Some women talk about Lilith and claim it as their own with no resemblance to her. They´re Eve clones trying to dress up as Lilith, their actions contradicting the role they try to personify. Other women don´t mention it – they are Lilith and they don´t need to mention it. We rarely talk about the obvious – our lives speak for us.
Nawal el Saadawi (Egyptian writer, professor, political activist, psychologist and more) fits the last case: a living Lilith who doesn´t need to repeat it to the winds: I´m Lilith. She is.
I carry many wonders and questions in relation to this woman, but the one who strikes me more insistently is: how come she was not killed? How did they let her escape while writing the books she wrote and, which is probably worse, by being her wonderful, fierce, bright, free self?! How on earth haven´t the “pachas” caught her?! They tried, I know. But they didn´t. One of the reasons may be the fact that “pachas” and people in power don´t read much. Or not at all. In that case, their ignorance saved her life (one of those life´s ironies…).
“Woman at point zero” lays on my desk as I write this post. I didn´t read it – I swallowed it as if I already knew it (´cause I did). That story was my story with a little, tiny, almost imperceptible, twist. The book tells us about a woman called Firdaus, how the became a prostitute,ended up killing a man and being sentenced to death for it. I´ve never been a prostitute (not in this life time, at least) but I relate to this woman´s story in a frightening – oh so real – way.
We think extreme and evil situations require extreme, evil people but that´s not true. Perfectly kind, intelligent, wonder*ful people can fall in the gutter – as easily as you and I can. What is worse: they can be lead into the gutter and left with no way out.
Like the main character in the book, I felt the sting of men who couldn´t accept my dignity and freedom; they couldn´t accept the fact that I refused to be tamed and turned into one of their servants/prostitutes/wives/concubines. Egypt is prolific in this kind of men and I, as a dancer living and performing in Cairo for 8 years, couldn´t help but meet several of them.
Here´s my confession (which is openly offered in my upcoming book): I found myself on the verge of killing a man on several occasions – just as Firdaus did. I know how it feels to choose between your life and his life, that man who´s beating you, forbidding you from leaving the house, threatening to kill you. Only one thing saved me from jail; only one thing separates me from Nawal El Saadawi´s heroine: she had nothing to lose and I had all my life and dreams to lose.
At the moment when killing the bastard was a sure conclusion to an endless array of physical and psychological abuse, my guardian angel whispered in my ear:
-He´s not worth you dying in jail. You didn´t come to Egypt for this. You have a full, bright, happy, successful life ahead of you and he´s not worth destroying all that. Play dead, for now…play him….pretend to be what he thinks you are at the moment…let him go, don´t kill him because life will.
I listened (by a thread), thanks God, and saved myself from jail. Firdaus – the amazing woman portrayed in the mentioned book – had lost all her angels and hope along the dirty roads of her (one direction) reality.
I´ve met many women like Firdaus. In Egypt but not only. I know they´re my sisters, my mirrors: me, in different garments and circumstances.
This book is not a literary master piece on many levels; it´s a Master Piece where COURAGE and SOUL touching are concerned. No language flourishing, intelectual grandiose choices and fancy vocabulary can reach the ankles of a TRUE, HEART OPENING story.
I already respected and loved Nawal El Saadawi. Now I call her a Goddess. Simple as that (undeniable).
P.S: The guts and character required to write this story! WOMAN, oh WOMAN!
“No one would have easily recognized me. I looked no different from respectable, upper-class women. My hair had been done by a stylist who catered only for the rich. My lips were painted in the natural tone preferred by respectable women because neither completely hides, nor completely exposes their lust. (…) I looked no different from the wife of an upper-class government official occupying a high position of authority. But my firm, confident steps resounding on the pavement proved that I was nobody´s wife.
I crossed by a number of men working in the police force, but none of them realized who I was. Perhaps they thought I was a princess, or a queen, or a goddess. For who else would hold her head so high as she walked?”
From “Woman at Point Zero”, Nawal El Saadawi