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Woman at Point Zero

I sometimes wonder whether a person can be born twice. (p25)

This sentence deserves to be underlined because it is a symbol of what Nawal El Saadawi is doing with this book. The narrator visits a woman named Firdaus who is in prison for a murder and who is going to die for her crime. She is condemned, doomed. Firdaus tells her story to the narrator while she is in prison waiting for her time to come, a time other humans will decide. This text is powerful because it gives the opportunity to speak to a woman who has been reduced to silence. A woman who has always been under men’s law, in a country where women’s rights are not respected. She has been abused and married to a stranger and then has become a prostitute by choice, as an act of rebellion. She ends up in this prison, talking with the narrator and sharing her life and her story what made her kill a man.

Throughout this account by Firdaus, Nawal El Saadawi tells the story of a culture, of a status in a society the woman one. She also talks about insufficient liberty, privation, and women’s sexuality and shows how all these themes are problematic in this society. The story is told from Firdaus’s point of view because it is hers and the author and narrator are just a vehicle for it. This is the story of a revolution in the body and the brain of Firdaus. We see things that change, her body and her vision of it, her vision of her own culture, of men. The frustration becomes anger and it leads her to kill. It also shows a change in her status, from daughter to wife, from wife to prostitute, from prostitute to murderer, from murderer to prisoner. But most of all, from a prisoner, way before she was in jail, to a free woman. Free of everything because not afraid anymore, not enchained anymore.

That is why this short sentence seems so important because what the book shows is this process of being born twice. This capacity to reinvent herself that Firdaus shows. But also, the capacity of the author and the narrator to give birth to someone a second time and to make her eternal. That is what Nawal El Saadawi does with this book, she brings to life a woman a second time and makes her an eternal living human being throughout literature. And there is no cultural border, no question of a country because as long as there will be women on earth, the story of Firdaus will still talk to people and be a manifesto about women’s freedom and fierce.

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