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Woman at Point Zero

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  11,730 ratings  ·  1,613 reviews
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. ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published December 1st 1984 by Zed Books (first published 1975)
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Nahret She is the doctor who regularly goes to see patients at the women's prison where Firdaus is held. She becomes the audience for Firdaus to tell her sto…moreShe is the doctor who regularly goes to see patients at the women's prison where Firdaus is held. She becomes the audience for Firdaus to tell her story to. (less)
IMAOBONG Richman How does Nawal portray motherhood in Woman at Point Zero?

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Average rating 4.09  · 
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 ·  11,730 ratings  ·  1,613 reviews

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Jun 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“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
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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
Oct 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Amal Bedhyefi
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
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
Nov 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Jim Fonseca
Oct 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Sam C Basalari
Jan 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
(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
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.


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
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: translated
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
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
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
Sheharzad ⚘ (hiatus galore)
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone, no matter who or what you are
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
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
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 ...more
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
Feb 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"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
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
Jan 19, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies, fiction
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
Aug 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
"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. Because I was intelligent I preferred to be a free prostitute, rather than an enslaved wife."

Powerfully evocative. Powerfully true. A society that teaches this, that condones this, is powerfully wrong.
Jun 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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. :)
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
Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...
Updated review, 2020 reread: It often surprises me how differently my reaction is to a book when I read it again. Two years ago I found this one too depressing and was glad to leave it behind. But this time I got so much more from it.

It is a short book. Biographical fiction or creative non-fiction? Not really sure how to classify it, but it is powerful either way. Published in 1975, the author had lost her jobs as Director of Health Education and as Editor-in-Chief of Health magazine after she p
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 ...more
Azra Šabovic
Oct 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Pragya Joshi
Aug 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Everything Firdaus has gone through is so traumatizing and sad ..and the fact that it is something women all over the world have been going through for so long is actually harrowing.
I like the writing which is simple and straight to the point. It was worth a read. 💙💙💙💙
Megan O'Hara
Sep 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
honestly pretty hardcore

cw: sexual assault/rape etc etc
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Nawal El Saadawi (Arabic: نوال السعداوي) was born in 1931, in a small village outside Cairo. Unusually, she and her brothers and sisters were educated together, and she graduated from the University of Cairo Medical School in 1955, specializing in psychiatry. For two years, she practiced as a medical doctor, both at the university and in her native Tahla.

From 1963 until 1972, Saadawi worked as Dir

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