Life lessons: Nawal El Saadawi

Nawal El Saadawi is a feminist author, activist, doctor and psychiatrist. She has written almost 50 works of fiction and non-fiction and she shares her wisdom with us.

One of the most translated Egyptian writers, Nawal El Saadawi has tackled topics such as prostitution, female circumcision and discriminatory family laws in almost 50 works of fiction and non-fiction. EPA / Guido Manuilo
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1. Respect your experience. My philosophy in life is experience.Children experience life and are very intelligent when they are young, but they lose their common sense and natural intelligence through education. That is why I teach creativity and dissidence - I am a dissident thinker and a dissident philosopher. When I teach my first lesson to students, I say what I can do is to undo what education did to them. I am trying to undo education that spoils and corrupts natural knowledge, creativity and philosophical power.

2. Follow yourself and no one else. People tend to be like sheep in a line, following others. I am following my heart, listening to my inner voice - I don't care if I am the only one.

3. Find pleasure. We are living in a jungle, a capitalist patriarchal world that doesn't respect anything but power and money. We cannot live without pleasure, so you need to discover buried treasures, discover pleasure other than money or fame or clothes or palaces. When I write a novel and compose a nice paragraph I am ecstatic, more than I could be if I were the president of Egypt. This is the pleasure of finding the hidden jewel inside you.

4. Let go of fear. Love and fear cannot live together in one heart. When I divorced my third husband after 45 years, everyone asked: "How can you do this now, and at your age?" But I am not afraid of loneliness or death. If you can get rid of the fear, of hell, of death or disease - and you get rid of it not through madness, but by creativity, by knowing what to eat and exercise and to be yourself - you are happier and healthier and live longer.

5. Be your natural self. This is easy to say, but so difficult to do. I do it through training - a constant process of keeping a critical mind. I went to prison for writing my opinion, I live in exile and divorced three men just to be myself. I am almost 80 years old and I am still working on it, to be myself, to have the courage to speak my mind against all powers.

As told to Rachel Shabi