Anatomy Of A Disappearance

Paperback | April 3, 2012

byHisham Matar

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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 Mona.

When Nuri first sees Mona sitting in her bright yellow swimsuit by the pool of the Magda Marina holiday resort, the rest of the world vanishes. But it is Nuri’s father with whom Mona falls in love and whom she will eventually marry. And their happiness consumes Nuri to the point where he longs to get his father out of the way.

However, Nuri will soon regret what he wishes for. And, as the world that he and his stepmother share is shattered by the events beyond their control, they both begin to realize how little they really knew about the man they loved.

In a voice that is delicately wrought and beautifully tender, Hisham Matar asks, in his extraordinary new novel: when a loved one disappears, how does their absence shape the lives of those who are left?

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From the Publisher

  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 Mona. When Nuri first sees Mona sitting in her bright yellow swimsuit by the pool of the Magda Marina holiday resort, the rest of the world vanishes. But...

Hisham Matar was born in New York to Libyan parents, and spent his childhood in Tripoli and then in Cairo. His first novel, In the Country of Men, was published in 2006 and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Guardian First Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award in the U.S. It won six international literary awa...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 8.3 × 5.3 × 0.7 inPublished:April 3, 2012Publisher:Penguin CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143056832

ISBN - 13:9780143056836

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Extra Content

Read from the Book

Chapter 1There 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.

Editorial Reviews

“[A] beautiful second novel…. However steamy or tumultuous the events Matar describes, his prose is unwaveringly cool and elegant.” - The Globe and Mail“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 … 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“Matar’s romantic style is well suited to this story, inspired in part by his own loss. But one suspects that if the tragedies of his life were less obviously dramatic, he would still find a way to make the telling of them beautiful.” - Gazette (Montreal)“Haunting in every sense, Anatomy of a Disappearance is an absorbing novel that finds its eloquence in what is left unsaid and its most vivid imagery in what has been lost, possibly for ever.” - Sunday Times (U.K.)“This beautiful, subtle novel, like the lives of its characters, repays many readings.” - Helen Dunmore, The Times (U.K.)“Sensually written, there is an extravagant feel even to the simplest sentence…. From start to finish that exquisitely profound quality of uncertainty is the most wrenching aspect of all.” - Telegraph (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.” - Times Literary Supplement (U.K.)“Probably represents the most important artistic response yet to the trauma of Arab dictatorship … Matar is beginning to do for the Arab experience what the likes of Salman Rushdie have done for the sub-continent.” - The Times (U.K.)“Submerged grief gives this fine novel the mythic inexorability of Greek tragedy.” - The Economist“A poignant exploration of the half-state between grief and hope.” - New Statesman“The ability of fiction to convey injustice with a unique emotional power means that novels can change history … Mr. Matar is the writer who has done most to convey the reality of Col. Gaddafi’s Libya.” - Gideon Rachman, Financial Times“The novel is all the more powerful for the restraint with which the author writes of a son’s loss and longing for his father. Fascinating, too, in its perspective on the changing face of the Arab world.” - Daily Mail (U.K.)“Beautifully crafted … as much about how a person vanishes as it is how the memory of a vanished person is preserved and transformed.” - Financial Times“Sculpted in a prose of clutter-free, classical precision…. Marked by a brooding and rather sinister sensuality … Matar suffuses Nuri’s education in love and loss with an erotic frisson and fragile grace that lend the book an inner radiance.” - Independent (U.K.)“A tightly coiled, masterfully controlled narrative…. Matar has a beautifully economical style, and a wonderful way with physical detail…. Matar deals with [Nuri’s] obsession with a great, tender psychological acuity. Anatomy of a Disappearance is a testament to the terrible human cost of unjust government in the Arab world. It is, by design, an artful novel.” - The Independent on Sunday (U.K.)“Anatomy of a Disappearance … has a dreamlike quality, in spite of Matar’s cool and lapidary prose. It is a fable of loss, and an often troubling meditation on fathers and sons. Hisham Matar is writing from the heart.” - Observer (U.K.)“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 surprise.” - Roddy Doyle“A curiously engaging story that takes one into a world that seems as simultaneously remote and familiar as something in a dream.” - Michael Frayn