Rumble: In the Country of Men

E. gave me a novel to read this summer: “In the Country of Men” by Hisham Matar (published by Viking - Pinguin group, 2006). She thought greatly of it, and right she was. I was “sold” the moment I read the first lines:

“ I am recalling now that last summer before I was sent away. It was 1979, and the sun was everywhere. Tripoli lay brilliant and still beneath it. Every person, animal and ant went in desperate search for shade, those occasional grey patches of mercy carved into the white of everything. But true mercy only arrived at night, a breeze chilled by the vacant desert, moistened by the humming sea, a reluctant guest silently passing through the empty streets, vague about how far it was allowed to roam in this realm of the absolute star. And it was rising now, this star, as faithful as ever, chasing away the blessed breeze. It was almost morning. “

‘In the Country of Men’ tells the story of nine year old Suleiman, whose father is arrested and tortured accused of subversive activities, his mother married out when she was still a young girl, and their closest friends. It is a story about betrayal and love, anger, sadness and fear reigning a family and a society.
The book is a Breughel-esc painting about friendship and love, set in a background of Libya in the late seventies. It describes many different individuals with an impressionistic sense of light and detail. It paints the different figures onto a background of a suppressed society where opinions and individuality are a no-go. And no matter how hard each individual fights this suppression, it effects- no, it DEFINES- the psyche and character of everyone in this paternal society.

Hisham Matar was born in 1970, in New York to Libyan parents, and raised in Tripoli and Cairo. This is his first novel. I hope many of this quality follow.

Enjoy this book. More of my favourites, you can find in my online library.
More recommended books from The Road.


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