- Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
- Format: Paperback | 256 pages
- Dimensions: 128mm x 196mm x 20mm | 159g
- Publication date: 22 December 2011
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 0241957079
- ISBN 13: 9780241957073
- Sales rank: 10,520
Nine-year-old Suleiman is just awakening to the wider world beyond the games on the hot pavement outside his home and beyond the loving embrace of his parents. He becomes the man of the house when his father goes away on business, but then he sees his father, standing in the market square in a pair of dark glasses. Suddenly the wider world becomes a frightening place where parents lie and questions go unanswered. Suleiman turns to his mother, who, under the cover of night, entrusts him with the secret story of her childhood.
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Hisham Matar was born in New York City to Libyan parents and spent his childhood first in Tripoli and then in Cairo. In the Country of Men was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2006, the Guardian First Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award in the US. It won six international literary awards, including the Commonwealth Writers' Prize Best First Book award for Europe and South Asia, the Royal Society of Literatury Ondaatje Prize and the inaugural Arab American Book Award. It has been translated into twenty-eight languages. Hisham Matar's second novel, Anatomy of a Disappearance, was published in 2011. Hisham Matar lives in London.
By DANIEL BUITRAGO JIMENEZ 05 Sep 2013
In the Country of Men is a unique novel which depicts life as it happens in Tripoli. There, its people live eagerly supporting their rulers, or must hopelessly to do it, or they are clandestinely struggling against them, demanding a new and better Libya, a free Libya.
Suleiman, a nine-year-old boy, faces for the first time the mysteries of adults life and the ugly reality of his country. He'll be a witness of betrayals, intriguers' visits, neighbours' disappearances and televised summary trials. At home, his dad, businessman and opponent of the Gaddafi regime, will be cornered by the dictator's agents. His mother longs for a free life, as she is double trapped in a not chosen marriage and in a world that she flees thanks to alcohol. Without realizing, perhaps led by the injustice that surrounds him, his games will reach a cruel point that Suleiman is not able to foresee. That behaviour will terribly intervene in the events that will change the fate of his family.
I admire Hisham Matar's sensitivity and accuracy at narrating in this, his very first novel. I love being close to its protagonist in his playground, his particular kingdom within his parental home and also on the street where he and his neighbours build their kids fantasies. On the other hand, I enjoy the complexity of voices that populate the inner speech of the boy. Also the contradiction that is disturbing for him but not paradoxical. And, of course, I learn something about those dark years of the most sinister Libya and the functioning of the mechanisms of terror in a murderous regime.
We part from a sunny and Mediterranean scenario, heir in some senses of the Roman colony that Libya was indeed. We find, however, a wounded country by terror and fanaticism. Gaddafi and his men have created a network that controls any single movement, placing spies in every corner, crouched in front of homes, factories and universities, listening to any dangerous voice.