Book Club

BPP Book Club: The Story Behind the Story

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Hisham Matar's In the Country of Men hide caption

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Our inaugural BPP Book Club selection, In the Country of Men, tells the story of a young boy coming of age in Moammar Gadhafi's Libya in the late 1970s. It is a tale haunted by political violence; the boy's father, a member of the resistance, is continually under threat.

For the book's author, Hisham Matar, that milieu has a deeply personal meaning. While the book is not strictly autobiographical, Matar's own father was active against the Gadhafi government. In 1990, he was abducted from his home in exile in Cairo and taken to a Libyan prison. His family has not seen him since, and his fate remains unknown.

Matar tells the story of his father's disappearance in a moving essay from the Independent of London, published in 2006:

To this day, every knock on the door could be my father. But the only way in which he visits unannounced is in dreams. I dream of him frequently. He sometimes comes as a young man; other times, wounded by his prison torturers. Most recently, his visit was so vivid, I am yet to recover from it. He was an old man, the age he should be now, and had the reticence of someone accustomed to solitude. He had acquired new habits, new manners of speech: attaching the phrase "you see?" at the end of every other sentence. His character has been coloured by his companions, I thought jealously in my dream. He spoke briefly, courteously, the way a fellow train passenger might do to pass away the time. When I placed my hand on his shoulder, he fell silent.

Not quite a month from now — Friday, March 28th — we'll have our book club meeting online. We'll generate some questions for the author. Then we'll talk to the author on our radio show and give you a chance to have your questions answered.

Hey, we're official! The BPP Book Club now has its own e-mail address.

Comments

 

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I've just started reading the novel and it is wonderful. I have been struggling with a novel-reading malaise of late, everything has been boring me. Thanks for shaking me out of my novel reading slumber.

Sent by Beth | 3:03 PM | 3-4-2008

@beth: so glad you're enjoying the book!

Sent by Sarah Goodyear | 5:01 PM | 3-4-2008

I'm about halfway through the audiobook version. I want to talk about my feelings about the book, but I'm afraid to give anything away! So frustrating! I don't want to wait a month to talk about this!

Sent by Tricia, NPR | 7:15 PM | 3-4-2008

To join the bookclub, do I have to do anything or...just read the book? Also, how do I take part in the discussion in the end of March? Thanks! Love the show on my ride to work...

Sent by Becky | 8:01 PM | 3-4-2008

Becky,

You can join just by reading the book. We'll be posting blog entries once or twice a week before March 28th that will add food for thought. The online discussion will probably take place here on the blog. You can always click on the Book Club category, http://www.npr.org/blogs/bryantpark/book_club/, for the latest news. Help us make it up as we go along!

Sent by Sarah Goodyear | 8:21 PM | 3-4-2008

I just got the book from the library. BPP communal experience, here I come!

Sent by Will G | 5:04 PM | 3-5-2008

I take back my comment that the mom is wacko. I am now on page 42 and her actions seem logical. In fact, I sympathize with her. (I am trying my darndest not to mention any plot details.)

Sent by Rebecca | 6:43 PM | 3-6-2008

The BPP Book Club is a great idea and I am excited to be a part of it. I went right out and bought the book as soon as I heard about it - and WOW!. What a disturbing yet powerful book. It is hard to figure out who to be angry with and who to feel sorry for. I finished it in two days, and anxiously await the 28th!

Sent by Christine | 10:16 PM | 3-16-2008