Anatomy of a Disappearance

Anatomy of a Disappearance

by Hisham Matar

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Overview

Anatomy of a Disappearance by Hisham Matar

Nuri is a young boy when his mother dies. It seems that nothing will fill the emptiness that her strange death leaves behind in the Cairo apartment he shares with his father. Until they meet Mona, sitting in her yellow swimsuit by the pool of the Magda Marina hotel. As soon as Nuri sees her, the rest of the world vanishes. But it is Nuri’s father with whom Mona falls in love and whom she eventually marries. And their happiness consumes Nuri to the point where he wishes his father would disappear.

Nuri will, however, soon regret what he wished for. His father, long a dissident in exile from his homeland, is taken under mysterious circumstances. And, as the world that Nuri and his stepmother share is shattered by events beyond their control, they begin to realize how little they knew about the man they both loved.

Anatomy of a Disappearance
is written with all the emotional precision and intimacy that have won Hisham Matar tremendous international recognition. In a voice that is delicately wrought and beautifully tender, he asks: When a loved one disappears, how does their absence shape the lives of those who are left?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385340441
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/23/2011
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Hisham Matar was born in New York City to Libyan parents and spent his childhood first in Tripoli and then in Cairo. His first novel, In the Country of Men, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Guardian First Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. It won six international literary awards, including the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best First Book award for Europe and South Asia, the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, and the inaugural Arab American Book Award. It has been translated into twenty-eight languages. Matar lives in London and serves as an associate professor at Barnard College in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

There are times when my father’s absence is as heavy as a child sitting on my chest. Other times I can barely recall the exact features of his face and must bring out the photographs I keep in an old envelope in the drawer of my bedside table. There has not been a day since his sudden and mysterious vanishing that I have not been searching for him, looking in the most unlikely places. Everything and everyone, existence itself, has become an evocation, a possibility for resemblance. Perhaps this is what is meant by that brief and now almost archaic word: elegy.

I do not see him in the mirror but feel him adjusting, as if he were twisting within a shirt that nearly fits. My father has always been intimately mysterious even when he was present. I can almost imagine how it might have been coming to him as an equal, as a friend, but not quite.

×××

My father disappeared in 1972, at the beginning of my school Christmas holiday, when I was fourteen. Mona and I were staying at the Montreux Palace, taking breakfast— I with my large glass of bright orange juice, and she with her steaming black tea—on the terrace overlooking the steel-blue surface of Lake Geneva, at the other end of which, beyond the hills and the bending waters, lay the now vacant city of Geneva. I was watching the silent paragliders hover above the still lake, and she was paging through La Tribune de Genève, when suddenly her hand rose to her mouth and trembled.

A few minutes later we were aboard a train, hardly speaking, passing the newspaper back and forth.

We collected from the police station the few belongings that were left on the bedside table. When I unsealed the small plastic bag, along with the tobacco and the lighter flint, I smelled him. That same watch is now wrapped round my wrist, and even today, after all these years, when I press the underside of the leather strap against my nostrils I can detect a whiff of him.

×××

I wonder now how different my story would have been were Mona’s hands unbeautiful, her fingertips coarse.

I still, all of these years later, hear the same childish persistence, “I saw her first,” which bounced like a devil on my tongue whenever I caught one of Father’s claiming gestures: his fingers sinking into her hair, his hand landing on her skirted thigh with the absentmindedness of a man touching his earlobe in mid-sentence. He had taken to the Western habit of holding hands, kissing, embracing in public. But he could not fool me; like a bad actor, he seemed unsure of his steps. Whenever he would catch me watching him, he would look away and I swear I could see color in his cheeks. A dark tenderness rises in me now as I think how hard he had tried; how I yearn still for an easy sympathy with my father. Our relationship lacked what I have always believed possible, given time and perhaps after I had become a man, after he had seen me become a father: a kind of emotional eloquence and ease. But now the distances that had then governed our interactions and cut a quiet gap between us continue to shape him in my thoughts.

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Anatomy of a Disappearance 2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Heavensent1 More than 1 year ago
Anatomy Of A Disappearance is the sequel to author, Hisham Matar's book 'In The Country Of Men'. The story sets off with a twelve year old boy named Nuri, whose mother just died, leaving Nuri in the care of his maid and his distant father, who was once an high official in the Libyan government and is against the Gadhafi forces. While on vacation, Nuri notices a beautiful woman in a yellow swim suit sitting at the side of the pool cleaning her foot, walking over to her, Nuri begins to clean her foot and sets in motion a future he has no control over. Using Nuri's adolescent enamour of her, Mona manipulates Nuri's father into marrying her. As soon as they are married, Mona sets Nuri up to come upon her while she is showering and convinces Nuri's dad to ship him off to boarding school. Against his father's wishes, he sends Nuri away. At school, Nuri learns about himself and his family and the history that surrounds them all. Then Kamal Pasha, Nuri's dad, disappears and Nuri is left with a step-mother he doesn't like while the events of his father's past unfolds and we learn how his actions have helped to shape Nuri's future. I found the "memoir" to be an easy read, it could be easily read in one afternoon. I didn't get the feeling that it was a memoir, more like a work of fiction about an pubescent young man and the women who help steer his life. I wasn't impressed with his stalking Mona on numerous occasions, his vying for her attention with his father was equally disturbing to read. I thought Nuri to be a rather unlikeable boy who didn't seem to have much of a backbone and perverted thoughts about the women in his life. There was no depth in Nuri's character and I couldn't find any relation to him at all. I didn't have the opportunity to read Hisham Matar's prequel to this novel, and it may have helped with some of the back story, 'Anatomy of a Disappearance' left me with more questions than answers as I found the plot to be spasmodic and irregular, the characters apathetic and obstinate and the dialogue devoid of emotion.