Nawal El Saadawi: The Fall of the Imam

“No one of you has ever possessed my mind. No one. And no matter how often you took my body my mind was always far away out of your reach, like the eye of the sun during the day, like the eye of the sky at night.”

In a culture where a buffalo has more worth than a woman, where love and marriage are usually two different things, where there is a disconnect between religious devotion and actions, where a man has the freedom to sin but where a woman can get stoned for being a victim, Nawal treads dangerously with her words.

She throws difficult questions at religion and those who are in power, beats us out of complacency and privilege, and prods us to be angry at injustice and inequality.

This is not the book I would recommend to someone who is new to her writings, but a seasoned Nawal reader would probably consider this an epitome of her literary prowess.

Prose-wise, it is the most ornate. Content-wise, it is the most potent. Form-wise, it is her most sophisticated. And wading through all of that is not so easy.

Different narrators for each chapter can get disorienting; the victims narrate, the criminals narrate, so do the dead, and oftentimes about the same incident. When it comes to the women, one can get confused trying to identify whether it is the mother speaking, or the daughter, or the new wife, or the first wife, or the mistress, or the sister. But I realize the intention: It is to emphasize the fact that they are women, and because they are women they suffer all the same.

“Like in The Thousand and One Nights, the beginning of each tale merged with the end of the one which had preceded it, like the night merges with the day…” And then she draws us away from Scheherazade to a lesser-viewed aspect of this literary heritage and culture, and points the spotlight at the hypocrisy of King Shahryar.

Through it all, the question that seems to reverberate loudest in my mind is this: What can we do if the leaders, those who are in power, the ones assigned to mete out judgment, are the perpetrators of the crime?

Because at times, they are. Not only in some culture foreign to us. But in ours, too.

7 thoughts on “Nawal El Saadawi: The Fall of the Imam”

  1. Being a woman in a lot of places is sadly not just bad, but outright dangerous. Ive just finished Christy Lefteri’s Songbirds, which deals with the plight of migrant women workers and how those who employ them basically don’t give a sh!t about them. It was heartbreaking. I hope somehow that more people read from these sort of authors. X


      1. I think you will like Songbirds…. Its an easy read, you’ll bowl it over in a few days. I think its an important story, and while fiction, loosely based on a real life story.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved your review, Miracle! I’ve read only one book by Nawal El Saadawi, ‘Woman at Point Zero’. But after reading that, I became a huge fan of hers. I was very disappointed that they didn’t give her the Nobel Prize for Literature. Loved what you said about the hypocrisy of King Shahryar. I have often thought about that. I’ll add this book to my list. Thanks for sharing your thoughts 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! Too bad she did not get the chance to be awarded the Nobel before she passed away. I’m glad to know that you also think she deserved the prize! It’s my first time to encounter a man who is a fan of hers! That’s wonderful, Vishy!

      Thanks for dropping by and also for sharing your thoughts! ^_^


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