Monday, September 26, 2011

In the Country of Men

In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar tells the story of 9 year old Suleiman who lives in Tripoli in 1979. His father is part of a revolutionary movement and we watch things unfold and go bad through Suleiman's eyes.

I picked this book up because the title caught my eye and because I've been following the Libyan civil war since day one. I also would like to read African authors and this seemed like a good choice to start.

Due to the perspective of the child, many things are only hinted at, but I think that this is one of the strength of this novel. Children have a unique view and so many things are just weird to them, but when remembered later, they gain significance.
It's a study of how a regime like Gaddafi's influences the lives of people, how it can corrupt and damage their relationships. The suspicion that someone may be a dissident, even if it's only in thought, is enough to destroy all trust and friendship.
The language is fascinating. My edition has an interview with the author and he says that he believes his "English has an Arab hum to it". I would agree, it makes itself felt through the English words. He also has a gift for describing scenes so vividly that you can feel the hot sun on your skin, taste the delicious mulberry.

My 38th book for the Library challenge

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