I think it is the first book by Nawal El Saadawi that I have read and the writer from Egypt left me baffled with this small book, as if I was going in circles. No song from me about these circles I got into.
According to the cover this novel is a parable about the historical situation in Egypt (the book was published in 1989), so this should be a guideline for me as a reader.
What is the story that Nawal el Saadawi? We meet two siblings. The girl Hamida and her little brother Hamido. They come from the countryside and move to the big city Cairo, be it due to far different reasons.
Hamida was raped and got pregnant. This was a big shame for her parents. She is dressed as a woman (and not a girl) by her mother and pit on the very first train to get Cairo, so the shame travels by train.
Hamido also travels, with a message and a task. His task is to avenge the honour of his family. His father gives him a knife and the task: Follow Hamida and wash away the shame with blood.
We follow the traces of these siblings, but at times it is very hard to know what bis a trace and what is not a trace. We encounter reality and dreams. We meet Hamido and Hamida, but at times it is not clear who is who. These siblings melt into one and diverge and are seen as two again. It is complex to have an identity in the big town.
Hamida gets a job after she had spent time living on the streets. She works in a household, but life is harsh and dangerous, for another rape awaits her all the time. Hamido joins the army, but eventually he also gets a job in a household (or does the story switch to Hamida?).
Hamida and Hamido live in a situation where danger lurks, where corruption florishes, where abuse is roaming the streets, where loss of identity is just one corner away, where the big city absorbs your identity.
In this way this parable is a haunting perspective, a perspective that is still creeping through the streets and the sands and the canal.
Nawal el Saadawi – The Circling Song – 1989