A Good Pious Man Can Only Be Tainted By a Woman

Although Zeina is a novel that definitely focuses on feminism and the manner in which Moslems in Egypt treat women, it really is about the baseless inequality forced upon the Arab people by an opportunistic male-oriented religion.

One passage that illustrates this point (and which demonstrates the author’s often subtle ways of reporting) is when the emir’s guard and chauffeur is recalling that he drives the emir to places for song and booze and easy women even though Islam strictly forbids such activities. He muses that he must stand guard outside the toilet when the emir urinates. First, the commode is “a luxurious ceramic toilet bowl imported from Europe, the land of infidels and unbelievers” and secondly the chauffeur recognizes the same sound of urination that he makes when relieving himself. He mentally comments that “God in His infinite wisdom didn’t discriminate between a poor man and a prince” when it came to urination.

If God has the all-seeing eye, how can “He” allow the proliferation of sin, corruption, rape and murder?


Throughout the novel there are many observations, often simply stated as a part of the narrative, where the privilege of being a man in an Islamic world is absolutely preferred. As is stated more than once, “Cleanliness is godly and dirtiness is womanly.”

Nawal el Saadawi is a prominent Egyptian writer and proponent of the equality of women, despite the edicts of the religion. If you read this novel you will learn a lot about the religion and the society in Egypt. The author is highly recommended.

El Saadawi writes in Arabic and many of her works (but not all) are translated into English. Here is the bibliography from Wikipedia:

Fiction:Novels (in Arabic)
Memoirs of a Woman Doctor (Cairo, 1958)
The Absent One (Cairo, 1969)
Two Women in One (Cairo, 1971)
Woman at Point Zero (Beirut, 1973)
The Death of the Only Man on Earth (Beirut, 1975)
The Children’s Circling Song (Beirut, 1976)
The Fall of the Imam (Cairo, 1987)
Ganat and the Devil (Beirut, 1991)
Love in the Kingdom of Oil (Cairo, 1993)
The Novel (Dar El Hilal Publishers Cairo 2004)
Zeina, Novel (Dar Al Saqi Beirut, 2009)

Short story collections (in Arabic)
I Learnt Love (Cairo, 1957)
A Moment of Truth (Cairo, 1959)
Little Tenderness (Cairo, 1960)
The Thread and the Wall (Cairo, 1972)
Ain El Hayat (Beirut, 1976)
She was the Weaker (Beirut, 1977)
Death of an Ex-minister (Beirut, 1978)
Adab Am Kellet Abad (Cairo, 2000)

Plays (in Arabic)
Twelve Women in a Cell (Cairo, 1984)
Isis (Cairo, 1985)
God Resigns in the Summit Meeting (1996), published by Madbouli, and other four plays included in her Collected Works (45 books in Arabic) published by Madbouli in Cairo 2007



Memoirs (in Arabic)
Memoirs in a Women’s Prison (Cairo, 1983)
My Travels Around the World (Cairo, 1986)
Memoirs of a Child Called Soad (Cairo, 1990)
My Life, Part I, Autobiography (Cairo, 1996)
My Life, Part II, Autobiography (Cairo, 1998)
My Life, Part III, (Cairo, 2001)

Non-fiction (in Arabic)
Women and Sex (Cairo, 1969)
Woman is the Origin (Cairo, 1971)
Men and Sex (Cairo, 1973)
The Naked Face of Arab Women (Cairo, 1974)
Women and Neurosis (Cairo, 1975)
On Women (Cairo, 1986)
A New Battle in Arab Women Liberation (Cairo, 1992)
Collection of Essays (Cairo, 1998)
Collection of Essays (Cairo, 2001)
Breaking Down Barriers (Cairo, 2004)

Books translated into English
The Hidden Face of Eve [Study] (London: Zed Books, 1980), re issued 2008
Woman at Point Zero [novel] (London: Zed Books, 1982), re issued 2008
God Dies by the Nile [novel] (London: Zed Books, 1984) reissued 2008
Circling Song [novel] (London: Zed Books, 1986) reissued 2008
The Fall of Imam [novel] (London: Methuen, 1987) Saqui Books London 2001 , 2009
Searching [novel] (London: Zed Books, 1988) reissued 2008
Death of an Ex-minister [short stories] (London: Methuen, 1987)
She has no Place in Paradise [short stories] (London: Methuen, 1987)
My Travel Around the World [non-fiction] (London: Methuen, 1985)
Memoirs from the Women’s Prison [non-fiction] (London: Women’s Press, 1985) (also: University of California Press, USA, 1995)
Two Women in One [novel] (London: Al-Saqi Books, 1992)
Memoirs of a Women Doctor [novel] (London: Methuen, 1994) (also: City Lights, USA, 1993)
The Well of Life [two novels] (London: Methuen, 1994)
The Innocence of the Devil [novel] (London: Methuen, 1994) (also: University of California Press, 1995)
Nawal El Saadawi Reader [non-fiction essays] (London: Zed Books, 1997)
Vol 11 Nawal El Saadawi Reader (Zed Books 2009)
Part I A Daughter of Isis [autobiography] (London: Zed Books, 1999) reissued 2008
Part II Walking Through Fire [autobiography] (London: Zed Books, 2002) reissued 2008
Love in the Kingdom of oil [novel] (London: Alsaqui Books, 2001)
The Novel [novel] (Northampton, Mass: Interlink Books, 2009)
Zeina [novel] (London: Saqi Books, 2011)

What are your thoughts on this?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s