Nawal El Saadawi

“Nawal El Saadawi: (1931-2021) Egyptian writer. The foremost woman writer of Egypt and the Middle East, el Saadawi has published nearly thirty books of fiction and sociology. She is also an influential activist for woman’s rights and a medical doctor. About half of her work has been translated from Arabic into English, including several novels. Woman at Point Zero (1983) is about a young village girl forced into prostitution and condemned to die for murder. The novel, which has been translated into twenty-two languages, chronicles the sexual exploitation of women in Egypt and examine the narrow range of options available to women in a conformist society. Other novels include God Dies by the Nile (1987), The Fall of the Imam (1988), and The Innocence of the Devil (1992). El Saadawi’s fiction draws on indigenous Arabic narratives, and thus her prose often seems highly stylized and poetic. Death of an Ex-Minister and Other Stories (tr 1987) reveals her experiments with diction, with the various narrative voices usually speaking in a monologue. The Hidden Face of Eve (1980), a sociological work, was the first book to document the horrors of clitoridectomy in northeastern Africa. El Saadawi has also written a travel account and political tracts devoted to women’s causes.

As Health Minister under the Anwar Sadat regime, el Saadawi was imprisoned for her outspoken opposition to that government’s social policies, which produced Memoirs from a Women’s Prison (tr 1986). In 1982 she formed the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association (AWSA), and international women’s organization which has a consultative status with the United Nations and combats state repression and censorship, The Cairo chapter of AWSA was forcibly closed in 1991, though it continues to operate without headquarters.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

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