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In the Country of Men [Kindle Edition]

Hisham Matar
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $11.76
You Save: $4.24 (27%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

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.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Shortlisted for the 2006 Man Booker Prize, Matar's debut novel tracks the effects of Libyan strongman Khadafy's 1969 September revolution on the el-Dawani family, as seen by nine-year-old Suleiman, who narrates as an adult. Living in Tripoli 10 years after the revolution with his parents and spending lazy summer days with his best friend, Kareem, Suleiman has his world turned upside down when the secret police–like Revolutionary Committee puts the family in its sights—though Suleiman does not know it, his father has spoken against the regime and is a clandestine agitator—along with families in the neighborhood. When Kareem's father is arrested as a traitor, Suleiman's own father appears to be next. The ensuing brutality resonates beyond the bloody events themselves to a brutalizing of heart and mind for all concerned. Matar renders it brilliantly, as well as zeroing in on the regime's reign of terror itself: mock trials, televised executions, neighbors informing on friends, persecution mania in those remaining. By the end, Suleiman's father must either renounce the cause or die for it, and Suleiman faces the aftermath of conflicts (including one with Kareem) that have left no one untouched. Suleiman's bewilderment speaks volumes. Matar wrests beauty from searing dread and loss. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—This is the story of the impact of small revolutions, not on the men and women who participate in the upheavals, but on the children who barely understand the world in which they find themselves. Suleiman is a nine-year-old in Qaddafi's Libya, proud of his country and his father, and worried about his mother's "illness." He is unprepared to understand the danger his father, a believer in democracy, is in, or the role that he, just a child, must play to protect his family. What is most disturbing is that he must play the games of adults, but without knowing the rules. There is no heroism here, only fear, betrayal, and mistrust. This is a difficult book: the characters are fatally flawed, the plot revels in the gray area of a child's memories and immature perceptions, and in the end there is little redemption. The plot unfolds credibly through the boy's eyes, and it is readers who shed light on the secrets. There is no judgment, and yet there is a heavy patina of guilt in the narrative. Well written, with evocative descriptions of heat and landscape that intensify readers' experience, the story lingers long after the book is closed. Teens serious about understanding the complex nature of patriotism will find much to ponder here.—Mary Ann Harlan, Arcata High School, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 317 KB
  • Print Length: 258 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0385340427
  • Publisher: The Dial Press (January 30, 2007)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000NJL7PK
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,764 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
64 of 66 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I learned about Hisham Matar's debut work "In the Country of Men" from an occasional piece that the Financial Times does called "Read Your Way Around the World." In the list the FT published in 2006, a one- to two-line description of Matar's book reeled me in. How often does one get to read a semi-autobiographical piece about growing up Libya? Since it wasn't available yet in the US, I ordered it straight away from Amazon UK.

It's not often I can say that I 'treasured' a reading experience. But that was the case with Matar's book. It was worth every penny of extra shipping to have the book in my hands right away.

I can't do the work justice here. Seen through a young child's eyes, it depicts life under the initial days of Muammar Gaddafi's 'Great Revolution.' Gaddafi himself is an off-stage presence in the book - never named, he is referred to others simply as 'The Guide' (he's known officially as 'Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution'). The majority of the action takes place in a single neighborhood. The reader sees how the revolution affects the fabric of Tripoli society. It's expertly and almost delicately told.

It's hard to believe Matar is a debut novelist. 'In the Country of Men' is a work to treasure.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
I'm normally not a fan of historical fiction, but as a world literature lover, I couldn't help but try this one. Even though it was a little difficult to get into, I am so, so glad I did.

In the Country of Men is a gripping account, from a small boy's perspective, of Gaddafi's infamous terror regime. It shimmers in the triumphs and fumes in the horrors of the the Libyan revolution of 1979, and expertly depicts Libyan culture and customs--the entire "world full of men and the greed of men"--as well. I found this a shocking, affecting read, and be forewarned: this book hits hard and will leave bruises.

There are a several difficult issues tackled in Suleiman's first-person narrative, each coated with a blasé haze of childish charm. The exterior ones among these, include gender inequality and societal persecution, but Hisham Matar dares to venture deeper as the story spins around the values of family, friendship, nationalism, and the definition of loyalty. He portrays in deliberate precision and indelicacy, the oppression of not only women, but also of humans and human rights; this is all poignant, truthful, and startlingly refreshing.

Facets of the narrator's childhood make him the most vulnerable, and yet most potent character. Most of the other characters are shallow or, as with the central themes, influenced by Suleiman's innocence and lack of awareness, but they are nevertheless lyrically and memorably described.

I'll admit this book was a bit slow for first half, but the second half blew me away. In the Country of Men is not the sort of book I'll soon forget.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 1984 on the Mediterranean July 25, 2007
By AA
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I heard about this book from an interview of Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air with the author Hisham Mater. In the interview Mater talked of his own life experience as a boy watching interrogations on Libyan TV and the eventual detention of his father and the exile of the family first to Egypt then England. The author came across as a very thoughtful and articulate, his description of his experience as a child coming so close to the horrors of torture clearly left its mark on him.

In the Country of Men, belongs to the semi fiction genre, it is based on real events witnessed first hand by the author but clearly the author let his very creative talents take over and weave a number of other interesting patterns on the same basic setting of Libyan social and political life in the Seventies.

Hot Mediterranean summer days, lots of white sand and the beautiful blue Mediterranean, a nine year only child living with a mother suffering from depression and alcoholism trying to make the most of a bad marriage. A father, who is somewhat remote and a bit caricature like is a businessman turned activist obsessed with making Libya a better place. Libya is very much right out of 1984 with much of the horrors, brain washing and denials and a great "Guide" too.

Mater's developed his own child character and that of his mother's superbly into complete multi dimensional human beings. The cruelty and contradictions in the child were masterfully portrayed. Also his sense of place and time is remarkable, Mater makes you virtually taste the beautiful delicious mulberries or sense the heat burning your feet from walking in the hot afternoons to the Tripoli beach.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
THE AUDIO BOOK (Unabridged)
Though I first read the print copy of the book, after listening to the unabridged CD version of it, I'd highly recommend it as the reader is terrific--i.e, reads slowly enough for one to digest the material and savor the language and 2) does not overly dramatize it.

FROM INTERVIEWS WITH THE AUTHOR
By the time I was ready to write a review of the book, too many had already been written. However, because my book group thought that the information I'd gleaned from others' interviews with the author added depth to their appreciation of his novel, I decided to post some of it here. And where relevant, I also added further background information via comments on others' reviews.

In interview after interview, Matar insists that Suleiman's story is not his story. "Suleiman's emotionally volatile and unpredictable mother plays a big role in his life whereas my mother and father were both very stable and reliable," Matar explains, adding that he had to research "how children of parents with drinking problems are affected."

However, says Matar, "I deliberately placed the action in the landscape I remember. The house is very much our house, the sea very much the sea I remember....The book was in a way an attempt to revisit the haunts of my youth and thus to try to wean myself of the country I had left and haven't been able to return to for over 28 years now....I failed, of course."

And, according to Matar, "the backdrop of Suleiman's story--the political unrest that was taking place--is based on things that did happen....But when I was Suleiman's age, it was very subtle. I sensed there were some things you could not say.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a rare book that offers a brilliant and moving insight into...
This is a rare book that offers a brilliant and moving insight into childhood within certain specifics (the Libya of Gaddafi, for instance). Read more
Published 23 days ago by Rajendran Arumugam
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully written novel about political freedom and female...
This was a book discussion group selection,. There was much enthusiasm for the writing style, character development, and the story, as well as the messages about universal human... Read more
Published 29 days ago by Paula the Gourmet
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is amazing. The writing is poetic and emotionally...
This book is amazing. The writing is poetic and emotionally intelligent. The story is heart breaking and difficult to read at times, but I loved it. Read more
Published 1 month ago by r r
4.0 out of 5 stars worth reading
The story of betrayal and fear allows readers to get an insight into what it is like to live under terror. We feel for this boy who, once he escapes never returns to his family
Published 4 months ago by Judith Field
5.0 out of 5 stars First book in " Musim Journeys" discussion series
In the Country of Men is the first of 5 books we are reading in a community discussion series called " Muslim Journeys". Read more
Published 6 months ago by mamaincharge
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderfully written.
Conveyed great emotion without dramatics. A journey through the eyes of a boy in a situation most of us can't imagine.
Published 7 months ago by Donnatella
4.0 out of 5 stars As expected. Thank you
This book was a requirement for year12 for my son. Haven't started reading yet but in good condition thank you
Published 7 months ago by Gihan Sadek
3.0 out of 5 stars required reading for a class
required reading for a class

one two three four five six seven eight nine ten elven twelve thirteen fourteen fifteen
Published 9 months ago by J. WARTHEN
5.0 out of 5 stars Audio cd
This is an audio CD it has been helpful for VCE. Handy to have on in the car on long trips easier to go back and listen rather than fumble through the book to remember passages.
Published 9 months ago by Michelle Williams
3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing but emotionally distant
A compelling fiction/memoir of a summer in Libya in 1979 from the perspective of a nine-year-old boy named Suleiman. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Ellerbee
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