Thursday, May 17, 2012
Anatomy of a Disappearance by Hisham Matar
This story is a novel, but reads like a memoir. Judging from the short biography about the author on Goodreads, one must assume Matar is “writing what he knows,” since the thread of the novel closely follows the arc of his life. In real life his father, a former Libyan government minister, is persecuted by the Gaddafi regime, and is subsequently kidnapped. In the novel, we know the family is in exile in Cairo, but we never learn the country from which they fled.
Matar is extravagantly talented: his sentences are polished, measured, clear, and hold the hint of portent. I must admit to an intense curiosity about the details of a life and the thoughts of a wealthy young man, in this case the fictional Nuri, from the Middle East attending a private boarding school in England. I am privy to his innermost thoughts, and can sit in on dinners in places I will never go.
But with great wealth comes great responsibility, and Nuri’s background and the kidnapping of his father weighs heavily on him. He makes some friends, but he is very reserved and careful and alone for a teen. Those of us living in the U.S. with no great history, no great wealth, and no visible class distinctions, have no real barriers either. It is easy to forget how lucky we are.
I listened to the audio of this title, published by Books on Tape and narrated by Steve West. The work is read with real cognizance, the sentences savored. It is a curious and unusual book, and interesting for that and for the skill of the author. This is a perfectly reasonable book for high school students to read and discuss, for it follows a young man through his high school years, and presents a world both familiar and foreign.
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