The Not so Good Earth

Powerful Essays
Topics: Woman, Egypt
Nordic Journal of African Studies 14(2): 162–174 (2005)

A Journey to Prison of Two Young Women, Lemona and Firdaus
RAISA SIMOLA University of Joensuu, Finland

In prisons, there are short-term and long-term prisoners, guilty and innocent people. Common to all of them is, however, that they have come to prison. Prisons generally have a shortage of material goods and shortage of positive external stimuli. But one thing is not lacking there: time. And time is the thing that prisoners in different ways try to shorten. For example, they start making journeys of the mind, mental journeys. What are the events and factors that caused my journey to prison? The roots of European prison literature go back a long way. In Africa, prison literature is much younger; this is not only because written literature there is quite recent but also because the prison institution has been spread in Africa by the white colonialists. Last century has been the ‘golden age’ of prison literature: “the twentieth century has produced as many prisoners and prison writers as in the entire previous history of man” (Davies 1990: 7). The prison writing of political prisoners has been viewed as the greatest menace to society: “One written word in the political cell is a more serious matter than having a pistol. Writing is more serious than killing.” (Saadawi 1991: 73.) In this paper I deal with two works of prison fiction. The first, Lemona’s Tale (1996), was written by the Nigerian Ken Saro-Wiwa (1944–1995) and the other, A Woman at the Point Zero (first published 1975) by the Egyptian Nawal elSaadawi (1931–). Both writers have also written their own prison memoirs, documentary works (Saro-Wiwa: A Month and a Day. A Detention Diary, 1995; Saadawi: Memoirs from the Women’s Prison, 1986). Thus, in this respect, they are similar. However, one comes from Nigeria and the other from Egypt, one is a man, the other a woman. When we read their fiction texts next to and overlapping each other, what is the



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