In the Country of Men

by Hisham Matar | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 0670916439 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingFifnawing of Voorburg, Zuid-Holland Netherlands on 10/24/2006
Buy from one of these Booksellers: | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon IT |
20 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingFifnawing from Voorburg, Zuid-Holland Netherlands on Tuesday, October 24, 2006
"On a white-hot day in Tripoli in the summer of 1979, nine-year-old Suleiman is shopping in the market square with his mother. His father is away on business - but Suleiman is sure he has just seen him, standing across the street in a pair of dark glasses. But why isn't he waving? And why doesn't he come over when he knows Suleiman's mother is falling apart?

Whispers and fears intensify around Suleiman: his best friend's father disappears and is next seen being interrogated on state television; a man parks his car outside the house every day and asks strange questions; and his mother frantically burns his father's books. As Suleiman begins to wonder whether his father has gone for good, it feels as if the walls of his home will break with the secrets that are being held within."

I will offer this as a bookring:

Gnoe (has obtained a copy)
back to Fifna
bestfriends (Les Sept Vallées, France / ship Europe)
rapturina (Rotterdam, Netherlands / ship int'l)
ealasaidmae (Saint Albans, WV, USA / ship pref US/Canada)
fairydustwings (West Carrollton, OH, USA / ship pref US) <=== skipped, no response to PMs
azuki (Miami, FL, USA / ship pref US/Canada)
SqueakyChu (Rockville, MD, USA / ship pref US)
istop4books (Mankato, MN, USA / ship pref US/Canada)
Secretariat (Carlsbad, USA / ship US/Canada)
MmeClinton (South Berwick, ME, USA / ship pref US)
thy (Nurmijärvi, Finland / ship pref Europe)
Aspen72 (Turku, Finland / ship int'l)
Annelis (Kerava, Finland / ship int'l)
back to Fifna (Leiden, Netherlands)

The book has arrived back home!

Journal Entry 2 by wingFifnawing from Voorburg, Zuid-Holland Netherlands on Friday, November 10, 2006
Het boek gaat zondag mee naar de meeting in Lef, om via LenaLena naar Joanazinha te reizen.

Journal Entry 3 by wingJoanazinhawing from Amersfoort, Utrecht Netherlands on Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Ik heb het boek zojuist van LenaLena overgenomen. Ben benieuwd! Fifna, bedankt voor het ringen.

Journal Entry 4 by wingJoanazinhawing from Amersfoort, Utrecht Netherlands on Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Just finished reading and don't know how to describe it: terrible, beautiful, horrifying, superb. But somehow the tension does not clearly surface. Although, in the chapters after his father's best friend is killed by the regime, which is broadcasted on national television, you can sense Suleiman's struggle with fear and anger.

I regard this book as one of the best books I've ever read, but I'm glad my next book wll be "lighter". Fifna, thank you very much for sharing this book with me.
I will be sending this book to the next reader as soon as I have the address.

Journal Entry 5 by wingJoanazinhawing from Amersfoort, Utrecht Netherlands on Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Gnoe wants te be skipped, because she has bought the book herself. I will contact Feria, who is next on the list.

Journal Entry 6 by wingJoanazinhawing from Amersfoort, Utrecht Netherlands on Friday, December 1, 2006
Today the book will be personally delivered in the letterbox of Feria's parents. Enjoy the read!

Journal Entry 7 by wingAnonymousFinderwing on Monday, December 11, 2006
Mmm.. not as good as I expected.

During the read, this book kept reminding me of 'The Kite Runner' by Khaled Hosseini. There are several things that the books share. However, I found that book much more exciting than this one. It didn't really grasp me (like Joanazinha said, the tension doesn't really surface), though I really liked the atmosphere the writer created. Also, during the story, I liked the boy less and less, because he seems a bit of a coward. Well... maybe I should've read the two books in reverse order. Yet, it was a nice, well-written read.

I will contact the next crosser on the list for her address. Thanks for the bookring Fifna!

Journal Entry 8 by Feria from Utrecht, Utrecht Netherlands on Monday, December 11, 2006
And that was me, Feria :)

Journal Entry 9 by Suzy26 from Delft, Zuid-Holland Netherlands on Thursday, December 28, 2006
Arrived today! Thank you for your lovely postcard, Feria. And Fifna thanks for ringing this book. I am looking forward to reading it.

Journal Entry 10 by Suzy26 from Delft, Zuid-Holland Netherlands on Thursday, January 4, 2007
Beautiful, but upsetting story. Written from the perspective of a nine-year-old, who is wise beyond his years, but at the same time hopelessly naive. The story has a wonderful, dreamlike atmosphere, but has no real plot. It sort of peters out in the end, which is a pity.

I have pm'd Qimp for her address.

Journal Entry 11 by Qimp from Deventer, Overijssel Netherlands on Sunday, January 7, 2007
This book arrived yesterday, thanks a lot for sending it, Suzy26! With a wonderful postcard too. I'm looking forward to reading In the country of men, but it will have to wait a bit, because I just started in Black Swan Green by David Mitchell, for my reading group.

Journal Entry 12 by Qimp from Deventer, Overijssel Netherlands on Monday, January 22, 2007
Finished this book in two days. As it is written from the perspective of a nine year old boy, the language used makes it quite easy to read. I agree with Feria, the book reminded me of The kite runner as well. I'm not sure though which book I prefer. This one is beautifully written. Thanks for ringing it Fifna and giving me the chance to read this wonderful book! I will mail it to Plinius as soon as I have her address.

Journal Entry 13 by Gnoe from Utrecht, Utrecht Netherlands on Wednesday, January 31, 2007
I promised Fifna to let you all know what I thought of 'In the country of men' anyway; so that I'm still (sort of) participating in this bookring :)

My expectations of In the country of men were high because of Nadeem Aslam's recommendation of this book. Aslam's Maps for lost lovers was my favorite book of 2006 :) It didn't completely meet the expectations but I really enjoyed reading it. It's quite oppressing and I feel I have learned a lot about Libya.

It's funny that unlike Feria I preferred In the country of men to Hosseini's The kite runner. The story of The kite runner was too composed, had too much in it, whereas In the country of men is kept more basic > more realistic. Both books also reminded me of a very different one: Atonement (by Ian McEwan), because of the mistakes in childhood that have far fetching consequences. Of these three books McEwan's is -by far- my favorite.

An interesting interview with Hisham Matar can be found at You'll find that In the country of men is not autobiographical, but will most definitely have some real elements in it. Maybe only it's feelings..."I just want to know what happened to my father".

Journal Entry 14 by Qimp from Deventer, Overijssel Netherlands on Thursday, February 1, 2007
Finally, the book is on its way to Schiedam. Enjoy, Plinius!

Journal Entry 15 by Plinius from Schiedam, Zuid-Holland Netherlands on Friday, February 2, 2007
thank you. Qimp, and also for your kind postcard! I'm looking forward to a quiet read....

Journal Entry 16 by Plinius from Schiedam, Zuid-Holland Netherlands on Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Show children violence and you enable them to be violent; Suleiman grows up like this and it shows in his story how he is gradually more able to hurt people - the beggar Bahloul, Kareem, Adnan - and less able to speak some words of comfort and sympathy to the people he likes. Later, when he lives in Egypt, he feels almost insanely detached:
'I suffer an absence, an ever-present absence, like an orphan not entirely certain of what he has missed or gained through his unchosen loss. I am both repulsed and surprised, for example, by my exaggerated sentiment when parting with people I am not intimate with, promising impossible reunions. Egypt has not replaced Libya. Instead there is this void, this emptiness I am trying to get at like someone frightened of the dark, searching for a match to strike.'
Let's hope Suleiman's mother still has some softening influence when she visits him in Alexandria.

A well-written and chilling story.

Journal Entry 17 by afraberg from Amsterdam, Noord-Holland Netherlands on Thursday, March 8, 2007
This book was on my wishlist for a while now, and today I got it with the mail!
Thank you very much Plinius and Fifna! I will read the book as soon as possible.

Journal Entry 18 by afraberg from Amsterdam, Noord-Holland Netherlands on Sunday, March 18, 2007
A very impressing story!
This book will now travel to Fifna. Enjoy!

Journal Entry 19 by wingFifnawing from Voorburg, Zuid-Holland Netherlands on Friday, March 23, 2007
The book has arrived home safely, thanks afraberg!

Journal Entry 20 by wingFifnawing from Voorburg, Zuid-Holland Netherlands on Friday, April 13, 2007
Sent on its way to bestfriends today, on the second leg of its journey. Happy travels!

Journal Entry 21 by bestfriends from - Ergens in de provincie, Gelderland Netherlands on Tuesday, April 17, 2007
In my mailbox today! Up next after I have finished the book I'm currently reading.

Dank je wel Fifna!

Journal Entry 22 by bestfriends from - Ergens in de provincie, Gelderland Netherlands on Monday, April 23, 2007
Read this during the weekend. I must admit, I almost stopped halfway but I’m glad I finished it.

I wanted to stop, as this is such an oppressing, claustrophobic read and a bit boring too! I actually put it down, started something “lighter”, more suitable for a beautiful sunny spring day in the garden. But the story kept haunting me. In the evening I had already figured out that this probably was exactly how the author wanted his readers to feel: oppressed, imprisoned and isolated. I decided that this is quite an accomplishment and gave him a second chance. I was glad that it’s only a small book in large print though.

I have read quite a few “seen through the eyes of” books about children in situations like that lately, maybe this was just one too many. Why I’m glad I finished it, is that this story gave me a better understanding of the Libya of Quadaffi. I only had a vague picture of this remembering it being a hot item in the late 70s and often talked about in the eight o’clock news at the time. Fiction (or non-fiction for that matter) giving a good image of the time and circumstances of an event in history, makes more impression than the media could ever accomplish, at least that goes for me (hence the “glad I finished it”).

I noticed this had been compared to “The Kite Runner”, my favorite read of 2005. I prefer the latter (by far).

I have rapturina’s address, but noticed in her profile she is on a holiday until the 25th. As I always announce sending rings and rays, I will wait till she’s back and PM her first.

Journal Entry 23 by bestfriends at on Thursday, April 26, 2007

Released 14 yrs ago (4/26/2007 UTC) at



economy mail.

Journal Entry 24 by rapturina from Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland Netherlands on Sunday, May 6, 2007
It's here! Thank you, bestfriends, for sending it on so speedily, now I can read it and pass it on before I go on holiday again. :D

Really looking forward to this one, as both books previously mentioned in the journal entries above me ('The Kite Runner' and 'Maps for Lost Lovers') made a huge impression on me.

Journal Entry 25 by rapturina from Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland Netherlands on Thursday, May 10, 2007
Well, I can't say I really enjoyed this book as it's subject matter was pretty appalling, but it was definitely an interesting read.

Written from the perspective of a little boy, it gave all the events that happened in the book a strange kind of normalcy. It seems like Suleiman doesn't really question what's going on around him and the things he does and says make sense in his world. Once you stop reading though and think about it for a while, you gradually realize what's actually happening and find yourself horrified. It is precisely that effect that impressed me about this book, not so much the writing itself. In fact, I thought the book was a bit boring at times, though some of Matar's descriptions are absolute gems. Still, the way it was written wasn't really captivating and it almost seems like nothing much is happening. I think the real strength of this book is the realization that hits you after you've finished it and haunts you for a while...

I'd also like to mention that I'd really like a sequel to this book. Towards the end there is some mention of his later life, but I'd be really interested to hear more about that and how his childhood has affected his life as an adult. There are bits and bobs of it floating around in the book, but they are more fleeting observations than real stories and insights. I would like to learn more about Suleiman as an adult!

I have ealasaidmae's address and will be passing the book on within a few days.

EDIT: In the mail as of May 14th!

Journal Entry 26 by ealasaidmae from New Orleans, Louisiana USA on Thursday, June 28, 2007
It's here! I'm very glad. I always worry about books in transit.

Journal Entry 27 by ealasaidmae from New Orleans, Louisiana USA on Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Ironic to have just finished this on July Fourth, Independence Day. I just read "Saddam City" by Mahmoud Saeed a couple months ago, and couldn't help comparing it with this - "In the Country of Men" is much better! This book actually made me angry. I, too, wish we had learned more about Suleiman's later life in Cairo. Now I'm even more anxious to read "The Kite Runner"! I wonder what I will think of this then?

Journal Entry 28 by ealasaidmae from New Orleans, Louisiana USA on Monday, July 16, 2007
Mailed to azuki today, delivery conf#0306 3030 0001 0087 0841

Journal Entry 29 by wingAzukiwing from Miami, Florida USA on Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Well, book has made it here! I have almost caught up on my readings after my vacation and have four rings ahead. I look forward to reading this and see which one I like better, this or Kite Runner.

Journal Entry 30 by wingAzukiwing from Miami, Florida USA on Tuesday, September 4, 2007
This book is finely written indeed. It is hard to imagine a boy doing what he did and at times I felt like knocking some sense in him, but towards the end I understand his feelings and thoughts better, and just feel sorry for him.

Thanks Gnoe for the link, it's really nice to hear the author's own story and informative to get a broader picture of Libya's political history.

I will be mailing this to SqueakyChu in a few days.

Journal Entry 31 by wingSqueakyChuwing from Rockville, Maryland USA on Monday, September 17, 2007
The book arrived today. I'm going to have to slip it in among some other books I need to read in September/October. I'll keep you updated as to my progress.

I grabbed that post card of covered bridges from ealasaidmae! Thanks for the postcard, ealasaidmae. Thanks for sharing your book, Fifna. Thanks for sending the book to me, azuki. You're a great bunch!

Edit 11/16/07: I'm reading this book now. You can follow my progress on my BookCrossing profile.

Journal Entry 32 by wingSqueakyChuwing from Rockville, Maryland USA on Saturday, November 24, 2007
This book is fabulous! Thank you all for your patience as I was trying to make my way through a pile of backed-up bookrays/rings.

As I started this book, I became a bit confused by the characters so I made myself a list of characters. That helped a lot. Once I got the characters straight, I flew through this book. It was heartbreaking but beautiful. I felt so sorry for Suleiman. What a tough situation for a kid. :-(

Later, reading the author's biography, I can see that Hisham Matar put many of his own feelings in the book. I especially found this book interesting because I've never before read any novel about the political situation of Libya. Reaading this story has left me very grateful to know that I live in a country in which I can express my dislike its government policies freely and without fear for my life or limb.

I liked the way this book ended. I found it very touching.

After finishing this book, I too felt I'd like to know more about Suleiman's life as an adult in Egypt. Perhaps Matar will make that into another book?

This book is now in the mail to istop4books in Minnesota. Enjoy!

P.S. One page was trying to escape from the book, so I taped it back in!

Journal Entry 33 by istop4books from Castle Rock, Colorado USA on Friday, November 30, 2007
This book blew in with our first bit of snow! Thanks squeachy-chu for the lovely bookmark, and for the heads up on the list of characters. I'll be sure to do that from the beginning. I have two ahead of it, but should get to it fairly soon.

Journal Entry 34 by istop4books from Castle Rock, Colorado USA on Thursday, December 20, 2007
I stayed up until late to finish this book because I just had to know how it ended and I wasn't disappointed. This is the kind of sleeper novel that I so much enjoy reading, it was a story of family ties, of coming to terms with the past, of love and of the unimaginable hardships of cruel dictatorships (is that redundant?) This played out through the innocent eyes of a little boy who just wants to be cherished and to be normal, whose awakening to the dark side of life comes way too soon and affects him in ways that those of us who have been born and raised in relative ease will never know.

Will pm next in line.

Journal Entry 35 by istop4books from Castle Rock, Colorado USA on Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Terribly sorry to have kept this so long, but the holidays and the freezing cold weather here in Minnesota are my excuses and I'm stickin' to 'em. Mailed out last week to next in line.

Journal Entry 36 by Secretariat from Carlsbad, California USA on Thursday, January 31, 2008
Arrived safely. I should be able to start it in a few days. Thanks to all for sending it on.

Released 13 yrs ago (2/11/2008 UTC) at A Bookcrosser in Controlled Release, A Bookcrossing member -- Controlled Releases



This was a book which started out very well but, for me, weakened in the middle, and then improved again at the end. I was unconvinced that Suleiman, this intelligent boy who longed for his distant father's touch, and who was so caring for his mother, would betray his father to a man whom he feared. I also had problems with his moments of anger and cruelty. Again, I didn't feel there was enough support from his character in the book that Suleiman would have actually perpetrated them. I did feel that Suleiman was a child on whom too many adult responsibilities were thrust, especially by the absence of his father. The author was effective in showing his feelings of abandonment and fear. I found a few of the descriptions very effective:

"Writing required a great deal of concentration. How well would he, Uncle Khaled, the 'great poet', as Baba called him, write under Shahryar's sword? What would come out? Could he make music, could he sing? Scheherazade did, night after night, unable to look up into the sky or rest in the silence and solitude of her own garden, hearing a wicker chair creak with the comfort of her own weight. She, I am certain now, was one of the bravest people that had ever lived. It's one thing not to fear death, another to sing under its sword."

"Uncle Japer rarely stood chatting with any of the neighbours. He wasn't unfriendly, but kept conversations to a minimum and always assumed the air of the sort of man I would later come to recognize, one who wanted to make the burden of his monumental responsibilities clear; that he was a man who was thrust by fate's benevolent hand into the vortex of his time. He greeted people with a sort of inverted modesty that seemed designed to make them feel humble. "

Thank you for sending this book on its journey. I'm mailing it today to MmeClinton.

Journal Entry 38 by wingMmeClintonwing from South Berwick, Maine USA on Saturday, February 16, 2008
I just received this in the mail today from Secretariat.. and with a cool postcard too! I have a bit of reading to do for my book club, but I should finish this up by March 1st and be sending it back across the ocean! I am looking forward to it!

Journal Entry 39 by wingMmeClintonwing from South Berwick, Maine USA on Friday, March 21, 2008
I finished this just before leaving on vacation and was not able to mail it until today, so it is on its way to Finland now. I really feel I learned a lot about LIbya under the early regime of Kaddhafi.... and lucky not to have experienced it first hand. I don't think it is fair at all to try to compare this to The Kite Runner, as several have done... it bothers me a bit to think that just because both countries struggle with brutal regimes that happen to be Islamic that the two books' stories are comparable; Afghanistan as beautifully evoked in the Kite Runner simply isn't Libya. I think the horror was more the dictator's power in this book, and yes, the scene of the televised killing was pretty chilling. I do wish characters had been even more drawn for us; you understand quickly that Mom's illness and medecine is alcohol... and that maybe she is inappropriately involved with a man... and that her forced marriage scarred her forever... yet the ending doesn't quite convince me.... anyway, take it on its own terms as a time and place and circumstances that have little connection to The Kite Runner, and I think you can appreciate it more.

Journal Entry 40 by thy from Nurmijärvi, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Monday, March 31, 2008
The book arrived today, thanks for sending it, MmeClinton!

Journal Entry 41 by thy from Nurmijärvi, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Wednesday, April 9, 2008
I finished reading the book last night and I’m still somehow handling it in the back of my mind.
I think I read it mainly as a story of what becomes of a person with such difficult and violent childhood. Suleiman was a lonely child, absent father, mother with “illness” and surrounded by violence. He did not understand what was happening, nobody explained him anything and then he was allowed e.g. to watch how their neighbor was killed on TV. No wonder that he later felt empty and detached from other people.

This one represents Libya in my "Book from every country" challenge.

The book is on its way to Aspen72.

Journal Entry 42 by AspenYard from Turku, Varsinais-Suomi / Egentliga Finland Finland on Thursday, April 10, 2008
Book arrived today, thanks for sending thy!

Journal Entry 43 by AspenYard from Turku, Varsinais-Suomi / Egentliga Finland Finland on Monday, April 14, 2008
This book was really sad. Mostly because the boy was left so lonely and isolated, without explanations, without listening ear and comfort, without telling the thruth - I feel that a child deserves to hear the thruth from his parents, even painful thruth, what matters is how it's told. Even horrible happenings could be bearable if one could share them with others. Understanding would change the world to be the better place.

The story showed clearly how small and sensitive 9-year-old child still is and how his conclusions differ from those of an adult. I started to think of his age quite much, and became a bit desperate, too, as I have 9-year-old son myself.

Because of the title I was expecting some description of woman's life in the country of men; how horrifying was the way this was told - to small child from depressed drunken mother. And again he was left alone with the thoughts, no discussion afterwards. Despite that, I somehow understood the mother, her frustration of life, without possibility for profession and education, and the youth and childhood she had lost in so early age.

The story was left floating a bit, the clear storyline was missing in the end, some hurrying towards the final page.

#21 release in Keep them moving 2008 challenge
And this book represents Libya in my Book from every country challenge.

Thanks for sharing. The book continues its travels today.

Journal Entry 44 by wingAnneliswing from Kerava, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Thursday, April 17, 2008
Thank you for the book, Fifna and other participants! I'll read it as soon as possible. The book looks very interesting.

Journal Entry 45 by wingAnneliswing from Kerava, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Wednesday, May 21, 2008
It is so sad that children are often treated like they would not understand anything and they are not told anything important and consequently they are lost in their own life. Well, in the countries of men women are treated the same way. And in some countries even men are treated that way. Maybe it is a major winning in the lottery of life to have been born in Finland after all. Thank you for the interesting book!

As this book tells about Libya it will be part of my Geographical Challenge

This book is my Book #37 for Guinaveve's Challenge Keep Them Moving 2008

Journal Entry 46 by wingFifnawing from Voorburg, Zuid-Holland Netherlands on Tuesday, June 3, 2008
The book has arrived home safely, thanks Annelis. And thank you to all the participants in this bookring for keeping it moving!

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