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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.

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Книгата разказва за ужасите на режима на Кадафи през очите на едно 9-годишно момче. Истинската история, обаче, е за жестокото, ненавременно порастване, за сътресенията в семейството и общността, които по-често разделят, но понякога и събират хората.

مشاهده لینک اصلی


TITLE: In the Country of Men

AUTHOR: Hisham Matar


I chose this book because it takes place in Libya of 1979. My father was working in Bengazi (2nd largest city in Libya) in 1979, and things he told me where present in this book.
Policemen everywhere; in shops, in the streets, phone calls were usually tracked, you had to be careful of what you were saying, your posture, and attitude.

10 years (1969) after Muammar Qaddafis bloodless coup détat and we see life in Libya under Qaddafi (The Guide) through the eyes of nine-year-old Suleiman.

Seeing Libya through the eyes of a young boy is like seeing an iceberg above the sea level. You only see a small percentage. Whats below is something larger and more complex.

The boys narration; (although we understand it is narrated by Suleiman in retrospective, now a 24-year-old and as a grown-up man can give more information and more description that what we might expect from a 9-year-old) is still a boys narration, and we feel as outsiders. We dont know why A is considered a traitor, and why B was hanged, and why C escaped Libya. The boy narrator leaves a lot to the imagination.

I cant say that nothing really happens. A lot of things happen but they are presented as trivial every-day events, and the whole story feels like a soap-opera, where theres no much development of characters, and the plot takes a long time to develop, and when it does its barely noticeable. Theres no real climax or denouement, just several smaller climaxes and denouements.

Suleiman is not a 100% likeable character, he betrays people around him, he tells secrets of his family to random people, he can be violent sometimes (usually kicking and throwing stones), he has an Oedipal relationship with his mother which is severed every time his father is at home, he feels resentment against others, for reasons unexplained and many more.

When he discovers that his father is not on a trip abroad but he actually stayed in Tripoli, he feels betrayed by his fathers lie and now he begins to understand when the grown-ups lie to him and demands explanations usually through the medium of tantrums.
@Suddenly the wider world becomes a frightening place where parents lie and questions go unanswered.@ ( and this last applies to the reader too)

To sum up, the plot had an open beginning and ending and a straightforward plot, didnt love it but didnt hate it either so I feel I should give this book a 3,5 stars. My 1st contact with Libya and certainly not the last.

You can see the complete list of my African Books here:

مشاهده لینک اصلی
Im a Libyan, so as soon as I heard of the existence of this book I ran to get it. There arent many Libyan authors (because, as usual, of Gadhafi), so I have respect for the ones out there.

My expectations for this book were really high. After the revolution any bit of culture that was Libya-related was treated like gold. I knew a lot of people who loved this book, so I guess I built it up in my head to be a masterpiece or something.

Unfortunately it didnt meet up to my ridiculous fantasies. The story is told from the point of the view of the main protagonist, a nine year boy named Suleiman. While the portrayal of life under Gadhafi was accurate, it was told through the impatient and shallow perspective of a child. The story didnt really have a plot, it was more a short memoir. More than once I was reminded of The Kite Runner, albeit with more stilted dialogue and a slower pace.

A lot of elements confused me, like the vaguely Oedipal relationship with the his mother, the fact that no one every explained to him what was going on, how he would begin narrating an event and then abruptly stop and move on to something else.

What Im trying to say is, without blatantly insulting a fellow Libyan, is that the book was interesting in the fact that it is one of the few books that speak from a Libyan point of view, but as a novel is wasnt particularly engaging.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
Betrayal. A stab in the back. If devoid of conscience, it is free of hurt; else you can never free yourself from the crushing ugly rock of repentance, of self pity.

Did little Suleiman, a mere nine year old child know that he was betraying the ones he loved the most, murdering the hopes of a rebellion, a fight for a cause, a secret mission, a revolution to eradicate another? Was there a realization, even a tiny bit of shame when he did so?

And for what, this heinous misdeed? It isnt easy for a child to cope when the fatal realization dawns on him that his small world that he breathes in is built on a plinth of glorious lies. Is his Baba what he veritably knows him to be? Why does he leave them so frequently when he knows that Mama falls ill whenever he abandons them? Why can’t he be a simple man like Ustath Rashid, his best friends’ father? Left alone to be the man of the house, he is laden with his incapacitated Mama’s impressionable stories of her past, tales of woe and oppression a child should never discover. A boundary of hatred engulfs him when he realizes that his Baba has lied to him, to his Mama; what is this secret he can’t be told about? The internal turmoil lurking in a child’s mind can turn him into a monster, a fire breathing deadly ogre surpassing all confines of treachery.

Hisham Matar’s story is based in Libya, during the trying times of Gadaffi’s revolutionary regime. It is a crushing tale of clandestine rebellion against this regime by a handful of comrades who strive for a better Libya, a free Libya lacking in oppression and dictatorship. It is the story of young Suleiman’s ugly and blatant utterance of truth, his gruesome effort of disentangling himself and breaking free from the cosmos of lies built around him. But truth comes at a price, at a devastating price.

The writing lacks poetry, in fact is bland. It is plainly evident that the author thinks in his native language and what you read is a literal translation. You will inadvertently compare the story with Khaled Hosseini’s ‘The Kite Runner’. The stories from this part of the world are turning out into cliches but where the writing lacks in color, it compensates in its horrific simplicity and grotesque threadbare incidents of cruelty. Not for a moment did I feel any sympathy for the child; in fact I have to vulgarly admit that I hated him.

Throttling freedom and strangling views under the veil of ideologies isnt manly, at all!

مشاهده لینک اصلی
Some authors make a political statement with their stories, powerful because of the emotional connections we make as readers to the circumstances. In this case, and despite the multiple awards and award nominations, I felt the story was a thin veil over circumstances that the author wanted to talk about. The nine year old makes confusing decisions, isnt afraid when a normal child would be, leading to destruction around him. He felt emotionally distant. At the same time, the author ends up not giving the reader very much background information on what is actually going on, since he tries to keep it to the world of that same nine year old. Id have to go read another book to understand the context. I would prefer if it was all included here!

At the same time, I wonder if that was the authors intent - to portray the confusion a child would feel during war, revolution, and oppression. In his small universe, the parts of life he depends on - family, friends, school - are all disrupted by forces he isnt sure if he should fear or show loyalty to. He suspects his Dad may be a traitor, what is a child to do when he isnt told everything?

مشاهده لینک اصلی
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