Egyptian Writer, El-Saadawi, Chose A Same Departure Date With Nigeria’s Achebe

CAIRO, EGYPT - September 30: Portrait of Nawal el Saadawi in her home on September 30, 2015 in Cairo, Egypt. Nawal el Saadawi is an Egyptian writer known for her feminist, revolutionary books.(Photo by David Degner/Getty Images).
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The global mediascape is rightly giving space to Nawal el-Saadawi but wrongly reporting that she had died. But that cannot be true because writers, philosophers, theorists and thinkers generally do not die. What they do is continue the conversation in absentia.

For someone for whom writing was an instrument of activism, el-Saadawi has secured her voice permanently in the annals of History. It would be difficult not to mention her whenever the issue is the place of women, the politics of women’s resistance, the personal example of resistance and the theme of Female Genital Mutilation, (FGM) especially in North Africa, the Arab world and in the rest of the world. Her being a medical doctor, a Psychiatrist, an activist, public servant and then a writer makes hers a complex entry. All her interpreters will never agree with her but none will be able to push her off the reading list on some of the themes above and for a very long time to come.

Her name will resonate in Nigeria if only for choosing a same day in History as her counterpart, Chinua Achebe, to ‘die’. March 21st is that date.  The only difference in that is while hers is in 2021, Achebe’s was in 2013. But, like most writers or thinkers, particularly Achebe, and in spite of being a medical doctor herself, she suffered from an unnamed illness for quite some time. The other difference between the duo is she focused on what women were going through from where she stood – the North African experience as part of a wider Arab world. In other words, she was discussing change from the domestic context unlike Achebe whose entry point is the privileging of the domestic context but as a counter to colonising narratives of superiority/inferiority binary.

Her departure is going to mark the beginning of another round of interpretations and re-interpretation of her numerous works, with particular reference to the place of resistance by women and interests in solidarity at a time of digital capitalism during which the most powerful forces in the world are loudly insisting on the male/female dichotomy in sexual practices.


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