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Woman at Point Zero
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1001 book reviews > Woman at Point Zero - Nawal El Saadawi -

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Kristel (kristelh) | 4259 comments Mod
This is a short work, a creative non-fiction, and so powerful. The author's story is a story as well. The author published this book in 1975 but starting work on it after she lost her position as the Director of Health Education and the Editor-in-Chief of Health magazine after the publication of Women and Sex. The author was researching neurosis in Eygptian women and learned about Firdaus, a women accused of murder and sentenced to die. The setting is the Qanatir Prison where the author is interviewing the prisoner and the story is Firdaus' first person account of her story just before her execution in 1974. It is a story of the 1. subjugation of women and 2. Women's freedom in a patriarchal society. What it was to me, was the story of the process of how Firdaus became a strong woman, who freed herself but dependency on men. It was a slow and painful process and this is a hard but still optimistic story. The author, herself, was imprisoned in 1981 for political offenses.

"I knew that [prostitution] 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 that of a wife. All women are prostitutes of one kind or another. " Firdaus.

Rating 4.87

message 2: by Diane (last edited Jul 03, 2018 06:27PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Zwang | 1315 comments Mod
Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi
4/5 stars

“This novel, or rather creative non-fiction, takes the reader into the cell of a woman the night before her execution.”

“She is an orphan who was passed from one abusive guardian to another, and her tale shows how trust is tested and finally erodes, leaving behind only fear and alienation.”

I was blown away after reading the introductory comments of the book, about the author section, the foreword by Miriam Cooke and the preface, I was not disappointed in my journey. The author, a psychiatrist, turned to writing after having her rights taken away under the rule of Anwar Sadat. Woman at Point Zero was first published in Beirut in 1973.

The story is about Firdaus, a woman who was doomed the moment she was born. In this patriarchal society of Cairo, she was passed from one relative to another not being sure who her parents really were. A glimmer of hope ensues when she is allowed to go to school but you know this does not maintain as the book starts in prison. “Life is a snake. They are the same, Firdaus. If the snake realizes you are not a snake, it will bite you.”

The main themes of the book are feminism, bravery and survival. “Because I was intelligent I preferred to be a free prostitute, rather than an enslaved wife.” I would be happy to read more of this author's work.

Dree | 243 comments El-Saadawi was a trained and professional psychologist before she became an author. This book is a novelization of an Egyptian prostitute's life ("Firdaus")—how and why she became a prostitute. When she was interviewed, she was in prison awaiting death for killing her pimp.

Firdaus's entire life was in serving men--first her father, then her uncle (who did send her away to school, mostly to get her out of their house). This poor girl just wanted to lead what the middle/upper classes in Egypt (like the author herself) would consider a normal life. School, work, marriage, family. Instead she was treated as a slave, beaten, sold, used, and ignored by the police/courts until she killed a man and they decided to kill her. The choices were all made by the men around her. Men beat women, as they were "property". It wasn't until she realized this and decided to use what little power she had--in killing her pimp--that Firdaus was satisfied that she did truly have power.

A depressing book.

Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 894 comments I can see why people love this book, but for me there was nothing about it that I could enjoy. It is so dark and depressing. It is probably really good for its niche. It is meant to be dark and depressing. It is meant to be feminist. It succeeds. But for me it just left me with a pit in my stomach and the desire to forget it as soon as possible.

Melissa What a beautifully raw story encapsulating truth bomb this short story is. On its surface it’s the life story of a prostitute in Egypt about to be executed for murdering her pimp, but as the story unfolds you realize her crime was much more about peeling back the layers of supposed society and civility that allowed her to be abused and disenfranchised, while men benefited, and being punished as she attempts to take more power for herself.

5 Stars

Gail (gailifer) | 1536 comments The story of Firdau a "successful" Cairo prostitute is a well written but depressing tale of what it means to be a free women in a patriarchal society. With an interesting use of repetition and told in one flowing first person narrative on the eve of her being executed for killing a person who called himself her pimp, Firdau tells the author and through the author, the reader, of her realizations about her place in the world. She is abused mentally and physically by all manner of relatives including her father, her mother, her husband and a woman who generously took her in but turns into her handler for prostitution rather than her salvation. I am not sure in my initial reading I grasped the concept of gender mutilation that is contained in this book. Firdau talks of missing something that she can not really remember and now she has no feelings. It was only in reading a review after I finished the book that I realized that her mother had done this gender mutilation to her.
Firdau talks of gaining freedom only by murdering and yet she believes that only men can be criminals and to kill this particular man was to do good in this world as it gave her some small amount of control. She looks forward to the next life where she will be free but the reader is left only with the realization that this women could never be free in this life. I really appreciated this heartbreaking read and would like to read more of the author's work.
5 stars

message 7: by Pip (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pip | 1481 comments It has taken me three weeks to listen to this book despite that it was the only Audible I have been listening to while doing a lot of travelling. It should have been ideal to listen while watching the countryside flash by from the train. But I could only listen to short bursts because the story was so incredibly depressing. There was also repetitious physiological responses to extreme circumstances which I found difficult to listen to. Firdaus had an encounter with her teacher in a garden, then a very similar encounter with another woman who became her pimp and then finally with her lover. I was heartily sick of black eyes enlarging to the size of the universe! I realise that this is a very important book, written by a woman who has herself been persecuted for advancing the cause of women in a misogynist society, and I tried hard to like it. Perhaps because I was simultaneously reading the bloodthirsty Chaka, and then The Kindly Ones, I feel that July's reading has been difficult rather than recreational!

Tatjana JP | 294 comments Rating: 4 stars
This is a story about Firdaus - a prostitute from Cairo, sentenced to death for killing her pimp. She is telling her life story the night before her execution and is depicting her sad life of growing up and becoming a prostitute by her choice in order to fight for a dignified life and happiness. It is also a story of fighting the cruel system of Arab culture whereby men dominate, while "a virtuous woman was not supposed to complain about her husband. Her duty was perfect obedience."

Daisey | 272 comments This is a short book, but as already mentioned, it has a lot to say. Firdaus lives through so many horrible situations in which all of the men she meets attempt to take advantage of her or are just plain cruel, and most of the women are almost or just as bad. Yet, she slowly gains an inner strength and a determination to live as much as she can on her own terms, to the point of committing murder. I appreciated this story and some of the lines really struck me as I read, but I cannot say that I enjoyed it.

* I read this for the March 2019 TBR Takedown Challenge. I added it to my list for this year after missing it as a book of the month last year and being intrigued by the reviews shared by the group.

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