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A Daughter of Isis

A Daughter of Isis

Nawal El Saadawi | Sherif Hetata | Bettina Aptheker


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'Against the white sand, the contours of my father's body were well defined, emphasized its existence in a world where everything was liquid, where the blue of the sea melted into the blue of the sky with nothing between. This independent existence was to become the outer world, the world of my father, of land, country, religion, language, moral codes. It was to become the world around me. A world made of male bodies in which my female body lived.'

Nawal El Saadawi has been pilloried, censored, imprisoned and exiled for her refusal to accept the oppressions imposed on women by gender and class. For her, writing and action have been inseperable and this is reflected in some of the most evocative and disturbing novels ever written about Arab women.

Born in a small Egyptian village in 1931, she eluded the grasp of suitors before whom her family displayed her when she was still ten years old and went on to qualify as a medical doctor. In 1969, she published her first work of non-fiction, Women and Sex; in 1972, she was dismissed from her profession because of her political activism. From then on there was no respite: imprisonment under Sadat in 1981 was the culmination of the long struggle she had waged for Egyptian women's social and intellectual freedom; in 1992, her name appeared on a death list issued by a fundamentalist group after which she went into exile for five years. Since then, she has devoted her time to writing novels and essays and to her activities as a worldwide speaker on women’s issues.

A Daughter of Isis is the autobiography of this extraordinary woman. In it she paints a sensuously textured portrait of the childhood that produced the freedom fighter. We see how she moulded her own creative power into a weapon - how, from an early age, the use of words became an act of rebellion against injustice.

'This is a book we should all be reading'
Doris Lessing

'I think her life has been one long death threat. At a time when nobody else was talking, she spoke the unspeakable.'
Margaret Atwood, BBC Imagine

'As I finished reading Dr. Nawal's autobiography I felt a sudden sense of loss. I didn't want to leave her. I went back and read the last sections again, and then again, until I remembered how many other books she has written. Then I felt delight that I will be able to return to her words and to her stories, and that so many others will share in them.'
Bettina Aptheker

'In this book we see how, from an early age, Saadawi combines her love of the Arabic language with her awareness of gender-based oppression to create texts which are as subversive as they are moving.'
Modern African Studies

Nawal El Saadawi is a renowned Egyptian writer, novelist and activist. She has published over 40 books, which have been translated into over 30 languages. Nawal El Saadawi graduated from the University of Cairo Medical College in 1955, specializing in psychiatry, and practiced as a medical doctor until taking the position of Director General for Public Health Education in the Ministry of Health. In 1972 she lost her job in the Egyptian government because of her banned book: Woman and Sex. In 1982, she established the Arab Women's Solidarity Association (AWSA), the Egyptian Branch of which was outlawed in Egypt in 1991. In 1981 Saadawi was arrested and imprisoned for publicly criticizing President Anwar Sadat's policies. She was released one month after his assassination. Her name appeared on a fundamentalist death list after publishing her novel The Fall of the Imam in Cairo in 1988 and she was obliged to leave her country, to teach in the USA. Other court cases have been raised against both her and her daughter and defeated. In 2008 she defeated a case that demanded the withdrawal of her Egyptian Nationality in response to her play God Resigns at the Summit Meeting. Her most famous novel, Woman at Point Zero was published in Beirut in 1973. It was followed in 1976 by God Dies by the Nile and in 1977 by The Hidden Face of Eve. The Hidden Face of Eve was her first book to be translated to English and was published by Zed Books in 1980. Her most recent novel is Zina: The Stolen Novel (2008). Nawal El Saadawi holds more than ten honorary doctorates from different universities in Europe and the USA. Her many prizes and awards include the Great Minds of the Twentieth Century Prize (2003), the North-South Prize from the Council of Europe, the Premi Internacional Catalunya (2004) , and most recently she was the 2007 recipient of The African Literature Association's Fonlon-Nichols Award. Her books are taught in universities across the world.

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
9781848132337 i
About this Series iii
Foreword ix
Preface: The Gift 1
My First Words 1
The Forgotten Things in Life 10
Writing My Life 13
1 Allah and McDonald’s 16
2 The Cry in the Night 20
3 God Above, Husband Below 31
4 Thank God for Our Calamities 39
5 Flying with the Butterflies 46
6 Killing the Bridegroom 54
7 Daughter of the Sea 63
8 My Revolutionary Father 78
9 The Lost Servant-Girl 88
10 The Village of Forgotten Employees 94
11 God Hid behind the Coat-Stand 101
12 The Ministry of Nauseation 107
13 Dreaming of Pianos 117
14 To the Circus 124
15 The Singing Man 139
16 The Whiskered Peasant 153
17 Uncles, Suitors and Other Bloodsuckers 165
18 A Stove for My Mother 178
19 Coming to Cairo 184
20 The Long, Strong Bones of a Horse 199
21 Love and the Hideous Cat 216
22 Art Thieves 224
23 Mad Aunts and Abandoned Babies 228
24 The House of Desolation 241
25 The Secret Communist 251
26 Wasted Lives 267
27 Cholera, Ageing and Death 284
28 The Qur’an Betrayed 297
29 British English and Holy Arabic 304
30 The Name of Marx 329
31 The Brush of History 344
Afterword: Living in Resistance 350