In the Country of Men

In the Country of Men

eBook - 2007
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Random House, Inc.
BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Hisham Matar's Anatomy of a Disappearance.

Libya, 1979. Nine-year-old Suleiman’s days are circumscribed by the narrow rituals of childhood: outings to the ruins surrounding Tripoli, games with friends played under the burning sun, exotic gifts from his father’s constant business trips abroad. But his nights have come to revolve around his mother’s increasingly disturbing bedside stories full of old family bitterness. And then one day Suleiman sees his father across the square of a busy marketplace, his face wrapped in a pair of dark sunglasses. Wasn’t he supposed to be away on business yet again? Why is he going into that strange building with the green shutters? Why did he lie?

Suleiman is soon caught up in a world he cannot hope to understand—where the sound of the telephone ringing becomes a portent of grave danger; where his mother frantically burns his father’s cherished books; where a stranger full of sinister questions sits outside in a parked car all day; where his best friend’s father can disappear overnight, next to be seen publicly interrogated on state television.

In the Country of Men is a stunning depiction of a child confronted with the private fallout of a public nightmare. But above all, it is a debut of rare insight and literary grace.

Baker & Taylor
On a hot day in Tripoli, Libya, in the summer of 1979, nine-year-old Suleiman is shopping in the market square with his mother while his father is away on business, except that he is sure he has just seen his father, standing across the street in a pair of dark glasses, the first portent of grave danger and a sinister, previously unsuspected world. 45,000 first printing.

Publisher: New York : Dial Press, 2007
ISBN: 9780440336648
Characteristics: 1 online resource


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Jul 10, 2017

When reading this book I found myself thinking of Ian McEwan's Atonement or L.P. Hartley's The Go-Between. An odd connection to make, in many ways, with their golden summers and racketty affluence. Late 1970s Libya does not at all have the benign somnolence of Edwardian England: instead, it is edgy, tense and brutal. However, what Matar's book does share with these other two is the child's-eye view that misconstrues events and wreaks an unwitting destruction.

The narrator is nine-year-old Suleiman, the only child of his 'Baba' (father) Faraj el Dewani and 'Mama' Najwa. His father is emotionally distant and caught up in political activities, and Suleiman prefers his father's friend Moosa, who although a fellow-activist, has a more demonstrative and affectionate relationship with the young boy. His mother Majwa is an alcoholic (no small thing in a country where alcohol is banned).

Suleiman is an observer, not understanding the political ramifications of what he is seeing. Sulieman exists in a world of "quiet panic, as if at any moment the rug could be pulled from beneath my feet". In the mess that Libya has become since Gaddafi's overthrow, it's easy to forget the menace of his regime.

It was good to read about a country and politics that is unfamiliar to me, even though the tropes of innocence, bravery and courage are universal. The book was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and I enjoyed it.

WVMLStaffPicks Jan 22, 2015

1979, in Tipoli, nine year old Suleiman witnesses increasing unrest amongst his family and friends. Slowly he slides into the banality of evil that is possessing them; he betrays his best friend, he lies to his mother, he lashes out at his father. But in the blinding glare of Libya's Revolutionary Committee he feels that he is just doing his duty as a 'man'.

Feb 13, 2014

I read that this was "the Libyan Kite Runner", in the sense of being told through the eyes of a young boy with the back drop that of a country in turmoil. Lyrical language and sense of foreboding throughout.

Jun 14, 2012

The novel foreshadows Matar's later book, "Anatomy of a Disappearance". Set in Lybia, the father disappears in this novel as well.

Apr 13, 2011

An excellent novel to help you understand what's happening in Libya today - although not for the faint of heart. Matar exposes the weaknesses in all his characters. His language is also quite beautiful.


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