Woman at Point Zero by Nawaal El Saadawi
Publisher: Zed Books, London
Release Date: Arabic version 1975 (Translated to English 1983)
My Rating: 5 Stars
From her earliest memories, Firdaus suffered at the hands of men—first her abusive father, then her violent, much older husband, to finally her deceitful boyfriend-turned-pimp. After a lifetime of abuse, she at last takes drastic action against the males ruling her life.
It’s mind boggling that a book published in 1975 could ring so true in 2019 – 44 years after its publication. Despite the efforts made by women from across the globe - championing for feminism, for affirmative action, for equal rights, for men to view us as equals and not as sexual objects – women are still going through the same experiences and fighting the same battles decades later. Makes you wonder for how long this will be allowed to go on, how generations upon generations birthed by women can turn on the same women and oppress them.
This is the story of Firdaus, an Egyptian woman sentenced to death and executed for killing her pimp. But this is also the story of a woman you know. A mother, a sister, a friend or a neighbour. Reading this book took me back to the story of Mariam from ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns by Hosseini’. A woman whom life had handed a raw deal since birth and everyone who she had ever trusted or relied on betrayed her, leaving her hopeless, angry and ready for death. Only difference is, this is a true story, not fiction.
I Hope for Nothing
I want nothing
I Fear nothing
I am Free.
Firdaus embodies a woman failed by society and then killed by the same society because her continued existence was a constant reminder of our failure. Like a zit on your nose, oozing out puss, and staring back at you every time you look in the mirror. You can’t hide it and you can’t cover it up. It broke my heart reading this book, every time there was a glimmer of hope in her life, it was taken away seconds later, even before it could fully form in her mind. All the men she ever encountered exploited her, leaving her feeling worthless.
‘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 on his face’.
This is a short read, 142 pages that you can complete in one sitting but it has layers upon layers of flesh to peel though. Saadawi allows Firdaus to narrate her own story and through her narration, you can feel her pain but you can also feel and see her strength. How from rock bottom, at point zero, she was able to find inner strength to live by own rules and she stopped being a victim. When death finally came knocking, she went out on her own terms.
I highly recommend this book for women and men. It not only makes you think, it makes you uncomfortable and challenges you to re-examine your values and principles and how our society is set up glaringly prejudiced against women.