A Conversation with Dr. Nawal El Saadawi and Catherine Mayer
Introduced by Dr. Barbara Schwepcke

In English with simultaneous German translation

On a trip to his birthplace, Frankfurt, Goethe was introduced to Marianne von Willemer, the young wife of a banker and a fervent admirer of his. Goethe was immediately enraptured. Marianne, in turn, fell in love with the poet. She became Suleika to his Hatem—poetic pen names they chose for each other—and the conversation begun with Hafiz blossomed into a duet of two lovers. The resulting Suleika Nameh (the “Book of Suleika”) is one of the most beautiful parts of Goethe’s West-Eastern Divan. At its center are at least five poems composed by Marianne that Goethe published as his own; they were set to music by Franz Schubert and Felix Mendelssohn, among others.

In this anniversary year, this appropriation will be redressed by moving the historical and the poetic Suleika firmly into the center of tonight’s celebration of West-Eastern dialogue. Egyptian feminist Nawal El Saadawi discusses how the Face of Eve has been hidden in the past.


Nawal El Saadawi and The Hidden Face of Eve

“The leading spokeswoman on the status of women in the Arab world.” —The Guardian

“At a time when nobody else was talking, [El Saadawi] spoke the unspeakable.” —Margaret Atwood, BBC Magazine

“El Saadawi writes with directness and passion.” —New York Times

Well beyond the Arab world, Nawal El Saadawi’s fiction and non-fiction works—from Woman at Point Zero to The Fall of the Imam to her prison memoirs—have earned her a reputation in providing a fresh voice in feminist debates concerning the Middle East. Off Limits: New Writings on Fear and Sin is a series of essays that consider the role of women in Egyptian and wider Islamic society, the inextricability of imperialism from patriarchy, the meeting point of East and West, and many other topics. The essays leave no stone unturned and no view unchallenged, offering the interested reader new insight into El Saadawi’s thoughts and political beliefs.

Further Reading

Dr. Nawal El Saadawi: Off Limits: New Writings on Fear and Sin

Dr. Nawad El Saadawi: The Hidden Face of Eve

Dr. Nawad El Saadawi: The Fall of the Imam