In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar
In 1979, 9-year-old Suleiman already lives a fractured existence in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, controlled by Qaddafi and the ever-present threat of his secret police. While his father is often away on some unknown business, young Suleiman is left behind to take care of his mother and her sudden bouts of “illness,” the onset of which is linked to a bottle she calls her “medicine.” Thankfully, as soon as his father returns, family balance is quickly restored, his mother a carefree young woman once again, and Suleiman assumes the role of the beloved, pampered only child.
But one day, while out shopping in town with his mother, Suleiman sees his father when he should have been on yet another business trip. Not long after, his best friend’s father is carted away and violently displayed on government-controlled broadcasts. Then his own father disappears, his beloved books confiscated, and eventually the reader will learn how he was held and tortured for believing in democracy.
As a child with adulthood thrust upon him far too early, Suleiman must somehow navigate the frightening world around him, its uncertainty, its consequences, its terror, its utter brutality. Matar’s debut – shortlisted for the 2006 Booker Prize – is a chilling, haunting account of the disintegration of both family and society, rendered even more disturbing through a young boy’s wide-open eyes, once trusting yet quickly overshadowed by the inhumanity all around him.
Published: 2007 (United States)