Nawal El Saadawi Criticism - Essay

Miriam Cooke (review date spring 1986)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Cooke, Miriam. Review of Two Women in One, by Nawal El Saadawi. World Literature Today 60, no. 2 (spring 1986): 356-57.

[In the following review, Cooke examines the oppression faced by Bahiah, the protagonist of Two Women in One.]

The theme of Nawal el-Saadawi's at once powerful and programmatically feminist novel/text [Two Women in One] is contained in its dedication to young people, and particularly to young women. They must resist like roses, whose tender petals become “sharp protruding thorns [so that] they can survive among hungry bees.”

The reader meets Bahiah Shaheen as she is beginning to realize that her body, and...

(The entire section is 417 words.)

Sara Terry (review date 5 September 1986)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Terry, Sara. “Journey into the Heart of a Radical Arab Woman.” Christian Science Monitor (5 September 1986): B5.

[In the following review of Two Women in One, Terry expresses doubt concerning the liberating aspects of Bahiah's sexual awakening, but believes that the novella offers an insightful look into the life of a young Arab woman.]

The fifth and most recent volume in the Seal Press series “Women in Translation” (which includes already-published volumes of work by Danish and Norwegian female authors) comes from Nawal el-Saadawi, an Egyptian feminist, political activist, and author whose previous works include The Hidden Face of Eve, a...

(The entire section is 480 words.)

Miriam Cooke (review date winter 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Cooke, Miriam. Review of The Circling Song, by Nawal El Saadawi. World Literature Today 64, no. 1 (winter 1990): 187.

[In the following review of The Circling Song, Cooke notes El Saadawi's examination of gender roles and the oppressive power of men in the book.]

Nawal El Saadawi wrote the original Arabic version of The Circling Song in 1973, published it two years later in Beirut (she was on the Egyptian government's blacklist at the time), and has now had it translated anonymously and published in the United Kingdom and the United States. From the dedication to the closing section, which is a two-page verbatim repetition of the opening,...

(The entire section is 440 words.)

Louis Werner (essay date 25 June 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Werner, Louis. “Arab Feminist Pens Powerful Prose.” Christian Science Monitor 82, no. 146 (25 June 1990): 14.

[In the following essay, Werner evaluates El Saadawi's She Has No Place in Paradise, The Fall of the Imam, and Death of an Ex-Minister, asserting that integral to these works is a recurring theme of power abuse and oppression, especially in male/female relationships.]

The Egyptian writer Nawal El Saadawi is a remarkable and courageous woman. Successfully balancing vocations in literature, social criticism, and medicine, she has broken a path that most of her countrywomen can only hope one day to follow.

And for taking...

(The entire section is 1325 words.)

Lucasta Miller (review date 19 July 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Miller, Lucasta. “Without Doubt.” New Statesman and Society 4, no. 160 (19 July 1991): 36.

[In the following review, Miller discusses El Saadawi's travelogue My Travels around the World, which she contends is a mixture of travel writing and autobiography designed to fight oppression.]

Doctor, writer, UN representative, and, for a time, political prisoner, Nawal el Saadawi has been a rebel with a cause since childhood. From the moment she stamped her foot and rejected a frilly white dress for a toy aeroplane, she was determined to escape the limited role assigned to the daughter of a traditional Egyptian family. Her new book [My Travels around the...

(The entire section is 439 words.)

Kenneth Payne (essay date winter 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Payne, Kenneth. “A Woman at Point Zero: Nawal El Saadawi's Feminist Picaresque.” Southern Humanities Review 26, no. 1 (winter 1992): 11-18.

[In the following essay, Payne investigates the rogue aspects of Firdaus's actions in A Woman at Point Zero and establishes that her behavior is not merely an act of rebellion but an effect of her dissatisfaction with an oppressive society.]

Nawal el Saadawi's A Woman at Point Zero was conceived in the autumn of 1974 at Qanatir Women's Prison, where the author began a series of meetings with a female prisoner who was awaiting execution for having murdered a man. The prisoner was Firdaus, and A...

(The entire section is 3376 words.)

Nawal El Saadawi and Angela Johnson (interview date March 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: El Saadawi, Nawal, and Angela Johnson. “Speaking at Point Zero: [off our backs] Talks with Nawal El Saadawi.” off our backs 22, no. 3 (March 1992): 1, 6-7.

[In the following interview, El Saadawi shares her views on the political aspects of female liberation, discusses women's political oppression in Egypt, and outlines the impetus behind her writings.]

At the recent National Organization for Women (NOW) 25th Anniversary Conference [off our backs] collective member Angela Johnson interviewed Egyptian writer and activist Nawal El-Saadawi.

[Johnson]: What did you think of the conference?


(The entire section is 4487 words.)

Evelyne Accad (review date spring 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Accad, Evelyne. Review of Searching, by Nawal El Saadawi. World Literature Today 66, no. 2 (spring 1992): 396.

[In the following review, Accad presents an enthusiastically positive assessment of Searching, stating that in this novel, El Saadawi explores women's self-actualization and independence in a repressive, male-dominated atmosphere.]

The well-known Egyptian novelist, physician, and psychiatrist Nawal El Saadawi, whose many achievements were made in spite of the bias she encountered within her society and who has already amazed us with her courage and her relentless struggle against the harmful stereotypes of women in the Arab world, has...

(The entire section is 676 words.)

Nawal El Saadawi and George Lerner (interview date April 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: El Saadawi, Nawal, and George Lerner. “Nawal El Saadawi: ‘To Us, Women's Liberation Is the Unveiling of the Mind’.” Progressive 56, no. 4 (April 1992): 32-5.

[In the following interview, El Saadawi expresses her opinion on the strides toward equality that women have made in the Middle East, discusses the political climate in Egypt, and excoriates American interference in Middle Eastern politics, finding that American involvement adds to increased fundamentalism and therefore more oppression of women.]

Nawal el-Saadawi, the author of more than two dozen books, is a champion of the women's liberation movement in Egypt. A physician by training, El-Saadawi,...

(The entire section is 3703 words.)

Ramzi M. Salti (review date spring 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Salti, Ramzi M. Review of Ganat wa iblis (The Innocence of the Devil), by Nawal El Saadawi. World Literature Today 67, no. 2 (spring 1993): 437-38.

[In the following review, Salti examines the ways El Saadawi reconfigures oppressive religious ideologies in The Innocence of the Devil.]

Nawal El Saadawi's latest novel, Jannât wa-Iblîs [The Innocence of the Devil], differs from her previous works in that it emphasizes a subject matter that had thus far been circumvented in her novels. For the first time in her thirty-four years of literary production, the author of such relatively “secular” works as Al-ghâ'ib (1976; Eng....

(The entire section is 554 words.)

M. D. Allen (review date summer 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Allen, M. D. Review of The Innocence of the Devil, by Nawal El Saadawi. World Literature Today 69, no. 3 (summer 1995): 637-38.

[In the following review, Allen finds The Innocence of the Devil fraught with omens and negative imagery in which the text becomes mired.]

“I knew,” reflects Firdaus in Woman at Point Zero, the best known of Nawal El Saadawi's novels, “that men were in control of both our worlds, the one on earth and the one in heaven.” The Innocence of the Devil makes the same point, going on to claim that male control of women in this world is facilitated by a patriarchal theology that subordinates them sub...

(The entire section is 531 words.)

Nawal El Saadawi and Pat Lancaster (interview date December 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: El Saadawi, Nawal, and Pat Lancaster. “Unveiling the Mind.” Middle East, no. 273 (December 1997): 40-41.

[In the following interview, El Saadawi relates her opinion on politics and the controlling elements of fundamentalist religious movements.]

On the morning of the day I was to interview Nawal El Saadawi I heard her speaking in a discussion programme on BBC Radio 4. There was growing international concern about Saddam Hussein's decision to bar Americans from all UN weapons inspections. The possible ramifications of his decision were high on the agenda of the discussion panel, which also included former British foreign secretary Douglas Hurd, who held...

(The entire section is 1146 words.)

Nicki Hitchcott (review date December 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Hitchcott, Nicki. Review of A Daughter of Isis, by Nawal El Saadawi. Journal of Modern African Studies 38, no. 4 (December 2000): 722-23.

[In the following review, Hitchcott compliments the wealth of information about El Saadawi's life and family contained in A Daughter of Isis.]

In her fictional writings, Nawal El Saadawi emphasises the need for women to become the subjects of their own stories, to speak in their own words and thus to create their own meanings out of their lives. Now, in her autobiography [A Daughter of Isis], Saadawi begins to construct herself as subject of her own fascinating story. Recognised throughout the world as an Arab...

(The entire section is 530 words.)

Nabila Jaber (review date winter 2001)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Jaber, Nabila. Review of A Daughter of Isis, by Nawal El Saadawi. Arab Studies Quarterly 23, no. 1 (winter 2001): 81-4.

[In the following review, Jaber recommends A Daughter of Isis to readers, stating that the autobiography is expertly written and thought-provoking on issues of gender relations and racism.]

Seeking a temporary respite from death threats back home and agonizing over living a status of exile in North Carolina, the author takes up the project of writing her autobiography as a way to make sense of her existence. Now over 60 years old Saadawi engages in the process of self-reflection while consciously challenges her representation of...

(The entire section is 1567 words.)

Earl G. Ingersoll (essay date 2001)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Ingersoll, Earl G. “Nawal El Saadawi's The Fall of the Imam and the Possibility of a Feminine Writing.” International Fiction Review 28, nos. 1-2 (2001): 23-31.

[In the following essay, Ingersoll probes the style of The Fall of the Imam and maintains that through the use of fantasy, multiple points of view, and non-linear plot techniques, El Saadawi focuses on patriarchal societies and religions while controverting the masculine narrative structures used in most novels and replacing the form with a more feminine discourse.]

The writing of Nawal El Saadawi1 reminds readers that not all “democracies” of what we used to be...

(The entire section is 4153 words.)

Marilyn Booth (review date January 2003)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Booth, Marilyn. “Dramatic Monologue.” Women's Review of Books 20, no. 4 (January 2003): 11-12.

[In the following review of Walking through Fire, Booth acknowledges the pivotal role that El Saadawi played in Middle Eastern feminism, but wishes that the author would have elaborated on other feminists in the regime and explained the impact of the various organizations she has founded or worked with.]

In 1956, baby daughter in her arms, Nawal El Saadawi traveled from Cairo to her father's village, Kafr Tahla in the Nile Delta. Newly graduated from Cairo University Medical School, she welcomed a change of air and took a post running the government-built...

(The entire section is 1457 words.)

Ilona Lo Iacono (review date February/March 2003)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Lo Iacono, Ilona. “Ilona Lo Iacono on a Portrait of the Writer as a Young Woman.” Arena Magazine 63 (February/March 2003): 54-5.

[In the following review, Lo Iacono provides an overview of Walking through Fire and highlights El Saadawi's religious and gender-specific political views.]

This second volume of Egyptian feminist and writer Nawal El Saadawi's autobiography begins in North Carolina in 1993 and moves backwards in time and place, examining the events which led her to leave her home country in fear of her life in 1992. Known for her novels, short stories and writings on women, El Saadawi has a reputation as a passionate activist whose writing...

(The entire section is 870 words.)