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Nawal El Saadawi (1931-2021): the pen can also be a weapon

The novelist, memoirist, doctor and feminist spoke to Prospect three years before her death about her upbringing in Egypt and the writer’s role in speaking the savage truth

By Sameer Rahim  
Daughter of Isis: Nawal El Saadawi Credit: Oriol Clavera / Alamy Stock Photo

Daughter of Isis: Nawal El Saadawi Credit: Oriol Clavera / Alamy Stock Photo

The Egyptian writer Nawal El Saadawi died on 21st March, at the age of 89, in Cairo. She was a hugely influential figure: a novelist and memoirist, a doctor who helped reform Egypt’s health system, as well as one of the best-known feminists from the Arab world. In December 2018, I sat down with El Saadawi in London, when she was promoting the reissue of her memoirs A Daughter of Isis and Walking through Fire (Zed Books). In person she was formidable and not without the hauteur of a famous writer. We got into a discussion at the start…

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