In the Country of Men
20 journalers for this copy...
"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!
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.
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!
I have pm'd Qimp for her address.
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 http://news.independent.co.uk/world/africa/article1171361.ece 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".
'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.
Thank you very much Plinius and Fifna! I will read the book as soon as possible.
This book will now travel to Fifna. Enjoy!
Dank je wel Fifna!
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.
Released 11 yrs ago (4/26/2007 UTC) at
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
Will pm next in line.
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
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.
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.
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.
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