TG In The Country Of Men Pages

Topics: Resistance during World War II, Muammar al-Gaddafi, Novel Pages: 9 (2182 words) Published: March 23, 2015
Insight Text Guide
Anica Boulanger-Mashberg

In the Country
of Men
Hisham Matar

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contents
Character map
Overview

iv
1

About the author

1

Synopsis

2

Character summaries

3

Background & context

6

Genre, structure & language

9

Chapter-by-chapter analysis

15

Characters & relationships

36

Themes, ideas & values

46

Different interpretations

60

Questions & answers

63

Sample answer

70

References & reading

73

Glossary

75

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iv

In s i g h t T e x t G u i d e

character map

Najwa
Suleiman’s mother;
married at fourteen
and pregnant at
fifteen; loyal to her
husband but resents the
resistance movement.

married

Faraj
Suleiman’s father; works as an
importer; supports the resistance
movement; is taken by the
Revolutionary Committee.

friends

friends
mother/son
uneasy
friends

father/son

Moosa
Egyptian; a friend
and brother-figure
to Baba; supports
the resistance; takes
care of Najwa and
Suleiman when Baba
is away.

father/
son style
relationship

Rashid
University lecturer;
represents the
resistance; publicly
executed; father of
Kareem, wife of Salma,
neighbour and friend
to Faraj and family.

Suleiman
Narrator and central
character, an only
child; cares for his
mother when his
father is away on
business; solitary and
occasionally violent.

father/son
friends
occasional
contact

Sharief
Member of the
Revolutionary Committee;
conducts surveillance in
Mulberry Street after taking
Rashid; oddly kind to
Suleiman.

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Kareem
Only child; Suleiman’s
neighbour; withdraws
after his father is taken;
eventually tries to rekindle
friendship with Suleiman.

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1

In t h e C o u n t r y o f M e n

OVERVIEW
About the author
Hisham Matar was born in 1970 in New York City. His parents moved back to their home country of Libya soon after and lived in Tripoli until he was nine. His father, Jaballa, was considered a dissenter, opposed to the revolutionary politics and totalitarian rule of Muammar el-Qaddafi (better known in the West as Colonel Gaddafi). In order to protect his family, Jaballa Matar escaped with them to Cairo. Unfortunately Egypt could not continue to provide the safe haven for which he had hoped; in 1990 he was kidnapped.

Matar later discovered that his father had been taken back to Tripoli and kept in Abu Salim prison where detainees were subjected to incessant prorevolutionary propaganda. Matar and his family received very occasional covert communications from his father or others who had contact with him, but after more than two decades they still had not seen him or received confirmation that he was alive (Matar 2010).

It is perhaps not surprising, then, that In the Country of Men (2006) describes a situation very similar to Matar’s own: a young Libyan boy’s father is captured and detained for his political views and activism. In the novel, though, the father returns (albeit damaged) to his family. Matar’s second novel, Anatomy of a Disappearance (2011) also explores a father– son relationship and themes of loss, absence and political tyranny. Matar himself has said that ‘awards are inadequate for assessing good literature. They are very subjective ... But they remain a very effective way of highlighting new talent’ (Musiitwa 2011). In the Country of Men was Matar’s first novel, and its numerous awards gained him significant attention as a new talent. These awards include the inaugural Arab American Book Award and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best First Book Award (Europe and South Asia). The novel was shortlisted for a number of other prestigious awards including the Man Booker Prize

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