Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hisham Matar - Libya of my father

The first novel by Hisham Matar, In the Country of Men [Denoël, 2007], painted a sensitive portrait of a boy raised in Libya in the 1970s in the shadow of "guide". The father of heroes, opposing, disappears in the cells of Gaddafi, like the author, who grew up in Tripoli and Cairo and now lives in London.

The loss of the father, and suddenly felt so ambivalent, is also at the heart of the second novel by Hisham Matar, Anatomy of a Disappearance * [Anatomy of a loss]. The family of Nouri al-Alfli fled an unnamed country fell under the thumb of a dictator and he has taken refuge in Cairo. The hero remembers his childhood love for Mona, a woman Anglo-Egyptian, that he and his father had met at Alexandria and was later to become his stepmother.

The triangle was doomed to failure, the boy, aged twelve years, competing with her widowed father, for the favor of the wife of twenty years. Nouri retrospective look back with anxiety in his Oedipal desire to oust his father. At the time, it was he who felt himself exiled to boarding school.

When his dissident father is kidnapped while he was sharing the bed of a woman unknown to the Swiss family, Nouri feels guilty "for having lost, not knowing how to locate or take his place." The pain that overwhelms the hero gives this fine novel of mythic inevitability of Greek tragedy.

The author shows with precision how the grief forge clear identity, how the losses suffered in childhood affect the sex lives of adults and how the absence transforms relationships. Hisham Matar, who does not know what happened to his father, a famous opponent Libyan disappeared there are twenty-one years, leading the ravages sow the despots in the lives of individuals.

For, as he learned to his cost, "we can not live outside history." * Ed Viking, London, 2011. Not yet translated into French.

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