Christie's Reviews > Anatomy of a Disappearance

Anatomy of a Disappearance by Hisham Matar
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May 14, 12

Read from May 07 to 14, 2012

Haunting, beautiful. I finished this novel -- a novel with a narrator who cannot confide in his closest friends, connected to people who only reveal the truth decades later -- with a sense that no one can understand another person's life, and that no one, really, can enter into or become part of another person's culture. At least not strictly by willing it.

The first half of the novel does not prepare the reader for the second half. The teenage lusts of the first half should seem petty in the face of the father's disappearance in the second, and yet they don't. They add something -- not only to what is really a bildungsroman, but to the idea of storytelling and of constructing a story.

Matar's personal history (as a Libyan exile whose own father disappeared) seems both immediately relevant and somehow not at all. But I cannot stop thinking about what it means to write from a child's perspective -- to tell a story about growing up and returning/not returning -- from that diasporic and exilic perspective. What does the one tell us about the other?
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