Woman at Point Zero

Introduction

Woman at Point Zero (Emra'a enda noktat el sifr) is a novel by Nawal El Saadawi published in Arabic in 1975. The novel is based on Saadawi's encounter with a female prisoner in Qanatir Prison and is the first-person account of Firdaus, a murderess who has agreed to tell her life story before her execution. Firdaus describes a childhood of poverty and neglect and recounts being circumcised by her mother. After being orphaned she is sent to secondary school, where she excels, but upon graduation she is forced into an arranged marriage with Sheikh Mahmoud, a disgusting man who is emotionally and physically abusive. After a brutal beating she leaves and eventually becomes a high-end prostitute, encountering abusive and manipulative men throughout. When a man named Marzouk forcibly becomes her pimp, she resists his control. When Firdaus decides to leave, and Marzouk pulls a knife to prevent her escape, she stabs him to death. She later confesses the murder and is imprisoned. Firdaus concludes that all men are criminals, refuses to submit an appeal on the grounds that she has not committed a crime, and goes to her death a free woman, without fear or regret. The novel explores the issues of the subjugation of women, female circumcision, and women's freedom in a patriarchal society.


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