Libya, 1979. Nine-year-old Suleiman's days are circumscribed by the
narrow rituals of childhood: outings to the ruins surrounding
Tripoli, games with friends played under the burning sun, exotic
gifts from his father's constant business trips abroad. But his
nights have come to revolve around his mother's increasingly
disturbing bedside stories full of old family bitterness. And then
one day Suleiman sees his father across the square of a busy
marketplace, his face wrapped in a pair of dark sunglasses. Wasn't
he supposed to be away on business yet again? Why is he going into
that strange building with the green shutters? Why did he lie?
Suleiman is soon caught up in a world he cannot hope to
understand-where the sound of the telephone ringing becomes a
portent of grave danger; where his mother frantically burns his
father's cherished books; where a stranger full of sinister
questions sits outside in a parked car all day; where his best
friend's father can disappear overnight, next to be seen publicly
interrogated on state television.
"In the Country of Men" is a stunning depiction of a child
confronted with the private fallout of a public nightmare. But
above all, it is a debut of rare insight and literary grace.
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