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Women At Point Zero

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From her prison cell, Firdaus, sentenced to die for having killed a pimp in a Cairo street, tells of her life from village childhood to city prostitute. Society's retribution for her act of defiance--death--she welcomes as the only way she can finally be free. From her prison cell, Firdaus, sentenced to die for having killed a pimp in a Cairo street, tells of her life from village childhood to city prostitute. Society's retribution for her act of defiance--death--she welcomes as the only way she can finally be free.


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From her prison cell, Firdaus, sentenced to die for having killed a pimp in a Cairo street, tells of her life from village childhood to city prostitute. Society's retribution for her act of defiance--death--she welcomes as the only way she can finally be free. From her prison cell, Firdaus, sentenced to die for having killed a pimp in a Cairo street, tells of her life from village childhood to city prostitute. Society's retribution for her act of defiance--death--she welcomes as the only way she can finally be free.

30 review for Women At Point Zero

  1. 5 out of 5

    Alice

    I was surprised when I saw the rating for Woman at Point Zero . To me, it was a solid five-star book. When I scrolled through the reviews, I noticed many, many five star and four star reviews, but there was a pervasive theme of how she seemed unrelatable and fake. I completely disagree. First of all, Woman at Point Zero is a short read, 114 pages at the most. In three chapters, Firdaus' life story is framed by the author's own narrative, which develops from vaguely superior and curious to shoc I was surprised when I saw the rating for Woman at Point Zero . To me, it was a solid five-star book. When I scrolled through the reviews, I noticed many, many five star and four star reviews, but there was a pervasive theme of how she seemed unrelatable and fake. I completely disagree. First of all, Woman at Point Zero is a short read, 114 pages at the most. In three chapters, Firdaus' life story is framed by the author's own narrative, which develops from vaguely superior and curious to shocked and humbled. I had trouble reading this book, mostly because I wanted to find a quiet place where I could read it all in one setting and digest this magnificent woman's life. Secondly, people seem to forget that they aren't reading a fictional story. In fiction, one is expected to connect with the main character, which is why authors continue to fall back on the age-old archetypes and standards. What readers often don't realize is that they are not relating to a protagonist or deuteragonist or antagonist that reminds them of themselves, but rather relating to an ideal, something that they wish they were or qualities that they think they possess, following a story that they wish they could go through. It's also probably one of the reasons why people find this story to be unbelievable, paradoxically. Fictional works often have the reader suspend their disbelief in order to spin a tale of growth and fairy tale morals. In non-fiction, there is no sugar. When the truth is reached, it's not because she was an underdog who reached the top with the help of her friends and family and familiar, it's because she's had everything stripped away from her and has been left with nothing to lose. People don't like that. People would rather read happy tales that don't end up in front of the firing squad waiting to be executed. Exploring the depths of human nature and societal structures is a threat to all we find to be "normal" or "safe". This brings me to the next point I'd like to make. Culturally, Egypt is extremely different from the Western countries, which have a history of being comparatively liberal. Maybe execution for killing a man seems excessive to us, but to them, she is a woman. The lowest of the low, beaten, caged, and silenced. "Pure". She's a prostitute. A whore. She lives in a land of intolerance, one so patriarchal that a woman's word is worth half of a man's. She's essentially considered subhuman in her country, which is also one with a habit of almost unrestrained violence among the classes. If that sounds familiar, it should. Racial oppression, social oppression, and sexual oppression are more than related. I approached this book with hopefully an open mind, but truthfully, I would never have even considered reading such a slim book if my mom hadn't first picked it up and asked me, "Why would your cousin"--male--"have to read a woman's book? It's completely inappropriate." Immediately, I asked her why she would say that, and she couldn't give me an answer. I asked her if she thought it was inappropriate for me to read books written by men about men (i.e. the majority of books I've read for school in the past five years). She couldn't give me an answer. So, in all honesty, I approached this book with a feminist point of view and I was sucked in. It may seem a little unrealistic for Firdaus to have encountered so much suffering at the hands of men, but I know that it's more than possible. After all, statistics don't usually lie. No wonder she hated men by the end of her story. Only when she held herself up by herself did she manage to flourish as best as she could, but even that was taken away at the end. By the end of the book, I realized two things that the people who reviewed before me had often missed. 1) Firdaus is not the main character of the story. She is the central character, but not a character. She is a symbol of the oppressed, those who have nothing for themselves except their bodies and minds. We are not expected to be able to sympathize with her, despite her courage and dead reality. Instead, we must be like the author who listened to her story, who is, in fact, us. We are the ones who do not understand because we live in a world built on lies, where we pretend that we are above the common streetwalker. We aren't. 2) It would be wrong to label this book as a feminist novel. Really, it's a feminist novel because the central character is female and it focuses on her struggle to maintain dignity and strength even when she has nothing. It would be labeled an LGBTQQ novel if the main character were a lesbian. What if it were about a straight man who prostituted himself to survive? Does it seem even less believable now? This is a story about finding the truth. And the truth is not that women can't survive without men. It's not that all men are scum. It's that life is cruel and that power is dangerous in the wrong hands and that too much power corrupts. It reveals the diseases of society and how people are so blind and unwilling to change because there is always someone below them and because there is always some irrational reason to keep them from changing. It shows the futility of revolution and the futility of a singular being attempting change. It's a cautionary tale from a woman who lived her life like all of us, constantly seeking happiness. I urge everybody to read this book. It's a learning experience, if not an enjoyable one.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rowena

    “A new world was opening up in front of my eyes, a world which for me had not existed before. Maybe it had always been there, always existed, but I had never seen it, never realized it had been there all the time. How was it that I had been blind to its existence all these years?”- Nawal El Saadawi, Woman at Point Zero I was told by a friend that the German title for this book is translated as “I Spit on You,” and it makes a lot of sense after you read the book, because that will probably be y “A new world was opening up in front of my eyes, a world which for me had not existed before. Maybe it had always been there, always existed, but I had never seen it, never realized it had been there all the time. How was it that I had been blind to its existence all these years?”- Nawal El Saadawi, Woman at Point Zero I was told by a friend that the German title for this book is translated as “I Spit on You,” and it makes a lot of sense after you read the book, because that will probably be your reaction to most of the characters. This is my second El Saadawi book and I wish I’d written a review for the first book of hers that I read, The Innocence of the Devil, because I thought both books were excellent, similar in their approach and very powerful in how they portrayed patriarchy, sexism, hypocrisy, and misogyny. I love Firdaus, our protagonist, and I think she’s a character who’ll stay with me for a very long time. At the beginning of the novella we find her on death row for killing a man and as she recounts her story to a female psychiatrist who is sent to visit her. We learn more about her. And it’s shocking. It wouldn’t surprise me if many women are able to see themselves in Firdaus, despite the fact that we might not be Egyptian, Muslim etc, like she was. Parts of her story are surely the stories of many women. The tone of the book starts off so innocently and simply; the change in describing brutal incidents caught me by surprise. From every single man Firdaus encounters she experiences abuse or exploitation of sorts. Firdaus changes because of her experiences and we see how strong she becomes, despite encountering such awful things. Despite the tragic story, Firdaus has moments of agency and emancipation. This woman who nobody wants, who’s abused time and again, who isn’t helped when she should be, comes up with her own definition of truth based on what she sees and experiences, not what she has been indoctrinated with. El Saadawi exposes the hypocrisy in religious and patriarchal societies with men using tradition for their own purposes: “I discovered that all these rulers were men. What they had in common was an avaricious and distorted personality, a never-ending appetite for money, sex and unlimited power. They were men who sowed corruption on the earth, and plundered their peoples, men endowed with loud voices, a capacity for persuasion, for choosing sweet words and shooting poisoned arrows. Thus, the truth about them was revealed only after their deaths, and as a result I discovered that history tended to repeat itself with a foolish obstinacy.” She compares and contrasts marriage and prostitution, and she is often very blunt about what she perceives to be the position of women in society: “All women are victims of deception. Men impose deception on women and punish them for being deceived, force them down to the lowest level and punish them for falling so low, bind them in marriage and then chastise them with menial service for life, or insults, or blows.” But there is the hope when women like Firdaus realize the truth but also the power they actually have: “How many were the years of my life that went by before my body, and my self became really mine, to do with them as I wished? How many were the years of my life that were lost before I tore my body and my self away from the people who held me in their grasp since the very first day?” And ultimately though the telling of Firdaus’ story, I found myself changed as well, and more understanding of Firdaus’ journey and evolution. “A man does not know a woman’s value, Firdaus. She is the one who determines her value."

  3. 5 out of 5

    Salsabila

    The first time I found Woman at Zero Point was when I deliberately read a tweet from a literacy base, I followed the last few days. Starting from the amount of spam that featured the cover and its review in the reply column. So many say that this book is excellent. It's small but contains something powerful that is valuable for many people to know, a tragic truth. Honestly, I am not a person who quickly consumed other people's reviews. But seeing the number of spam menfess was scattered that day The first time I found Woman at Zero Point was when I deliberately read a tweet from a literacy base, I followed the last few days. Starting from the amount of spam that featured the cover and its review in the reply column. So many say that this book is excellent. It's small but contains something powerful that is valuable for many people to know, a tragic truth. Honestly, I am not a person who quickly consumed other people's reviews. But seeing the number of spam menfess was scattered that day made me decide to buy one in a few days. It didn't take more than two days to complete this book. For every part of this book, Nawal has successfully surprised and shuddered me terribly in what was experienced by Firdaus, the central character of this book. Sorrowful, miserable, and pathetic, that was only I got from this book. I was wondering why did Nawal el-Saadawi be so intent on pursuing Firdaus to tell her story? Why would a doctor be willing to write a book about a whore waiting for her death day? It turned out to be true. If I were Nawal, I would do so and maybe more than that. Because what did Firdaus pass literally illustrates how many women out there are living injustice by an ingrained patriarchal system. But what the final choice of Firdaus is, that is, it is different for each woman. *** Firdaus, a woman who chose her own life to become a whore. "I know that my profession has been created by men and that men control two of our worlds, those on this earth and those in the afterlife. That men force women to sell their bodies at a certain price." A work that was indirectly formed by all the men she knew during her life. Since childhood, she often got violent. Every new person she met in her life always brought her afflictions. They did at least 3 things; cheating, harassment, and abuse. Her father was a selfish, awful temperament person who only thought of his own stomach and never gives any attention to his kids. Firdaus, her mother, and her siblings were like slaves who must serve his father in any condition. Her siblings, one by one, died cause of starving. "If one of his daughters dies, Father will eat his dinner, Mother will wash his feet, and then he will go to sleep, as he does every night. If a boy, he would hit Mother, then eat dinner and lay down to sleep. Dad won't go to sleep without eating dinner first, no matter what. Sometimes if there is no food at home, we will all go to sleep empty stomachs. But he will always get food." Since she was a kid, Firdaus has received immoral acts from her male friend, Muhammadain. Not only stop there, her uncle even so, ironic, because she also loved her uncle more than her parents. After that, her uncle married her to a calculated ancient man who always committed violence against her. Then, she met with Bayoumi, a man she met at the Café when she was looking for jobs using her school diploma. Bayoumi kept her away for a while until he raped her and locked her up, even Firdaus was also raped by Bayoumi's friends. And there are many more that every man she met only invite her to sleep together. Without warning it, the situation has allowed her body to be enjoyed by many men. Until finally, she realized that her body can make money. She chose to be an honorable whore with the consent of both parties with high pay, she could even choose whoever men she wanted to sleep with. She thought it was far more honorable than having sex as a forced husband and wife. By becoming a whore, she is free of her life, of her own body. But apparently, Firdaus was wrong; there was still a pimp, "men are always good at kissing people's money," whom she was forced to marry him, Marzouk. Firdaus was fed up and finally stabbed the pimp, which caused her to be sentenced to death. Firdaus proudly welcomed it with a victory like "welcome the truth." "I have won both life and death, because I have no desire to live, nor do I feel afraid of death." *** Nawal wrote this book in an adorable, poetic, and descriptive way, tho... the translation style isn't quite enjoyable to read. It's too confusing, and too many repetitive sentences make me repeat several paragraphs to understand it. Such the depiction of a pair of eyes that seem complicated and rambling "two rings that are very white around two dark circles." I give it five stars tho, for successful Nawal, who makes me realize the importance of caring for other women as a woman, not precisely as a human being. Probably, Firdaus wouldn't be like this if she got love from people she knew during her life. The power of love is so meaningful to all living things. We knew in Interstellar book that Cooper is safe because of his love for his daughter, Murph. At this moment, whoever you are, man or woman must read this book, and you will care more about your friends, maybe we can help another Firdaus who is trapped at the lowest point in her life, at zero point. A small book with a lot of value, what a precious little thing I like the most about how to dare fighting harassment, about how to love yourself. Firdaus now becomes my new real favorite character of a nonfictional book for the first time. Now, I just knew why Nawal took pains to meet Firdaus because we are nothing compared to her, who has a lot of courage throughout her life. "And I realize that Firdaus has more courage than I have."

  4. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    I was hoping that Saadawi would win the Nobel Prize this time round; sadly it wasn’t to be. However I suspect she was not surprised, as she says; “I am still ignored by big literary powers in the world, because I write in Arabic, and also because I am critical of the colonial, capitalist, racist, patriarchal mind set of the super-powers.” However she is much more than just a novelist/writer; she originally trained as a doctor, then went into politics (Public Health). She lost her job because of p I was hoping that Saadawi would win the Nobel Prize this time round; sadly it wasn’t to be. However I suspect she was not surprised, as she says; “I am still ignored by big literary powers in the world, because I write in Arabic, and also because I am critical of the colonial, capitalist, racist, patriarchal mind set of the super-powers.” However she is much more than just a novelist/writer; she originally trained as a doctor, then went into politics (Public Health). She lost her job because of political activism and spent some time in prison. Her political activism involves challenging FGM, arguing that women are oppressed by the patriarchal religions and highlighting a range of women’s issues. This novel is based on Saadawi’s meeting with a woman soon to be executed in prison in the early 1970s. She was so affected by the meeting that she wrote the novel in a week. Saadawi explores the issues she has written about over the years, but principally the role of women and their powerlessness in the society she was observing. In the novel Firdaus tells her life story from a level of childhood innocence, through FGM, abuse from a relative, the death of her parents, school, an arranged marriage to a much older man (whom she leaves when he abuses her), time with another man (starts well but ends in control and abuse), time as a prostitute in a brothel (well-paid but Firduas realizes that the woman cannot protect her), then as a prostitute on her own, then a menial job in a local office, falls in love and thinks it is reciprocated, Firduas is betrayed and goes back to prostitution, when a pimp moves in to try to control her she has to kill him. She has to kill him because the only way for women to liberate themselves from men is to kill them. This, Firduas says, is why she has to die. Firduas has lead a life where choice has been absent and this is the point; freedom is illusory, as Janis Joplin sang “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”. It may all sound quite grim and given the subject matter that is inevitable, but Saadawi does write lyrically as well: “It was clean, paved thoroughfare, which ran along one bank of the Nile with tall trees on either side. The houses were surrounded by fences and gardens. The air which entered my lungs was pure and free of dust. I saw a stone bench facing the river. I sat down on it, and lifted my face to the refreshing breeze.” However the crux of the matter relates to choice and control, the lack of choices women have and the control men have: “How many were the years of my life that went by before my body, and my self became really mine, to do with them as I wished? How many were the years of my life that were lost before I tore my body and my self away from these people who held me in their grasp since the very first day?” Saadawi gives agency to the voiceless and the reader is drawn into Firduas’s life and feels the inevitability of her action. The men, as set in the culture, have all the power and all the choices. The novel provides a powerful analysis of the nature of control and coercion wrought upon women by men. It’s also a well written novel. So why didn’t she get the Nobel?

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Revisiting my Nobels always also includes guessing and hoping for a favourite to receive this year's award. Nawal El-Saadawi has been on my wish list for the Nobel Prize in Literature for many, many years, ever since she dragged me into the scary universe of Two Women in One, showing the double life of women in Egypt, conforming to rules set by men while letting their creativity and independence gain power within their own minds. The Swedish Academy being what it is, it would be completely unhea Revisiting my Nobels always also includes guessing and hoping for a favourite to receive this year's award. Nawal El-Saadawi has been on my wish list for the Nobel Prize in Literature for many, many years, ever since she dragged me into the scary universe of Two Women in One, showing the double life of women in Egypt, conforming to rules set by men while letting their creativity and independence gain power within their own minds. The Swedish Academy being what it is, it would be completely unheard of to award women two years in a row, but I keep hoping! (view spoiler)[ Well, yes, looking back on my thoughts in September - really only a few months ago - I can say Pandora's Box is wide open, and hope left with the rest! (hide spoiler)] Why Nawal El-Saadawi? She was a psychiatrist before she became an author, and she is a politician and a human rights activist, so one might argue that she is not dedicating her whole body and soul to literature and therefore not a valid aesthetic choice. However, Nobel's will clearly states that the prizes should be awarded "to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind". "Woman at Point Zero" makes the case for women in the Arab world, shows their vulnerability, their strength and intelligence, and at the same time, it is a harrowing work of fiction, of classical drama. Awarding El-Saadawi the Nobel Prize would officially recognise the voice of women in oppressive societies, while adding a compelling storyteller to the list of laureates. Similar to Drakulic' As If I Am Not There in the depiction of regular, institutionalised abuse, "Woman at Point Zero" adds the dimension of internal striving for freedom. The book begins on the night before the main character's execution in a prison. The basic facts of the story are true, and Nawal El-Saadawi recounts the original circumstances in her preface, explaining how she came to know the real woman the novel is based on: "Firdaus, however, remained a woman apart. She stood out amongst the others, vibrated within me, or sometimes lay quiet, until the day when I put her down in ink on paper and gave her life after she had died." This story is an act of catharsis, using the creation of art to survive the pain of reality. Again, the similarity to Drakulic is striking. She also focused on the therapeutic, cathartic power of art in her novel Marble Skin. El-Saadawi does not simply record the story she listens to, in the way of the journalist Svetlana Alexievich in her documentation of the Soviet Union and Russian life post communism, she creates a setting, not unlike Sheherazade's nightly storytelling atmosphere in the face of imminent execution. There is urgency in the voice of the woman who cuts her visitor short: "Let me speak. Do not interrupt me. I have no time to listen to you. They are coming to take me at six o'clock this evening. Tomorrow morning I shall no longer be here." Then she starts talking, and the story unfolds with terrifying logic. We encounter a young girl full of curiosity, loving school, devouring books: "I developed a love of books, for with every book I learned something new. I got to know about the Persians, the Turks and the Arabs. I read about the crimes committed by kings and rulers, about wars, peoples, revolutions, and the lives of the revolutionaries." At this point in her life, she has already experienced sexual abuse by her uncle, and she relates the stories she reads to her own life and concludes: "I discovered that history tended to repeat itself with a foolish obstinacy." As a grown-up, she works as a prostitute and learns to suppress all feelings. She becomes an automaton, brutally shaken awake when she falls in love: "When I was selling my body to men, the pain had been much less. It was imaginary, rather than real. As a prostitute, I was not myself, my feelings did not arise from within me. They were not really mine. [...] With love I began to imagine that I had become a human being." Her humiliation and hurt are so intense because she had begun to hope. Let down even by the man she loves, she is devastated. After that experience, she frees herself from all male domination and acts on her own. She strikes back, and returns the violence she has been subject to since childhood. The result eventually is her arrest for murder and ultimately her execution, which she celebrates: "They said: "You are a savage and dangerous woman". "I am speaking the truth, and truth is savage and dangerous." With pride she leaves for her last encounter with oppressive society, leaving the shocked and deeply touched narrator behind: "I saw her walk out with them. I never saw her again. But her voice continued to echo in my ears, vibrating in my head, in the cell, in the prison, in the streets, in the whole world, shaking everything, spreading fear wherever it went, the fear of the truth which kills, the power of truth, as savage, and as simple, and as awesome as death, yet as simple and as gentle as the child that has not yet learnt to lie." Those words speak for themselves, and that voice deserves to be heard, along with the many other voices creating a chorus singing of freedom of choice for oppressed people around the world, a chorus in which I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban chimes in, or Virginia Woolf in her A Room of One's Own. Maybe it is time for the academy to make a statement by awarding women the Nobel Prize in Literature twice in a row, after a century of lopsidedness, missing out on women of Woolf's caliber? Says the bookworm cheering on her favourites, well aware that the election process is complicated, political, and sometimes quite random. And that her taste is not universal, but personal! I have other favourites to cheer on as well, but I keep my fingers crossed for this author of savage truth in a political landscape recently labelled the "post-truth era" by The Economist!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Amal Bedhyefi

    If you live in an Arab Muslim country , you would have probably heard of Nawel Saadaoui once in your lifetime. I know I have. But it took me a while until I decided to pick up one of her books and it is mainly thanks to Ilham , a dear friend of mine , who recommended it to me. I opened the first pages , started reading and next thing i know , there are no pages left for me to read. It's heartbreaking , deeply uncomfortable and mournful. Ferdaous's story is definitely one of those stories that need t If you live in an Arab Muslim country , you would have probably heard of Nawel Saadaoui once in your lifetime. I know I have. But it took me a while until I decided to pick up one of her books and it is mainly thanks to Ilham , a dear friend of mine , who recommended it to me. I opened the first pages , started reading and next thing i know , there are no pages left for me to read. It's heartbreaking , deeply uncomfortable and mournful. Ferdaous's story is definitely one of those stories that need to be read/heard of. An egyptian woman faced with the ugly side of life ever since she was a child. The tone of the book starts off simply and slowly however the change in describing brutal incidents caught me by surprise. Nawel does not stop to reflect or to further explain what happened , she writes as if it is a ususal thing . Only later that I have managed to unravel the reason why she hasn't stopped and let us grasp , other equally awful encounters were on the way. This book also raises a key feminist topic : Women's right to choose . Feminists have always fought for the freedom of choice , only women are capable of choosing how they live their lives. In other words , anything can be considered feminist as long as it is a woman’s choice. Nawal discusses this point with her readers while narrating Ferdaous'story , she argues that the fact that a woman chooses something does not necessarily mean that choice is feminist , claiming that women should be aware that patriarchy gives women no choices at all . That made me think! I loved Firdaus and I think she’s a character who’ll stay with me for a very long time . Ferdaous' tragic story is the story of many women across time and cultures. You need to read this book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nnedi

    I've loved this slim novel since I read it for the first time in an undergrad literature class. It's beautifully written, addictive as heck and features a harrowing main character. It's simply written and that gives room for the complex narrative (this my favorite type of writing). This book was an enormous influence on my own novel Who Fears Death. And rereading it really reminded me why. I've loved this slim novel since I read it for the first time in an undergrad literature class. It's beautifully written, addictive as heck and features a harrowing main character. It's simply written and that gives room for the complex narrative (this my favorite type of writing). This book was an enormous influence on my own novel Who Fears Death. And rereading it really reminded me why.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nicola

    This review could probably just read: Men suck. But then that wouldn't cover the fact that sometimes women do too. But: Men suck (and sometimes women as well) doesn't have the same punchiness. Really though, in this story by Nawal El-Saadawi men do suck. Lots. Whether you are a poor uneducated brute or a more educated sophisticated man; whether you are a pimp or a prince, a near relation or a policeman, if you are a man it is a given that you are going to seriously suck at some point. Sometimes it w This review could probably just read: Men suck. But then that wouldn't cover the fact that sometimes women do too. But: Men suck (and sometimes women as well) doesn't have the same punchiness. Really though, in this story by Nawal El-Saadawi men do suck. Lots. Whether you are a poor uneducated brute or a more educated sophisticated man; whether you are a pimp or a prince, a near relation or a policeman, if you are a man it is a given that you are going to seriously suck at some point. Sometimes it will take some time for you to show us just how much you suck, but that only means when you do, you end up sucking twice as bad. Does Ms El-Saadawi blame the specific environment of Egypt and the contaminating influence of Islamic religion used to praise the dehumanising of women? Or does it go further down to the fact that she thinks that all men are just scum regardless of place and religious upbringing? Perhaps it doesn't matter - if your whole world is one area and one idea then that is your specific reality. And in that reality, men suck. Big time.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jim Fonseca

    This translation by an Egyptian female author gives us a traumatic picture of how a young woman is brutalized physically and mentally by just about every man, relative or stranger, that she runs into. She runs away from a brutal husband and becomes a prostitute to survive. At first she turns cheap tricks but later she learns to turn men down, becoming more exclusive and expensive, raising the level of her clientele. She works her way up to being a prostitute who caters to the wealthy political a This translation by an Egyptian female author gives us a traumatic picture of how a young woman is brutalized physically and mentally by just about every man, relative or stranger, that she runs into. She runs away from a brutal husband and becomes a prostitute to survive. At first she turns cheap tricks but later she learns to turn men down, becoming more exclusive and expensive, raising the level of her clientele. She works her way up to being a prostitute who caters to the wealthy political and military elite of the society and she becomes wealthy herself. This is a tragedy of course, and we can see why the author's works were banned. Indeed it's such an indictment of society in general and male society in particular, that it's amazing that this book managed to get published in Egypt in 1975. The author was such as outspoken critic on women's issues in her country that she was removed from just about every position she held (including Egypt's national director of public health) and she was imprisoned under the Sadat regime.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    Now I had learnt that honor required large sums of money to protect it, but that large sums of money could not be obtained without losing one's honor. An infernal circle whirling round and round, draggng me up and down with it. Woman at Point Zero is a harrowing Candide for our post-liberal musing. While reading it we should all be ashamed. No one should take pride in the closing of workhouses, the confinement has happened elsewhere, outsourced to favelas and shanties. Don't linger excessively al Now I had learnt that honor required large sums of money to protect it, but that large sums of money could not be obtained without losing one's honor. An infernal circle whirling round and round, draggng me up and down with it. Woman at Point Zero is a harrowing Candide for our post-liberal musing. While reading it we should all be ashamed. No one should take pride in the closing of workhouses, the confinement has happened elsewhere, outsourced to favelas and shanties. Don't linger excessively along the edges of the town and insure that the preterit don't congregate along the promenade. El Saadawi notes that order must be maintained and that being respectful is an ephemeral condition. Everyone celebrating Thanksgiving should read this novel much as my grandmother and I once viewed Grapes of Wrath on the Lord's day of Gluttony.

  11. 5 out of 5

    El

    In the early 1970s, Nawal El Saadawi lost her job as the Director of Health Education and Editor-in-Chief of Health magazine because she did something really horrible: She wrote a book about women and sex. GASP. She turned to the research of neuroses in Egyptian women which led her to meet a doctor at an Egyptian prison who would talk to her about his experiences and some of the inmates. Through this friendship with the doctor, she met Firdaus, a woman imprisoned for killing a man. Firdaus was awa In the early 1970s, Nawal El Saadawi lost her job as the Director of Health Education and Editor-in-Chief of Health magazine because she did something really horrible: She wrote a book about women and sex. GASP. She turned to the research of neuroses in Egyptian women which led her to meet a doctor at an Egyptian prison who would talk to her about his experiences and some of the inmates. Through this friendship with the doctor, she met Firdaus, a woman imprisoned for killing a man. Firdaus was awaiting execution when Saadawi had an opportunity to meet and talk with her, to get the story directly from the inmate's mouth. The result turned into this slim novel based on what Firdaus told Saadawi. Understandably, there was not a lot of time between their meeting and the execution of Firdaus, but my biggest complaint about this novel is just how unemotional the connection appears to be. My theory is that this has more to do with the novelization of the story Firdaus told her, as opposed to writing a biography, or marketing this story as nonfiction. Or, even as Truman Capote did once upon a time - through creative nonfiction or whatever else you want to call it. Because this book is considered straight up fiction, it fails as a whole because it reads without feeling. I feel if this wasn't based on a true story, readers would like this book less than they do. I'm in the minority with my rating; everyone else has given this 4 or 5 stars (of my own little circle of peeps). If we go by subject matter alone, I 100% agree. The life Firdaus led and how she was essentially set up for failure as a female from the moment of birth. This is not an uncommon story, and the fact this was written in the 1970s shows just long how a lot of this bullshit has been going on around the world. But I never connected to Firdaus or her story. I am not one of those readers that needs to be able to connect emotionally, but in this case, considering the story behind the story, I felt it was a missed opportunity to make a significant impact. Aside from the writing itself, this book covers a lot of important situations that continue to be relevant in the 21st century such as male dominance, power struggles, female genital mutilation, class, and prostitution. It's not always an easy read because Firdaus is explicit and unwavering in her explanations. She does not regret what she has done, nor should she. When we look at her life, who can blame her? I might have snapped sooner than she did. Also, to those out there who dislike this book because it's a diatribe against men, or speaks poorly about the character of all men, I am judging each and every one of you. You obviously haven't been paying attention to anything. How many were the years of my life that went by before my body, and my self became really mine, to do with them as I wished? How many were the years of my life that were lost before I tore my body and my self away from the people who held me in their grasp since the very first day? (p68)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Basalari

    (If you want something general, don't read this, I'll spoil it) In the beginning, Firdaus’ uncle is semi progressive. He reads to her and sends her to school. He isn’t completely bad until he atrociously takes advantage of the person who needs him the most. In the novel, Saadawi illustrates how men are torn between progress and the backlash of their own sexual frustration and need for power. There is a lot of preaching, little enforcement, and women are mistreated and silenced by societal expecta (If you want something general, don't read this, I'll spoil it) In the beginning, Firdaus’ uncle is semi progressive. He reads to her and sends her to school. He isn’t completely bad until he atrociously takes advantage of the person who needs him the most. In the novel, Saadawi illustrates how men are torn between progress and the backlash of their own sexual frustration and need for power. There is a lot of preaching, little enforcement, and women are mistreated and silenced by societal expectations and fear. Exploitation without consequence is a constant in the novel because men are tyrants of their households. Though it’s behind closed doors, Saadawi seems to suggest that society imprisons both men and women. Men fear being revealed as disgraceful, but because there are no constraints on their power, they act disgracefully. Meanwhile, women are treated as though they should be ashamed for existing. It shouldn’t be shocking that the absence of any power dynamic between gender causes corruption. What’s grossly ironic is that religion aims for equality and fairness, but is often used as an excuse for the corrupt to gain power, which is precisely what causes people to become angry and violent. The reader gets a sense of Saadawi’s own anger, agony, and desire to “wake up” society. Among many things, the book highlights the dire consequences of censorship- this is a bold and brave message because the media does not criticize religion in Egypt. Abuse and oppression aren’t going anywhere, but Saadawi reveals that those who are exploited are not broken. In the end, Firdaus no longer hopes for anything, but she also does not fear anything. She does not sign the petition to the President and decides to challenge death. Firdaus has no fear of death, challenges it, and becomes a symbol of struggle against injustice. “I realized that I had been afraid, and that the fear had been within me all the time until the fleeting moment when I read fear in his eyes.” This book is not glorifying (justified) murder, it expresses that fear causes irresponsibility and immorality. This killing scene is a killing of fear, injustice, double morality and hypocrisy. In our numerical system, Zero is the base, but it’s also capable of expressing massive sums. The number represents a paradoxical truth: having nothing to lose is a lot like having power. Today, we have progressive, aware women who are fighting against religious fundamentalism and it’s connection to political power. However, there are also many women who are unaware of their rights, and this number grows because of the effects of societal attempts to control. At the end of the day, the human struggle for progress boils down to these two trends. Saadawi reminds us that we should never attempt to “protect” ourselves from what’s messy, dark and broken. It is in our best interest to look deeper.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mark Rizk Farag

    A true, succinct, emotive, passionate, comprehensive story. A call to arms. An impassioned plea. A war cry for the downtrodden women of the middle east. An admonishment of their oppressors. The book was short, but it got its point across. Like walking across hot coal, a sharp slap or a cold shower. I found myself forced out of my privileged perspective, an Egyptian man in the west and thrust into the life and plight of Firdaus, a prostitute in Egypt, a victim of her society. And now I cannot contin A true, succinct, emotive, passionate, comprehensive story. A call to arms. An impassioned plea. A war cry for the downtrodden women of the middle east. An admonishment of their oppressors. The book was short, but it got its point across. Like walking across hot coal, a sharp slap or a cold shower. I found myself forced out of my privileged perspective, an Egyptian man in the west and thrust into the life and plight of Firdaus, a prostitute in Egypt, a victim of her society. And now I cannot continue as I was, naive of the plight of women in Egypt. I cannot feign ignorance. What is the saddest thing about the story in book? Well. Based on the way that Egyptian censorship works and based on the preface.... Its not a story. Its not fiction at all. The book was highly quotable and had crisp prose. Probably one of the best Egyptian fiction books I've read. Highly recommended to all readers interested in Egyptian feminism, Egyptian literature, feminism more broadly and short fiction.

  14. 5 out of 5

    shakespeareandspice

    Review originally posted on A Skeptical Reader. Woman at Point Zero follows the life of Firdaus, a woman awaiting execution, from her youth to her present condition. It’s a novel that plunges deep into the pit of patriarchy, abuse of power, failures of feminism, and the sex workers industry. El-Saawadi’s narration is clever and precise. At times she infuses a formal mechanism to her poetic form that is both beautiful and horrific to read. It was frustrating that while she can be quite vivid in som Review originally posted on A Skeptical Reader. Woman at Point Zero follows the life of Firdaus, a woman awaiting execution, from her youth to her present condition. It’s a novel that plunges deep into the pit of patriarchy, abuse of power, failures of feminism, and the sex workers industry. El-Saawadi’s narration is clever and precise. At times she infuses a formal mechanism to her poetic form that is both beautiful and horrific to read. It was frustrating that while she can be quite vivid in some places, the things left unsaid in small moments of silence left my imagination running wild. And this is not a novel where you want your imagination to chart it’s own course. Firdaus’s story is gut-wrenching and echoes a corner of society that we’d prefer not to acknowledge. Her story is disturbingly true to life. I don’t agree that there is any amount of exaggeration here. I come from a country where 14 year old girls take to the streets to sell their bodies because the system ignores them and Firdaus’s story pales in comparison to the narratives of why those girls in the real world chose to do this. Time and time again Firadus tells us why, despite the rapes and abuses she goes through, she prefers to use her body to her advantage. It’s uncomfortable. It’s unnerving. But her reasoning is not wrong. Nor is her assertion of the way society functions in many parts of the world at all off point. Only recently did the Weinstein scandal regenerate the hushed secrets of Hollywood’s blatant ignorance of sexism. And that’s as solid a proof as one can ask for—whether it’s Egypt or America, women are are often seen merely as livestock. That’s not to say the fault is entirely on the side of anti-feminists, non-feminists, or active misogynists either. Feminism has a long standing history of excluding others, but even at its most fundamental level it fails harder then it should. What does it say about feminism and feminists when a woman, not unlike many thousands of women in the word today, would rather reject the ideology that claims to empower women to embrace a structure built and maintained by the patriarchy which keeps us all under? I’ve long battled to main my passion about feminism. As a woman of color who's sexuality isn’t fitting to a box, mainstream feminism doesn’t always like that I exist. It would rather I support white women than the brown women and has been quick to dismiss me as racist and sexist.* And it's hard when a movement constantly rejects you to still stand up and say, no, you don’t get to take this away from me. If feminism is all inclusive then when we march to earn the same as men do, we need to march to stop penalizing sex workers. We need to acknowledge what they do and why they chose to do it. If feminism is ever to reach it’s potential, it needs to start working from the bottom. It needs to start by making women like Firadus, admittedly fictional, the heart of the movement. *Check the history of the suffragette movement. As well as the numbers on how many white women voted for a white supremacist in 2016 US elections. Numbers speak volumes here.

  15. 5 out of 5

    PS

    3.5 stars. As expected, this was a difficult read. Firdaus’ life is composed of a series of events rooted in misogyny that reduce her to a sexual object, whether it is the sexual abuse she faces as a child and later on during her marriage to a much older man or at the hands of unknown men in Cairo. She is eventually “rescued” by a woman who pushes her into a life of prostitution. There are fleeting moments in Firdaus’ life where she exercises agency but they never last until the final and catacly 3.5 stars. As expected, this was a difficult read. Firdaus’ life is composed of a series of events rooted in misogyny that reduce her to a sexual object, whether it is the sexual abuse she faces as a child and later on during her marriage to a much older man or at the hands of unknown men in Cairo. She is eventually “rescued” by a woman who pushes her into a life of prostitution. There are fleeting moments in Firdaus’ life where she exercises agency but they never last until the final and cataclysmic event that lands her in prison. I think a couple of things may have been lost in translation though: I didn’t enjoy the repetitiveness and some sections seemed heavy-handed. This may have read better as just Firdaus’ story without the superfluous prologue and epilogue.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    Nawal El Saadawi is an internationally renowned writer, novelist and fighter for woman's rights, who was born in a village outside Cairo, Egypt. When she was practicing as a psychiatrist in the 1970's she had the opportunity while conducting research into the neurosis of Egyyptian women, to meet with a woman who had been imprisoned for killing a man, a woman who was to be executed by hanging. The woman had refused to speak to anyone until that point, had also refused to sign an appeal to the Pre Nawal El Saadawi is an internationally renowned writer, novelist and fighter for woman's rights, who was born in a village outside Cairo, Egypt. When she was practicing as a psychiatrist in the 1970's she had the opportunity while conducting research into the neurosis of Egyyptian women, to meet with a woman who had been imprisoned for killing a man, a woman who was to be executed by hanging. The woman had refused to speak to anyone until that point, had also refused to sign an appeal to the President so that her sentence might be commuted to life imprisonment. After days of refusal, just as she was leaving the prison for the last time, the Doctor told her the woman had agreed to meet her. They spent as many hours as were left of that day together, the woman recounting her the story of her life that had lead to that moment. El Saadawi left at the end of that day, never to see her again. She would be executed by hanging, her story absorbed by El Saadawi who would eventually put it to paper, in this telling of Firdaus, Woman at Point Zero. From her early days, Firdaus was one who was noticed, though rarely looked out for, cruelty and neglect made up her childhood, rescued by an Uncle who'd already crossed filial boundaries, her one respite to be sent by him to school, his new wife further insisting she live there, perhaps the only paradisaical period of her life, the one time she was left alone to flourish, to evolve. Finding no place for her in her Uncle's home, still a teenager she is forced to marry the more than 60 yr old Uncle of her Aunt, runs from him and is taken in by another only to suffer worse abuse, a fate she seems destined to continue to live until she meets Sharifa, who takes her in and teaches her her value, a turning point in her awareness from which she will change her fate. 'How is it possible to live? Life is so hard?' 'You must be harder than life, Firdaus. Life is very hard. The only people who really live are those who are harder than life itself.' 'But you are not hard, Sharifa, so how do you manage to live?' 'I am hard, terribly hard, Firdaus.' 'No, you are gentle and soft.' 'My skin is soft, but my heart is cruel, and my bite deadly.' 'Like snake?' 'Yes, exactly like a snake. Life is a snake. They are the same, Firdaus. If the snake realises you are not a snake, it will bite you. And if life knows you have no sting, it will devour you.' She will learn the value of her flesh, of her person and how to ensure she is rewarded for it, she will find a measure of independence, but wishes not to be beholden to man. She becomes an employee and discovers a world where women are held in even lower esteem, in many ways more a slave than a prostitute. At various moments in her life, she experiences a feeling that might be love, that could have been love, but each time it fades to illusion, leaving a dark shadow on her heart. But I expected something from love. With love I began to imagine I had become a human being...In love, I gave all: my capabilities, my efforts, my my feelings, my deepest emotions; Like a saint, I gave everything I had without ever counting the cost. I wanted nothing, nothing at all, except perhaps one thing. To be saved through love from it all. To find myself again, to recover the self I had lost.To become a human being who was not looked upon with scorn, or despised, but respected, and cherished and made to feel whole. Her story and those moments are narrated in spell-binding, lyrical prose with a compassionate sensitivity that underpins a tale of one woman's life long oppression and desire to lift herself out of it and to put a stop to the cause of that oppression, to face the truth without fear, which she ultimately will do so, through death, her absolute refusal to live, her fearlessness of death.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sumaiyya

    I can't believe I managed to reach the age of 27 without reading this incredible feminist novel by Egyptian writer Nawal El-Saadawi. It's also my first ever read by Saadawi, but I'm glad I've finally started. This novel's main character is Firdaus, a woman who is sentenced to die for killing a man. She is based on a real woman of the same name whom the author interviewed for research purposes. “Yet not for a single moment did I have any doubts about my own integrity and honour as a woman. I knew I can't believe I managed to reach the age of 27 without reading this incredible feminist novel by Egyptian writer Nawal El-Saadawi. It's also my first ever read by Saadawi, but I'm glad I've finally started. This novel's main character is Firdaus, a woman who is sentenced to die for killing a man. She is based on a real woman of the same name whom the author interviewed for research purposes. “Yet not for a single moment did I have any doubts about my own integrity and honour as a woman. I knew that my profession had been invented by men, and that men were in control of both our worlds, the one on earth, and the one in heaven. That men force women to sell their bodies at a price, and that the lowest paid body is that of a wife. All women are prostitutes of one kind or another.” The story is told largely from the perspective of Firdaus, a peasant girl who grew up in a small village and later moved to the city. In the novel we learn about Firdaus's life of neglect and labour at home, and the brief years during which she earns a secondary school certificate and lives in the city with her uncle and his wife. Eventually, she becomes a burden and is thrust into a marriage that is more like a prison. She escapes marriage and finds herself drifting on the streets until she becomes a prostitute. Firdaus's time as a prostitute is one filled with realizations and revelations that open up the nature of the patriarchal society that she's living in. The storr's journey is Firdaus's journey through life as a woman, and it is uncomfortable, distressing but eye opening. We see her life from the time she was a simple village girl to her dreadful and lonely journey as a schoolgirl, wife, prostitute, office employee and finally, killer. Firdaus repeatedly describes being watched by men (the male gaze)—every man who ever looks at Firdaus sees her as a sexual being that he can posses. As she turns to prostitution, her journey shows us her the nature of power and how she can wield power over people by denying them what they want. She gives up that power for love but then returns to it because no matter how she lives her life, no man respects women. Even wives are beaten by men and mistresses are used and discarded. She's been on every side of the debate; she has been a daughter, a wife, a mistress, an employee and a prostitute. She begins to see respect or the appearance of being respectable as another trap created by patriarchy to subdue and use women and their bodies. And a life of "disrespect" is also one that ultimately serves men because the trade of prostitution is one created by men and often, as in the case of the pimp Firdaus murders, regulated by men so they can wield even more power over women. Killing a man is an outrageous criminal act in a society where men rule the world and women—Firdaus’s act of defiance is the ultimate sin in a man’s world and this makes her a formidable figure to the people around her. She’s been sentenced to death because ending her life will end the risk she poses to men in their world—how can men be safe if women realize that they can fight back and kill them too? A thoughtprovoking journey with some stunning inner monologue, WOMAN AT POINT ZERO is the story of one woman’s empowerment and rise to freedom in a society that gives all the power to men. This is a novel I would have LOVED to study in a classroom setting, there’s so much to discuss. I can't believe this book is not a mandatory title in English literature courses. “How many were the years of my life that went by before my body, and my self became really mine, to do with them as I wished?”

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ray

    Firdaus is in a womans prison, awaiting execution for murder. She is visited by a prison doctor and tells the story of her life. It is a bleak tale, encompassing the death of her parents when she was but a child, rape and exploitation, marriage to a repulsive old skinflint, prostitution, a sojourn in an office and a heartbreaking love story, with the finale being the stabbing to death of her pimp. At times she seems to be just about to break out of her fate - particularly when she finds love with Firdaus is in a womans prison, awaiting execution for murder. She is visited by a prison doctor and tells the story of her life. It is a bleak tale, encompassing the death of her parents when she was but a child, rape and exploitation, marriage to a repulsive old skinflint, prostitution, a sojourn in an office and a heartbreaking love story, with the finale being the stabbing to death of her pimp. At times she seems to be just about to break out of her fate - particularly when she finds love with a colleague, but even here she is betrayed by the man she trusted. Men exploit and cheat Firdaus at every turn. In the end Firdaus accepts her lot in life, and acheives nobility in remaining unbroken and defiant in the face of a hostile world. A moving story which is worth a read

  19. 4 out of 5

    sher ⚘ (hiatus galore)

    Some themes may be triggering for readers. Rape, sexual, physical, mental, and domestic abuse are recurrent themes. Yet, this is a powerful and necessary book. Read at your own discretion. Alright, kids, let's get down to business. Basically, this book made my feminist heart GLEE. And I'm a bundle of sorrow for our narrator Firdaus and a raging hellhound for the scumbags that call themselves "men" in this book (don't get me wrong, I know epic, wonderful men and they all hold a special place i Some themes may be triggering for readers. Rape, sexual, physical, mental, and domestic abuse are recurrent themes. Yet, this is a powerful and necessary book. Read at your own discretion. Alright, kids, let's get down to business. Basically, this book made my feminist heart GLEE. And I'm a bundle of sorrow for our narrator Firdaus and a raging hellhound for the scumbags that call themselves "men" in this book (don't get me wrong, I know epic, wonderful men and they all hold a special place in my heart and I love them to death. Here, I'm strictly talking about the male bodies in this book who are, for lack of a better word, assholes). While the whole story pulled at me, there were nitty, itty bitty things that made me question some things BUT THERE WERE ITTY BITTY. First off, some context and a summary, as per usual: I had to read this for one of my English courses, and I don't ever review books for school, even if it was amazing or complete trash, but this was an exception. The first chapter sees the author, Nawal El-Saadawi, a psychiatrist and activist (among many other professions), visit Qanatir Prison in Egypt to interview the women being held there. Firdaus is a particular prisoner that attracts Saadawi's attention but she refuses to speak with Saadawi. On the day of her execution, she agrees to share her story with Saadawi. At this point, we enter the second chapter, which is in Firdaus' narration in all its unfortunate, painful ugliness. Throughout her narration, we see Firdaus withstand all that had been done to her by the men in her life. Sexual abuse, betrayal, and exploitation are just a few of the things she endures. We witness her earliest memories to the very present moment in the prison cell. The third and final chapter is again in Saadawi's perspective as Firdaus finishes telling her story. Firdaus is escorted out of her cell to her death and Saadawi walks away a changed woman. This very real story brings attention to one of the harrowing tools of oppression: systematic power, and how it impacts the female in every way possible. Endurance, resistance, and mindfulness push against this oppression to inspire anger and action in the reader. Feminist at the heart, this creative non-fiction masterpiece is a powerful and necessary read for generations to come. Okay, so what I loved: Everything. I don't mean I love this like I love my fantasy/romance/contemp/sci-fi books but love in the way that made me scream at injustice and want to lash out. We see Firdaus transform into an independent, strong-willed woman who will stare into death's face unafraid. She grows into someone who can play the system and confidently say a big, fat fuck you to any man who tries to destroy her. The patriarchal man is the root of all problems in this book, coinciding with the world today. Anyways, whenever we are given hope, it's crumbled. I found myself wishing Firdaus would finally meet another decent human being like Miss Iqbal (her secondary school teacher, one of the few decent persons in this book) who would be her ally but by the end of the book, I realized how tainted this notion was. I should have been asking for Firdaus' independence and craftiness. And I was so delighted when I got exactly this. Screw having someone else be your support system; be your own support. Hard lessons are learned through a long life of trauma and injustice. I carry a part of Firdaus' voice in me through the parts I saw reflected back at me, and I wish she were still alive to see how she's inspired a nation of women to exploit systematic corruption. Oh, and if it wasn't already obvious, Firdaus was a real woman. This whole book is based on the life of a real woman who spoke these words to Saadawi in a prison cell in Egypt. That being said, here's where the itty bitty itch comes. Despite being exceptional in every way, I had a few questions about the truthfulness of Saadawi's take on Firdaus' story because: - Saadawi experiences a very emotional response to Firdaus' initial rejections to being interviewed Before Firdaus' story begins, we are told of Saadawi's position as a renowned activist and scientist. Thing is, a scientist doesn't allow themselves to get so personally affected by rejection. I am speaking from experience as a student of science, as all things are approached with objectivity and without bias. So that made me question just how much is the novel influenced by Saadawi's emotional perspective? Are there instances in the book that are coated with added emotion(s)? - There are repetitive paragraphs describing the Nile and someone's eyes but no one actually speaks like that? Example: "I could see two rings of pure white surrounding two circles of intense black looking out at me. I continued to gaze into them. The white seemed to grow even whiter, and the black even blacker, as though light was pouring into them from some unknown, mysterious source, neither on earth, nor in the heavens, for the earth was enveloped in the dark cloak of night, and the heavens had neither sun and nor moon to light them up." This particular description is repeated numerously and I get that it's meant for creativity but did Firdaus actually, repetitively say this? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯- There are no mentions of recording this interaction between Firdaus and Saadawi so again just how much is stretched? Because this is a book. A published literary thing with lots of say from editors, publishers, etc that can influence the final product. But on the other hand, I can believe in the integrity of it because of Saadawi's work as an activist, scientist, feminist, and whatever else she has accomplished. BUT YET AGAIN never take anything at face value but this is such an important novel ahhh idk man NOW, HERE'S THE LIST OF THINGS™: - Women joining forces and looking out for each other makes me so happy and when it happened in this book, on the rare occasions it did, I was jumping for joy - Firdaus' transformation is epic and inspiring and painful. What a woman. - Some of the themes discussed hit a nerve and seeing Firdaus become an unstoppable force, even as she's being led to her death, gave me an inkling of hope - Trauma narrative. So well done. - Most men are disgusting - SUCH AN IMPORTANT NOVEL. I can't stress this enough! - ALSO, I beg of you don't! confuse what happens in this book with religion. Whatever happens in this book is a result of CULTURE and SYSTEMATIC POWER PLAY. Not religion. Religion doesn't even play a big role in this book - @ the men in the novel: seriously, w t fAllow me to share some words: Now I realized that the least deluded of all women was the prostitute. That marriage was the system built on the most cruel suffering for women. ---- But with each of the men I ever knew, I was always overcome by a strong desire to lift my arm high up over my head and bring my hand smashing down on his face. ---- They said, 'You are a savage and dangerous woman.' 'I am speaking the truth. The truth is savage and dangerous.'

  20. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey

    My virtue, like the virtue of all those who are poor, could never be considered a quality, or an asset, but rather looked upon as a kind of stupidity, or simple-mindedness, to be despised even more than depravity or vice. Nearly three years between adding this and reading this was long enough to shift from being myopically proud of my "cultivated" tastes to becoming suspicious of why I'd want this author in particular to win the Nobel Prize for Lit without having even read them. There's nothi My virtue, like the virtue of all those who are poor, could never be considered a quality, or an asset, but rather looked upon as a kind of stupidity, or simple-mindedness, to be despised even more than depravity or vice. Nearly three years between adding this and reading this was long enough to shift from being myopically proud of my "cultivated" tastes to becoming suspicious of why I'd want this author in particular to win the Nobel Prize for Lit without having even read them. There's nothing worthy of praise in fronting foreign works that fit right in with the homeland propaganda, and if there was any piece that fulfilled the Euro bill for saving the brown women from the brown men in the age old fashion of divide and conquer, it would be this one. Female genital mutilation, rape culture, sex work, the individual bootstrappist trapped in a conspiracy who, despite it all, rises above it in a feat of self-annihilating violence: in short, if you as a white person aren't self-reflexive as fuck in reading this, you're just another cog in the machine. If that doesn't bother you, the whole point of my profile being private is to weed your type out, so you might as well save me the effort and leave. I prefer to die for a crime I have committed rather than to die for one of the crimes which you have committed. Tutoring kids in the English utilized by standardized testing has made me realize the divide between what, in English, people read and children are expected to magically imbibe. Whether it's Baldwin or El-Saadawi, same-language or translation, no one knows the difference between 'that' and 'which', semi-colons are whatever the fuck works for a personal rhythm, and the singular 'they' is only controversial because of cis fragility. As such, while this book is extraordinarily short by my made-my-way-through-Proust standards, my already study-swamped pace was further slowed down by work-trained nigglings springing up here and there, only to be countered by what is the awfully (in senses both modern and archaic) neverending instinct for self-critique. Complicated as this sounds, the majority of this text's self-defense against institutionalized and gendered annihilation is familiar enough (anyone who starts screaming misandry without talking about toxic masculinity or anitblackness or transphobia is welcome to being gutted like a pig), so I was less overwhelmed than the average reader would be. In case anyone was wondering, this entire paragraph is devoted to nothing more than the contextualization of my individual reading, albeit sparknoted when one considers the lack of mention of depressive episodes, incoming increases in US military expenditures, and video game socializing; in short, if you're looking for a 'point': nope. Why was it that I had never stabbed a man before? Barring all the necessary if borderline obnoxious second guessing on my part, this is a book worth reading. It's short, straightforward, contains enough circular thematic material to get the juices churning (the bisexual structure a much needed bonus), reinvigorates the lust for an increase in the 3% translation portion of the US reading market, does the always necessary work of representing women of color writers, takes the dusty mantles of modernist experimentation and pulls it inside out into a riot of fleshy brilliance, probes the divide between author and authored and back again, and, all in all, fulfills 600% of the goals that texts ten times the size more often than not scurry away from. The dipshits who have appointed themselves as the most popularized arbiter of literary significance would rather suck the cock of yet another white boy in a completely different cultural realm than choose El-Saadawai, but where's the surprise there. 'I am not a prostitute. But right from my early days my father, my uncle, my husband, all of them, taught me to grow up as a prostitute.' The prince laughed as he eyed me again and then said, 'You are not telling the truth. From your face, I can see you are the daughter of a king.' 'My father was no different from a king except for one thing.' 'And what is that?' 'He never taught me to kill. He left me to learn it alone as I went through life.' 'Did life teach you to kill?' 'Of course it did.'

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mariam

    "I have triumphed over both life and death because I no longer desire to live, nor do I any longer fear death. I want nothing. I hope for nothing. Therefore I am free. For during life it is our wants, our hopes, our fears that enslave us. The freedom I enjoy fills them (the patriarchy) with anger." I could not help but make a strong connection between the main character Firdous and Camus's philosophical approach to The Myth of Sisyphus. Firdous truly is, as El Saadawi concludes, "more courageou "I have triumphed over both life and death because I no longer desire to live, nor do I any longer fear death. I want nothing. I hope for nothing. Therefore I am free. For during life it is our wants, our hopes, our fears that enslave us. The freedom I enjoy fills them (the patriarchy) with anger." I could not help but make a strong connection between the main character Firdous and Camus's philosophical approach to The Myth of Sisyphus. Firdous truly is, as El Saadawi concludes, "more courageous than I."

  22. 5 out of 5

    Montserrat Letona

    It’s not every day that I encounter a 128 page short novel incredibly well written like this one, specially one that talks about a woman’s whole life. Nawal didn’t added pointless details, she tells a powerful and kinda radical story beautifully. I wish all short books were this well written.

  23. 4 out of 5

    John_Dishwasher John_Dishwasher

    All of us are prostitutes. We take money for doing things we don’t really want to do to please society. A vanishingly small number of us have the courage of the protagonist of this novel: To face this ugly fact head-on, and find a way to use that very ugliness to free ourselves of our slavery. This book flays away the self-delusion of society. Through the life of a young Egyptian woman born into poverty it exposes the hypocrisies and oppressions that surround humans constantly. Since this work c All of us are prostitutes. We take money for doing things we don’t really want to do to please society. A vanishingly small number of us have the courage of the protagonist of this novel: To face this ugly fact head-on, and find a way to use that very ugliness to free ourselves of our slavery. This book flays away the self-delusion of society. Through the life of a young Egyptian woman born into poverty it exposes the hypocrisies and oppressions that surround humans constantly. Since this work comments on the position of women in society so eloquently it is tempting to lose sight of this character’s universality. But Firdaus represents all of us. We see through her struggle the vicious and predatory obstacles, both physical and emotional, we each must overcome to find our true selves. Then we get to watch Firdaus, as a willing prostitute, defy the hypocrisies and obstacles around her and become her own master. Firdaus discovers a savage irreducible truth, and in enacting it she becomes indomitable. Structurally this work is very poetic. El Saadawi uses recurring motifs and parallel scenes to give this book an alluring balance. And frankly there is a bravery in the way she employs the repetition of texts from one scene to another. This novel is built like a kind of poem.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly

    My first YA book for young girls, and had helped girls finish college and avoid early marriages and teen pregnancies. "Firdaus" is its alternative title because it is based on a real character by that name, an Egyptian woman who was imprisoned and executed in 1974. She had suffered physical and emotional abuse from all the men in her life: from her own father, her husband, her customers as a prostitute and her last tormentor, the pimp whom she killed and for which crime she lost her life. The pro My first YA book for young girls, and had helped girls finish college and avoid early marriages and teen pregnancies. "Firdaus" is its alternative title because it is based on a real character by that name, an Egyptian woman who was imprisoned and executed in 1974. She had suffered physical and emotional abuse from all the men in her life: from her own father, her husband, her customers as a prostitute and her last tormentor, the pimp whom she killed and for which crime she lost her life. The prose is passionate but amateurish. The novel sounds more like one, continuous rant against men ("all the men I did get to know, every single one of them, has filled me with but one desire: to lift my hand and bring it smashing down his face," intones Firdaus). A perfect gift for wives, girlfriends and lovers for this coming Valentine's Day.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cphe

    A powerful novella set in Egypt. Firdaus tells her story as she awaits execution for killing a man. Firdaus has lived a life of abuse sexual, emotional and physical often by those who were closest to her. A sad and emotive story of a woman whose path was set early on in life. Not an easy story to read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Krista the Krazy Kataloguer

    It's pretty sad when a woman lives in a society in which she feels that she's best off if she's a prostitute! Firdaus is a victim of the Egyptian culture around her, which allows men to beat women and where girls are valued mainly for their reproductive and servile qualities. Firdaus longs for true freedom to decide her own fate. During most of this story, however, her fate is controlled by others--her father, her husband, her pimp, the man who gives her shelter, the woman Sharifa. Even those, l It's pretty sad when a woman lives in a society in which she feels that she's best off if she's a prostitute! Firdaus is a victim of the Egyptian culture around her, which allows men to beat women and where girls are valued mainly for their reproductive and servile qualities. Firdaus longs for true freedom to decide her own fate. During most of this story, however, her fate is controlled by others--her father, her husband, her pimp, the man who gives her shelter, the woman Sharifa. Even those, like Sharifa, Ibrahim, and Bayoumi, who seem at first to be kind, betray and use her in the end. No wonder her view of life is so dark! Even when she manages to rally herself and become independent, she fails to make herself happy. As a high-paid prostitute, she comes to a sudden realization that she is not the honorable and respected woman she imagines herself to be; as a company employee with a legitimate job she ruins it all by falling in love with the wrong man. The title of the book reflects the point at which the book ends, point zero, where Firdaus commits an act of defiance against the system which will cost her her life. El Saadawi is obviously making a statement about the need for the attitude toward women in Egypt to change. This book was written in 1975, before the women's movements of today, which offer help, education and choices to women in Egypt. I hope things are better for women now, and they may be in the cities, but in the villages I think the old customs still remain. Recommended, especially for those interested in women's history.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Zak

    This novel (described as 'creative non-fiction' in the Foreword) probably describes the grievous and appalling conditions facing millions of women and children around the world today. The subject matter and message are important, but as a novel, it didn't hit the right spot for me. There are quite a few instances where entire passages are repeated or substantially reproduced with only some minor word changes. Struck with a sense of deja vu, at first I thought I had somehow accidentally flipped to This novel (described as 'creative non-fiction' in the Foreword) probably describes the grievous and appalling conditions facing millions of women and children around the world today. The subject matter and message are important, but as a novel, it didn't hit the right spot for me. There are quite a few instances where entire passages are repeated or substantially reproduced with only some minor word changes. Struck with a sense of deja vu, at first I thought I had somehow accidentally flipped to the wrong page, but nope, upon checking I realised they WERE being repeated. I have seen dialogue lines repeated in other books for good reasons, but never entire paragraphs of narrative text. I simply cannot see any excuse for doing this. Minus 1 star for that.

  28. 5 out of 5

    H.A. Leuschel

    I've re-read this powerful novel in memory of the author who died on the 21st of March 2021. She was an extraordinary advocate for women's rights, a strong and bright psychiatrist and writer who has brought hope and inspiration to so many people during her life time. I've re-read this powerful novel in memory of the author who died on the 21st of March 2021. She was an extraordinary advocate for women's rights, a strong and bright psychiatrist and writer who has brought hope and inspiration to so many people during her life time.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tamsin

    I’ve read 100 books since the beginning of last year. This was the best of all those books, and it was only 100 pages. That’s all. :)

  30. 4 out of 5

    Azra Šabovic

    I am very glad I have had the pleasure of reading one of the, definitely, captivating books. I do not usually write the reviews for the books, but this one deserves to be memorized and taken to heart. In the novel “Woman at Point Zero”, El Saadawi uses the shifts in the symbol of money that mirrors shifts in characterization of Firdaus. Using the motif of rebirth in order to show how the character grew despite her cruel world of injustice. Despite the many bad times, in the end, Firdaus is recog I am very glad I have had the pleasure of reading one of the, definitely, captivating books. I do not usually write the reviews for the books, but this one deserves to be memorized and taken to heart. In the novel “Woman at Point Zero”, El Saadawi uses the shifts in the symbol of money that mirrors shifts in characterization of Firdaus. Using the motif of rebirth in order to show how the character grew despite her cruel world of injustice. Despite the many bad times, in the end, Firdaus is recognized as a hero to women in her society. Initially in the book, one can notice that the life of the protagonist Firdaus’ is full of unfair life treatment. Her family was very poor, and her father did not care about his children, “he would sit eating alone while we watched him” (el Saadawi 18). This shows that her father is a barbaric patriarch, which was very common in the time Firdaus lived. In the Islamic culture, the men, as the head of the house, were responsible for women, and without men’s protection, women were nothing, “When one of his female children died, my father would eat his supper, my mother would wash his legs, and then he would go to sleep, just as he did every night. When the child that dies was a boy, he would beat my mother, then have his supper and lie down to sleep” (el Saadawi 17). The punishment of her mother has shown Firdaus that males are of a much more importance and that it is her mother’s fault that the child died. Firdaus mother, instead of being there for her and support her, circumcised her, “ they cut off a piece of flesh from between my thighs” (el Saadawi 12). In this case, the circumcision not only left physical pain, but also question of who her mother was. Furthermore, it affects her in no longer recognizing herself with her family, or even herself. In addition, her father has always given her the views of men being more important than women, “ Our hut was cold, yet in the winter my father used to shift my straw mat and my pillow to the small room facing north, and occupy my corner in the oven room” (el Saadawi 16). This indicates that her father’s needs were more significant than the rest of the family. As a little girl, she deserved all of the love and attention. Although, Firdaus' case is the complete opposite with the consideration of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her uncle, “ My galabeya often slipped up my thighs, but I paid no attention until the moment when I would glimpse my uncle’s hand moving slowly from behind the book he was reading to touch my leg” (el Saadawi 13). This way of treatment has implicated the thought in Firdaus’ mind that, in the world, the men are the strongest and women are to be their slaves, with no value. Money plays an important role in Firdaus’ life. She grew up in a very poor family, always longing for a scraps of food, “ One evening I dared to stretch out my hand to [my father’s] plate, but he struck me a sharp blow over the back of my fingers” (El Saadawi 18). The actions of her father are very unfair, teaching her that men are more important. She got used to hard life and labor. She was a child unaware of the money’s value. Later, when Firdaus moved in with her uncle, she has gotten clean clothes and meals, “ I was unchanged, the same Firdaus, but now clad in a dress, and with shoes on her feet”( el Saadawi 20). This big change in her life has made her feel as if she was born again, “When I opened my lids again I had the feeling of looking out through them for the first time, as though I had just come into the world, or was being born some years before”( El Saadawi 19). The rebirth she felt because of changed life has changed her perspective, and made her a lot happier. She started to realize how the money is what determines you, especially after hearing the conversation of her uncle and his new wife, “nothing shames a man but an empty pocket” ( El Saadawi 38). This is showing her that, in a society in which she lives in, the money is what defines you and what social class you are. Another important element in the work is the motif of rebirth. After running away from the Bayoumi's apartment, she finds her place in Sharifa's hands. Sharifa persuades Firdaus in possessing value, and starts having her under her wings as a prostitute for free. She realizes that after one of the customers, Fawzy, tells her " Sharifa's fooling you. She's making money of you"( El Saadawi 65). This is the moment where Firdaus realizes that she has to make her own money and control her destiny. She wanted to have her own power and independence, and not men to have power over her. Not long after she goes away from Sharifa that Firdaus sleeps with a man who gives her a ten pound note. This was a big moment of realization for Firdaus, " It was as if he had lifted a veil from my eyes and I was seeing for the first time"( El Saadawi 68). This new view has showed her that, in order to acquire power and independence, she needs to become very rich. Although becoming successful prostitute and having everything she wanted, she realizes that she is not respectable from her friend Di'aa. She wants to be a respectable woman with her second school certificate, " I still had my second school certificate, my certificate of merit, and a sharp decisive mind determined to find respectable work" ( El Saadawi 79). After quitting her job, she returns to being an independent prostitute, now with more power than before. This has challenged the social position of men, since she was more powerful than any of them. Walking away from everything, her job and the murder of a pimp, she sleeps with a Prince and then rips out his money. This is the last veil she ever had to rip out, and this was the moment when she has gained the control over herself. Firdaus becomes reborn, with having control over her life and destiny. Her character changes from a helpless girl to powerful, determined woman. She has finally received content with her own life. If you want to read something worth your while, then this is the book I honestly recommend.

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