Sunday, February 25, 2007

In the Country of Men

Title: In the Country of Men
Author: Hisham Matar
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 246
Edition: Hardcover

Hisham Matar's debut novel, "In the Country of Men", a 2006 Man Booker Prize Shortlist, is a deeply poignant story of a 9-year-old boy Suleiman who lived during the Qaddafi's tyrannical rule of Libya in the 1970s. Narrated through the eyes of a young naive boy, Matar has beautifully captured a family's ordeal during the Great September Revolution led by Qaddafi, the dictator of Libya. Suleiman spends his early childhood in Tripoli swimming, plucking mulberry fruits from his neighbor's garden and playing with his friends in the streets. Suleiman's father, a successful businessman, travels abroad on business trips quite often. His mother, an alcoholic, torments him with her stories of troubled past whenever his father is away. Her strange attitude and ramblings of her past often leaves Suleiman quite perplexed and he fervently hopes that he could save her somehow from her illness. One day when his father was supposedly away on his business trip, Suleiman, to his utter bewilderment, finds him disguised in a pair of dark sun glasses hurriedly crossing the market square to enter a building with green shutters and a red towel hung out front. Soon after, Suleiman begins to witness the disturbing events that haunts him forever. His best friend Kareem's father Rashid gets abducted by a group of Revolutionary committee men only to be seen later on the public television suffering a tortured death in the hands of ruthless abductors. Suleiman's father absconds and his mother desperately attempts to save him from the Revolutionary men by secretly burning all the books in the house and hanging a huge portrait of Qaddafi in the living room. A stranger now sits outside in a parked car watching his house all day. As Suleiman struggles to comprehend the mysterious events, his father returns home all beat up and nothing more than a mass of bloody pulp. It was deeply disturbing as you try to fathom the atrocities this child was exposed to at such a vulnerable age. My knowledge of Libyan politics was on a minuscule level, before I picked up this book. But, this story has changed my perception of Libya forever. Matar has written an exceptional tale that deals with love, betrayal and friendship during the troubled times of a country. An enthralling read!!
My Rating: 4.7/5


Lotus Reads said...

Oh, what an amazing review, I am even more determined to read the book now. I realize I know so little about Libya at the height of Qaddafi's rule and this book sounds like it throws light on what certain families went through. I so do appreciate you reviewing this book for us Chitts! I am definitely going to order it.

Happy Reader said...

@Lotus - I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did!