Thoughts on God Dies by the Nile by Nawal El Saadawi
First I want to thank Lauren of Underneath a Book for providing me with a copy of this hard to find book. God Dies by the Nile by Nawal El Saadawi is a difficult book for me to wrap my head around. Not because it is a poorly written book, but because so much occurs in this small tome.
This is not a positive or upbeat story, much of it is very negative and sad. The primary goal of this book was to show corruption in the government and religion, disparity between classes, and the treatment of the sexes. It is set in a small town by the Nile in Egypt. In this town the mayor is put on a pedestal and treated almost godlike. The distance between the wealthy and poor is vast, with the wealthy in the town continually calling the poor simple and stupid. Among the wealthy there is much power play. Among the poor there is a lot of blind following of what those in the higher classes tell them. Much in the town is corrupt. The protagonist is a peasant woman named Zakeya. She endures tragedy after tragedy among her family in this book. Much at the hands of the mayor.
El Saadawi provides the reader with a transparent view of the people in the town. She switches from character to character and allows the reader to know what motivates each one. It is like glancing through a window at the daily life in one small town. She highlights the negative aspects of behavior among the people the most. She showcases how women are treated by men, how the upper class treats the lower class, and how religion can be used as a tool for manipulation in this story.
I read this book as part of the Year of Feminist Classics and though the book does have some feminist viewpoints and undertones; I felt that the purpose of the book was far from just being a challenge for the rights of women but a challenge of lower class against the upper class. I felt the points she emphasized were not where women were brutalized, though this did happen, but where those in power used their power maliciously and manipulated those without. I think there is a very broad human rights tone to this book, which is vastly important.
I can’t say I fully enjoyed this book as much of it was harsh and hard to take, but I did find it to be an interesting read. It gives a unique perspective into what life in a small Egyptian town may be like and it definitely has a strong message.