The Novel
by Nawal El Saadawi

Interlink Books, 2009. ISBN 978-1-566-56732-9.
Reviewed by Rhonda Esakov
Posted on 01/28/2009

Fiction: Multi-Cultural

With a unique approach, Nawal El Saadawi introduces us to the world of a budding young female writer in her latest book, The Novel. The "young woman" is never referred to by name. She is identified as having, "no family, no university degree, no national identity card" and her name does not appear on the "lists of prominent women writers".

In her search for words to put on paper, the "young woman" encounters many artistic people—writers, poets, freedom groups and more. Poverty, adulterous sex, forbidden love, scorn for religious strictures, dirt behind political maneuvering and mingling of the high and low social classes—all are covered here! Most of the people she encounters wish to influence her and impress upon her their own points of view of how to write and what it is to be a writer.

This is a thinking book—you have to pause and ponder what is being said, turn it over a few times in your mind and then continue to the next thought being expressed. Although profound is an often overused word, its use is completely appropriate to describe this book. Indeed, ponder the words, "Your mind is the final shore where your strong feelings anchor." Little gems such as this thought pepper the pages.

Originally released in Arabic in 2005, The Novel was banned all over the Arab world. The story covers many touchy subjects that are taboo in the Muslim world. Reading this book makes you think, makes you question the traditions and lets you see some of the turmoil of what it is like to be a writer under such oppressed conditions as are rife in the Middle East. While the details and subjects covered may seem mild in a European or American culture, the book caused many problems for the author.

Dr. Nawal El Saadawi is the author of nearly forty works of fiction, non-fiction, drama and memoir that have been translated into thirty languages. She is a novelist, a psychiatrist, and a writer who is well known both in Arab countries and in many other parts of the world. Her novels and her books on the situation of women have had a deep effect on generations of young women. For more information on the author and to find lists of other works, visit her web site.

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