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January 29, 2022, 06:24:28 am

Author Topic: Text Response - Feedback needed & welcomed - "Absence is everywhere."  (Read 1030 times)  Share 

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Within Hisham Matar’s novel In the Country of Men, absence is present within every character, alas there are many convoluted emotions of emptiness which the protagonists and antagonists harbour. The totalitarian regime under Colonel Gaddafi is the vivacious plague which accounts for Najwa’s reliance on alcohol and absence from an informed conscience and Suleiman’s suppressive loneliness. Absence is illuminated to provide a disconnection in an innate dictatorship, where the characters are ultimately servants to a relentless regime. The death of Ustath Rashid which occurs from the absence of sympathy through ‘the Guide’s’ Revolutionary Committee, is a further extension of absence where Revolutionary Committee members such as Sharief, favour power over solidarity. Absence thrives upon the hollowness and futility of political activism and the deceptive actions committed by Libyan citizens.

Through the use of innocent yet absent protagonists in Suleiman and Najwa, it is evident that being only nine years of age, Suleiman lacks the maturity necessary to protect Najwa. Suleiman in the early stages of the novel remains absent from the ‘real world’ around him; a militaristic environment capable of punishing political activists and thus harming the health of Suleiman’s family. Najwa throughout the novel represents the enormous plight on women to be independent, a form of absence which is craved for rather than forced upon. The local imam Sheikh Mustafa summarises that “the suffering endured by women surpasses all kinds”, foreshadowing the isolation of women which seems to be widespread. Her relationship with Suleiman presents Najwa’s more humane personality, as opposed to her reliance on ‘medicine’ otherwise referred to as alcohol, provided by the local baker Majdi. Illustrating both the love and absence of the two protagonists, Najwa affirms towards Suleiman that “[we are] two halves of the same soul, two open pages of the same book”, highlighting the enormous pressure on Suleiman to care for Najwa whilst his father is presumably away on ‘business’. According to Suleiman “[Najwa] always looked beautiful when he was home”, serving to prove that the absence of Faraj has a detrimental effect on Suleiman’s family. Whilst Suleiman and Najwa are absent from the ongoing political struggle which engulfs Libya, political activism is used as a median to rebel against passivity.

Under the sovereign of a dictatorship, novelist Faraj, type-writer Nasser, Egyptian activist Moosa and university lecturer Ustath Rashid, are the four horseman which encapsulate the rebellion against the absence of country and independence. Moreover, since Faraj prioritises work over his family, he and his colleagues are absent from their families. Suleiman has mixed feelings about Baba and questions him “can you become a man without becoming your father?” whilst Faraj is ultimately protecting his family from the wrath of Colonel Gaddafi, the absence of maturity on Suleiman’s part remains inconsolable. Furthermore, Ustath Rashid’s public execution on national television in a basketball stadium and Faraj’s betrayal to spare his own life for the sake of his best friend, indicates that loyalty to friendship ceases to exist in moments of chaos. Moosa a father figure to Suleiman, claims that “this [was] the blackest day of my life” portraying bleak imagery of a dictatorship which is absent from love and relentless in its pursuit to silence activists or literary works which go against the totalitarian regime.

The Queen Scherezade who survived and out-witted the tyrannical King Sharyar when held captive according to the novel The Arabian Nights formed the identity of a recluse, and thus was absent from freedom. Under the threat of death, Faraj succumbed to betrayal but as Scherezade outlines “it’s one thing not to fear death, another to sing under its sword” highlighting that Faraj’s betrayal and failure to consider the safety of his friend Ustath Rashid remained absent during his confession to the Revolutionary Committee. Suleiman sees the Queen Scherezade as a heroic hierarchical figure who manages to sing or in other words, stay present even under the threat of death. This is a direct contradiction to the absence of friendship portrayed by Faraj, for which Suleiman harbours mixed feelings. More specifically, when he appears emotionless when his books against the oppressive regime are destroyed in a fire for the family’s safety. Suleiman saves one important book entitled On Democracy, which contributes to Faraj’s inevitable downfall in the dictatorship. Whilst rebellion is not absent, loyalty can be broken amidst periods of despair and also a separation from Libya as a country.

Solidarity is not the only sign of fortitude which vanishes beneath the burning cauldron of Colonel Gaddafi’s suppressive regime but also a separation from nationalism. This is particularly true for Suleiman, who is forced to leave Tripoli for the refuge of Cairo in Egypt to remain absent from the totalitarian regime running rampant in a hostile Libya. Alas, serving to prove that “nationalism is as thin as a thread”, in a world of chaos, Matar highlights that sometimes the safest place suffices over loyalty to family in conjunction with the oppressive regime. The deceptively labelled Revolutionary Committee led by Sharief, is meant to protect nationalism, however in practice this is never true. Nationalism is absent when Suleiman encounters the deceptive nature of Sharief who claims to be a friend of Faraj in an effort to capture his political associates. Sharief hands Suleiman an English fiery mint that Baba bought on his travels, symbolic of the separation that Faraj has with Libya’s dictatorship. The false sense of nationalism was seeded in the Coup d’e’ tat of 1969 in September. The Revolutionary Committee’s mandate of nationalism was strengthened in the September Revolution – “long live the Guide, long live the September Revolution” the Revolutionary Committee are in pursuit of political power which makes it absent from the needs of Libyan citizens such as Faraj and Suleiman, to be peaceful and let others dictate their own lives.

Absence is inevitable alongside a Libyan ‘democratic’ government which preaches deception over truth. This ultimately alludes to the acts of drinking which Najwa consumes to remain absent from both the rebellion and totalitarian dictatorship, experienced through Suleiman’s innocent eyes and Sharief’s deceptive Revolutionary Committee. The suppressive dictorial reign promotes a lack of independence and ability to maintain solidarity en-masse. Absence holds true for every character, some more so than others, because of the hostile environment present within Libya.
« Last Edit: April 10, 2014, 10:41:25 pm by Jono_CP »