Matars protagonist, the young Suleiman in the novel ‘In the country of men’ is essentially bewildered about what it means to be a man in the Libya of his youths. Receiving conflicting messages about the meaning of true masculinity and various impressions of what it means to be a man in Libya complicates the protagonists perception of true manhood and which is further confounded by the contradicting messages he receives about the form of heroism and betrayal. The young Suleiman is also mystified by the awe he feels towards men in power that he admires deeply as well simultaneously detest, and is perplexed about the patriarchal society which holds men as the head of families. This adult and mature environment greatly puzzles Suleiman about what it truly means to ‘be a man’ and leads the 9 year old to hold many unrealistic and far fetched beliefs.
Suleimans essential role model of manhood, his father Faraj, an underground activist and frequently flying in and out of the country on business trips, greatly contrasts to the father of the protagonists best friend Kareem. Ustath Rashid who tends to show far more love and compassion for Suleiman than his father who only spends time on Fridays during prayer. Other than Ustath Rashid, Moosa, an Egyptian who sympathises with the Libyan underground cause also pays more of the much needed attention to suleiman and is occasionally regarded by Suleiman as his “father”, constantly reading poetry and books to Suleiman creating a bond which seems to be stronger than the bond between Faraj and Suleiman. Regularly receiving different impressions of fatherhood and what a father is like, Suleiman is also faced with the “guide of the nation” being Gaddafi. The Colonel also plays a role in Suleimans perception of a father. Being present in all of Libya, through portraits, television, posters and through the authority of his secret police, Gaddafi considers himself as the father of all Libyans, as he calls the general populace his...
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