In the Country of Men


Thank you to Rebecca Nicolson for recommending Hisham Matar.

I have just finished his first novel, In the Country of Men.   It is such a painful, honest, compelling story of a boy growing up under Gaddafi aka Muammar el-Qaddafi aka the Guide.  It is beautifully and sparely written.

In the chat at the back of the book Matar mentions Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead as one of his favourite books – no surprise: like  Robinson he takes us wholeheartedly into the complexity of an individual psyche.  Colm Toibin is another genius who comes to mind; the circumstances are much more extreme than in Brooklyn, but in both books we sympathise deeply with a protagonist whose actions are dubious, and as in Brooklyn we find not a word out of place.

In the Country of Men was published in 2006 so I’m way behind the times to mention it at all, but if, like me, you didn’t discover this book when it came out, I strongly suggest you find it now – a painful joy in store.

Now I’m looking forward to reading Matar’s second novel, Anatomy of a Disappearance, and – how au courant – that came out just 4 months ago!


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