in which Firdaus was constantly falling into the same traps. The use of repetition also underscores her slowly finding herself and learning to extricate herself from the situations in which she ended up. Although she starts off incredibly naive and trusting, she comes through the book to realize the folly of trust in anyone but herself. For more you can check out my review.

Lined up I have The Novel, Saadawi’s most recent publication, which I am hoping to read this week. I also just placed an order for The Hidden Face of Eve: Women in the Arab World, and Daughter of Isis: The Autobiography of Nawal El Saadawi. I am hoping that these two books show up soon so that I can read them and discuss them this month. I am also hoping to read the former this week. After reading two of her books and finding out more about her political activism online, I wanted to know more about Saadawi herself which is why I ordered her autobiography. I have a feeling that she is an author whose entire catalog I will be reading my way through in the coming months and years!


I received a really great email from a participant / follower, Cosima Green, about some points I made in the introductory post for this month. Cosima is reading Daughter of Isis and her points to me were about things that she had read in that book (this is a large part of why I ended up ordering the book myself, so thank you!). I had responded asking if Cosima would be willing to write a post but I haven’t received a response as of yet, so thought I would talk about it briefly here.

I learned what I talked about in the introduction on Saadawi and God Dies by the Nile from the introduction to that book, what I had seen online about political activism by Saadawi, and the Wikipedia entry. One thing that Wikipedia mentions and that I mentioned as well in the introduction is the fact that apparently she was raised by her father to be strong and independent. According to her biography, however, her father didn’t figure nearly as strongly in her life as her mother did. Rather, her mother was the largest influence on both her character, her life path, and her education.

Cosima mused (if I may paraphrase loosely what I really picked out of her discussion) on the fact that we identify strongly that fathers have more of a say over the lives of their children, and it is especially noteworthy when they value the education of their female children. But why is it that we then reward them and mark them down in the history books more than the woman who oftentimes (and in this case especially) had so much more of an influence? While her father was definitely an important figure in her upbringing, he wasn’t the most important, according to Saadawi but in direct contrast to what one can learn online.

First of all I have to say a huge thank you for emailing me about this because it was really interesting to read and to think on. I think that very interesting discussions could be had both about the ways in which we reward fathers for doing the minimum, and also the ways in which we disregard the exceptional deeds of mothers. Because the Wikipedia entry leans toward discussing her father, until this email I had no idea that her mother was so much more influential. I’m interested to know – what do you, the readers, think of this? Do you think there is a solution that would have us recognize both parents equally?

16 responses to “More on Nawal El Saadawi

  1. Pingback: More on Nawal El Saadawi « A Year of Feminist Classics : BookCourt.com

  2. Melissa June 15, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    I’m dying to read her works. I own (but haven’t read) Daughter of Isis, but I’m still waiting for God Dies by the Nile (guess I should’ve tried to request it last month, huh?).

    I read Arab and Arab American Feminisms recently (fantastic book I’m writing a review on–highly recommend!), and one of the contributors was talking about the different way mainstream discourse around “the veil” silences Muslim women. The Hidden Face of Eve: Women in the Arab World is actually called The Naked Face of the Arab Woman; the title was changed in translation!

    • amymckie June 17, 2011 at 12:42 am

      Exciting that you have one book by her, though I do hope that this title comes in soon for you! That is a really interesting original title and I’m really intrigued to read the book you mention. I wonder what the reason was behind the title change…

  3. SilverSeason June 17, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    I have posted my own comments on the book at http://silverseason.wordpress.com/2011/06/17/god-dies-by-the-nile/. On the whole I found the novel disappointing but wonder if a better translation would have helped. My translation is by Sherif Hatata. I am listing my copy on Bookmooch, so you may want to look for it there.

    • amymckie June 19, 2011 at 12:22 am

      Thanks for linking to your review SilverSeason! I’m sorry to hear that you weren’t a fan – I had the same translator for my edition but it did appear to be an updated version. Not sure if the translation was also updated or not… I’m off to check out your thoughts now. And thanks for the heads up re: BookMooch!

      • SilverSeason June 19, 2011 at 10:36 am

        The Bookmooch copy is gone already.

        I look at the book two ways (at least): as an account of peasant life in Egypt and as a literary work. It was better as an account than as literature. Some reviewers, for example, didn’t like Herland as a novel because of the fantasy element. That didn’t bother me at all because we have a well-understood tradition of that kind of fiction. God Dies by the Nile seems, on the other hand, seems to intend to be poetically evocative and probably reads well in Arabic, but did not succeed in English.

        • amymckie June 21, 2011 at 1:08 pm

          I hope someone participating got it SilverSeason, that would be neat if so 🙂 Thanks again for letting us know about the book being listed there.

          Yes, I think you are very right that it works more as an account of peasant life, great point. I found it sparse and really liked the repetition, but I felt that worked to the favor of the account as opposed to making it poetic. I would definitely be interested to know how it reads in Arabic!

  4. Beachreader June 21, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    I have finally finished reading the book and have posted my comments http://beachreader48.blogspot.com/2011/06/thoughts-on-god-dies-by-nile-by-nawal.html
    I wasn’t sure what I expected when I picked up this book, but I was really surprised by the book and how sad and violent it was.
    Also, another big thank you to Christina for letting me borrow her book 🙂

  5. Christina June 27, 2011 at 12:56 am

    Such an interesting discussion this month! I’m sorry to have been absent for most of it, but I’ve loved catching up on your thoughts about Nawal El Sadaawi. Even though I wasn’t a fan of God Dies, I would be interested in reading some of her nonfiction. Such an interesting life, and an awe-inspiring woman.

    • amymckie June 27, 2011 at 1:06 pm

      No worries Christina – thank you for being around at all on this difficult and harder to find title 🙂 I am definitely interested in her non-fiction now as well. I hope that we can both track some down!

  6. Pingback: Wrap-Up: God Dies by the Nile « A Year of Feminist Classics

  7. Pingback: Review: God Dies by the Nile by Nawal El Saadawi « Amy Reads

  8. Fay Kennedy July 8, 2011 at 4:04 am

    I think she is one of the most inspirational human beings on the planet over and above her powerful poetic writing. I want to read everything she has written. Just finished her Daughter of Isis and cannot wait to pass on the good news to those who will listen. Her writng is so good that people won’t get it unfortunately. A comment made by an American reviewer about V.Woolf’s writing.

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