Like its predecessor, Anatomy of a Disappearance is studded with little jewels of perception, deft metaphors and details that illuminate character or set a scene.
The New York Times Book Review
Praise for Anatomy of a Disappearance
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY:
Chicago Tribune • The Daily Beast • The Independent • The Guardian • The Telegraph • The Toronto Sun • Irish Times
“For Western readers, what often seemed lacking [in the coverage of the Arab Spring] was an authentic interpreter and witness, someone who could speak across cultures and make us feel the abundant miseries that fueled the revolt. No one plays this role, in my view, as powerfully, as Hisham Matar…Matar writes in English, in extraordinarily powerful and densely evocative prose: he seems uniquely poised to play the role of literary ambassador between two worlds…”The New York Times
“Mesmerizing. . . . The recent events that have lent topicality to this elegiac novel might easily have swamped a lesser work. Its strength rests in Matar's decision to focus on emotional rather than material details, proving that in art, at least, the personal can trump the political.”—Houston Chronicle
“A haunting novel, exquisitely written and psychologically rich.”—Washington Post
“[A] potent new novel . . . which moves among eerily silent interiors in London, Cairo, and Geneva to evoke the emotional vacuum that follows [a] father’s abduction.”Vogue
“Outstanding . . . with its stylistic echoes of Nabokov.”—The Irish Times
“Elegiac . . . [Hisham Matar] writes of a son’s longing for his lost father with heartbreaking acuity.”—Newsday
“A son without closure writes sparingly and brilliantly about what it is to suffer loss without end.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Eloquent . . . one of the most moving works based on a boy’s view of the world.”
“A searing vision of familial rupture and disintegration. . . . At once tough and tender, shaped by the sorrows of memory, Nuri's story is searching, acquiring power in its graceful acceptance of the impossibility of certainty. . . . An elegant and smart evocation of the complexities of filial love.”—«Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Two things stood out as I read Anatomy of a Disappearance. First, there was the quiet power of the language, and the author’s control of it. Second, there was Hisham Matar’s ability to tell a story that from the first sentence seems inevitable, yet is full of surprises. I was moved and very impressed.”—Roddy Doyle
“Sculpted in a prose of clutter-free, classical precision . . . a pure demonstration of the strange alchemy of fiction.”—The Independent (U.K.)
“A tenderly written novel with Shakespearean themes, it can be read as a deeply personal account of the losses that tyranny and exile produce.”—The Times Literary Supplement
“Haunting in every sense . . . An absorbing novel that finds its eloquence in what is left unsaid.”—The Sunday Times (London)
“Submerged grief gives this fine novel the mythic inexorability of Greek tragedy.”—The Economist
“A fable of loss, and an often troubling meditation on fathers and sons . . . Hisham Matar is writing from the heart.”—The Guardian (London)
Whereas Matar's debut, In the Country of Men (shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize), focuses on political brutality, this much subtler novel only hints at violence. Again, though, it is told from a child's perspective, that of 11-year-old Nuri, who lives in exile in Cairo with his Arab father. A love triangle of sorts develops when the father marries a younger woman desired by the son. When the father goes missing, the son seeks answers and learns some surprising truths about his father's life. Nuri's relationship with his young stepmother, Mona, is the novel's most compelling element; there's plenty of tension as their connection changes over the years. The revelations in the final pages are compelling, too, with the book's evocative tone of loneliness and displacement. Some mysteries, however, such as the cause of Nuri's mother's death, are left unresolved, and the scenes set at Nuri's boarding school could be further developed. Still, this is an engrossing tale, made more so by the knowledge that the author's father, an anti-Gadhafi activist, also disappeared. VERDICT Recommended for fans of Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner. [See Prepub Alert, 2/14/11.]—Evelyn Beck, Piedmont Technical Coll., Greenwood, SC
A boy grows into a man in the suffocating vacuum of his father's abrupt and unresolved vanishing.
Though his books might seem to echo current events, it is the weight of personal history that drives the novels of Libyan author Matar (In the Country of Men, 2007). In his Booker-shortlisted debut novel, he deftly fictionalized his own experience—the author's dissident father Jaballa Matar was ruthlessly kidnapped by Egyptian secret-service agents in 1990 and imprisoned in a Libyan prison at the order of Muammar Gaddafi. In his latest, Matar portrays an even more acute sense of loss by contrasting two parental losses with the complicated relationship between a boy and his young stepmother. The narrator, Nuri Pasha, gracefully relates his story from the age of 11 to the present day. His mother, a wisp of a woman, dies early, driving Nuri and his father, an exiled political activist, together. "After she passed away he and I came to resemble two flat-sharing bachelors kept together by circumstance or obligation," Nuri muses. Their world is thrown into upheaval when Nuri's father meets 24-year-old Mona, a stunning Arab woman of English descent. Closer in age to Nuri than less-than-fatherly Kamal, Mona becomes an obsession for both father and son, adding to Kamal's confusing, furtive behavior. One winter as Nuri and Mona spend time together in Montreux, they receive word that Kamal has been abducted from the bedside of a woman in Geneva. A lesser writer might suppose that Nuri and Mona would find comfort in their communal untethering, but Matar cautiously and evocatively explores the unique and terrifying world in which Nuri finds himself. "I felt guilty, too, as I continue to feel today, at having lost him, at not knowing how to find him or take his place. Every day I let my father down."
A son without closure writes sparingly and brilliantly about what it is to suffer loss without end.