Monday, 19 November 2012


Dear Nawal,

I hope this letter finds you hale and hearty. It is with utmost interest that I write it. I would have preferred 'an up-close and personal' interview but I realize that it will be tricky, almost impossible to reach you as soon as I would want to; our different circumstances notwithstanding.

Allow me to start by acknowledging that crown that sits on your head. You obviously wear a crown and this is regardless of whether people can see it or not. It is over eight decades since your fast contact with the world and simply put; you have left a mark in the sands of time and as you said in the interview with Homa Khaleeli in the Guardian of 15th April, 2010, you are becoming more radical with age. You laughed after that comment but I know that was not to make it less factual. In the interview, you went on to say that,

"I have noticed that writers, when they are old become milder. But for me, it is the opposite. Age makes me more angry"

That was a real fast. My contact with a good number of writers shows that a lot of them become less radical with age. What makes you 'more angry' with age and different from most of them for that matter? I know the fact that you are a rebel could be an explanation to that but what else? I am honestly interested in that angle. My friend, an ardent critique of yours(not published yet) who also intends to do her thesis on your work, argues that you are a victim of circumstances rather than a fighter for women's rights. She compares your approach to that in Fatmata Conteth's A LETTER TO MY SISTERS and she draws the conclusion that, in both these two circumstances, the simple idea that there was initial breach from the norm is what makes you view the world from what she calls 'a stressed up point of view'. Another argument she puts across is that, there are other Islamic and (women in general) who achieve everything they want without necessarily going against the norms.

I don't know what your response to such understanding of your work would be. I would like to know.

Dr. El Saadawi, you have been in and out of prison severally because of your stands which in most cases were against the government. You even had to fly out of your native Egypt when you received death threats. In short, you joined the long list of African writers who are forced into exile because of their work. In your opinion, is fleeing one's country by its very nature a mark of heroism? Do you think going into exile helps deliver the message one is passing over to the masses?

You have been swimming against the tide all your life. Those are your words. I admire them because there is something comforting about avoiding the bitten path. Truth is that you gave all your life for the struggle against women oppression and you are not resting until this is done.  But there is a slight problem. Not a lot of people know you or are aware of what you do. You even said in one of your interviews that it is much easier for you to be listened to in other countries; you are more recognised in other countries that your own. Does that state of affairs make your quest unachievable especially in Egypt or is it a classic case of' a prophet is never welcomed in her own country'?

One of your plays; GOD RESIGNS IN THE SUMMIT MEETING was so explosive and you said that your Arabic publisher destroyed it under police duress. This was followed by several court cases because the criticism on religion proved so controversial. An obvious explanation of this would be your daring nature but I still have to ask. What is your source of inspiration? What runs through your mind when 'everyone' seems to think you are wrong and should stop what you are doing?

Finally, are there any regrets in your life? Is there anything you wish you did differently when you were younger?

Pass my regards to your daughter, Mona Nawal. She followed after you in both character and interests and no doubt she is a woman of steel too. I hope to hear more from her.

Very enthusiastically,

Daisy Nandeche Okoti.


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