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Anatomy of a Disappearance

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  3,026 ratings  ·  466 reviews
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 they meet Mona, sitting in her yellow swimsuit by the pool of the Magda Marina hotel. As soon as Nuri sees her, the rest of the world vanishes. But it is Nuri’s father with whom Mona falls in lo ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published August 23rd 2011 by The Dial Press
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Average rating 3.47  · 
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Diane S ☔
Sep 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Nuri is eight when his mother dies. A few years later at a resort where he is staying with his father, he meets Mona, a woman eleven years his elder, who he develops a fascination with that last years. His father, an ex finance minister, whose life is in danger after Gaddafi takes control of his country, had already moved his family to Cairo. He will marry Mona to give the young Nuri a mother. He will eventually be disappeared, whereabouts unknown and Nuri will spend his life wondering what has ...more
Aug 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
I was fascinated with this spare yet elegantly written coming of age novel because so much of the story parallels the author, Hisham Matar’s own life. In this semi-autobiographical story, Nuri, a young boy of 14 years, loses his father (a diplomat and dissident living in political exile in Egypt) when he is suddenly abducted and “disappeared” by some unnamed foreign government. The novel recounts the next 10 years of Nuri’s life as he uncovers pieces of his father’s mysterious past and attempts ...more
kwesi 章英狮
Aug 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: e-book, 2011, hisham-matar
My father is a quite type, you will always see him sitting in a sofa watching television or sitting in the near bench. He never cared of his surroundings or maybe I'm too heartless to share his feelings. I live with that kind of situation and never regret that I have a father like him. I lived closely with my mom and siblings and if you ask me, I used to having my mom at my side than sitting with my quite father.

Anatomy of Disappearance is written by Hisham Matar, a Libyan author and shortlisted
This book has a great title, and the premise—the abduction of the narrator's father for political reasons—has great potential. There are some good sentences in here too, but somehow the writing didn't ever convince me to believe in the characters or their dilemmas. ...more
Mar 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Is it possible to be enthralled by the writing and yet left wanting by the story of a book? Of course it is - and that's what happened for me with Anatomy of a Disappearance. The story centers around Nuri, who is twelve years old when his mother dies. Within a year, his father has remarried a younger woman, Mona. Nuri has complicated feelings about that, at least partially related to his jealousy of his father because of his own crush on Mona. Everything changes, though, when Nuri's father is ab ...more
Emily Coffee and Commentary
A short, tense novel about how a loved one’s disappearance alters the course of life. The prose is simple, sentimental, and does well to show how codependency and creating images of people, instead of looking into their true selves, can permanently distort a relationship; oftentimes we romanticize the people we look up to, or are attached to, and in many ways this hurts them as much as ourselves. We loose sight of boundaries and the authenticity of how we see them. A heartfelt read worth explori ...more
Apr 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
I’m really charmed. On every page I was torn between turning the page quickly to know what happens next, and slowing down so that I can enjoy it for longer. The language is so intense, so condensed (distilled is a better description), yet so elegant.
Chad Sayban
Jun 08, 2011 rated it it was ok
When a young arab boy, Nuri, loses his mother to illness, he and his dissident father must emotionally support each other in their apartment in Cairo. However, bikini-clad Mona arrives in their lives, and Nuri must watch as his advances go unnoticed and she falls in love with his father. But when Nuri’s father disappears under mysterious circumstances, Nuri must come to grips with his relationships with his father and Mona while trying to find his own place in the world.

Hisham Matar does a good
The Contented
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“In the Country of Men” was one of the first books that I read by Hisham Matar, and I gave it five stars. In many respects, I think it may be the best that he has written.

I then read “The Return” and that got five stars as well.

Reading “Anatomy of a disappearance” I was already aware of the story of “The Return” and that made me read this as a semi-autobiography..rightly or wrongly.

I do like what some reviewers have described as his “spare prose”...plotwise, there were aspects of the book that m
Gina Roitman
Sep 18, 2011 rated it really liked it

“There are times when my father’s absence is as heavy as a child sitting on my chest.”
With this tender opening sentence, Hisham Matar begins to weave a subtle pattern of absence and loss that defines the emotional territory of Anatomy of a Disappearance, his second novel.
The narrator of this beautifully paced story is Nuri el-Alfi, who at 14 loses his father when he disappears from an apartment in Geneva, likely the victim of a political kidnapping. The loss is unbearable yet even before his fa
The demarcation line between "classic literary themes" and "plain old clichés" is sometimes so tenuous as to be practically non-existent. This is what I found myself thinking upon finishing "Anatomy of a Disappearance".

The protagonist of Hisham Matar's second novel (after the Booker-nominated In the Country of Men) is Nuri, the son of an ex-minister of an unnamed Middle Eastern country who has lived in exile in Paris and then Egypt ever since that country's "beloved king" was deposed in the lat
May 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story is a novel, but reads like a memoir. Judging from the short biography about the author on Goodreads, one must assume Matar is “writing what he knows,” since the thread of the novel closely follows the arc of his life. In real life his father, a former Libyan government minister, is persecuted by the Gaddafi regime, and is subsequently kidnapped. In the novel, we know the family is in exile in Cairo, but we never learn the country from which they fled.

Matar is extravagantly talented:
Dec 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Anatomy of a Disappearance: A Novel by Hisham Matar is a fragile dream of a novel, a sliver of memories from the childhood of the narrator. At first, it focuses on the death of his mother and the woman he and his father meet at a hotel, Mona. Both the 14 year old boy and his father fall in love with the woman but the father marries her and soon the boy is sent away from Egypt, his home, to a boarding school in England.

But when his father is kidnapped from Switzerland and is not heard of again, w
May 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
Nuri is 12 when his mother dies, 14 when his father is kidnapped by political opponents and probably murdered; he spends the next few years shuffling between his English boarding school and the apartment of his beautiful young step-mother, Mona, on whom he is uncomfortably fixated. I liked the prose of Anatomy of a Disappearance—there were one or two of the more lyrical lines which didn't quite work for me, but otherwise Matar's style manages to be spare while also being descriptive and suggesti ...more
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of historical fiction
This book offers a semi-autobiographical glimpse into the life of an aristocratic family who must flee their country and a son, named Nuri, who must cope with the death of his mother and the disappearance of his father.

Even though Nuri's life is a comfortable one, buoyed by the wealth of his father, the circumstances surrounding his father's political activities, infidelities, and fear of persecution is a mystery to the young man.

It is not until he has grown up that he is finally able to discov
May 16, 2011 marked it as to-read
Shelves: giveaways
This book has an interesting cover! I am excited to have won it through First Reads and am looking forward to reading it.
Cherise Wolas
Narrated by a boy living in the shadow of his wealthy and powerful dissident father, this is ostensibly a story about longing, exile, and loss, but the focus is not on the political; though the father, once a minister in his unnamed Arab country, is fighting the current dictatorship from wealthy exile in a beautiful apartment with servants in Cairo, none of his political activities are disclosed. Instead, the focus is the strange triangle that emerges among Nuri, his father, and his father's sex ...more
This book opens with the first sentence which explains a complex father-son relationship
"There are times when my father’s absence is as heavy as a child sitting on my chest”

Hisham Matar chooses to write from the view point of a young boy while discussing grown up themes. It deals with the story of Nuri el-Alfi, a fourteen year old boy whose mother is dead and whose father, an important political figure living in exile from an unnamed country and the journey of its political subversion, dictator
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Samah Abugharsa
Feb 19, 2017 rated it liked it
I really like Mata'r first novel, the Country of Men. for this reason, I decided to read his second novel. I can say that I enjoyed the story and the language. It was delicately written and with true passion. However, the plot is quite boring. I believe that there was some room for the author to add unexpected events, some surprising ending. Overall, I enjoyed reading it. ...more
Ron Charles
Jan 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
"Anatomy of a Disappearance” is about a boy of privilege set adrift by political intrigue. Libyan writer Hisham Matar won international acclaim with his poetic first novel, “In the Country of Men,” and once again he draws on his family’s terror under the reign of Moammar Gaddafi to tell the harrowing tale of a son deprived of his parents. The tone here is melancholy and steeped in regret as the narrator recalls himself as a lonely 12-year-old, grieving for the death of his mother, pining for his ...more
So many of this short novel's themes are shared by the novels of John Banville: the distortions of youthful memory, the morphing circle of family, the construction of an identity that is fused of half-definitions, half-memories, hopes that are longings, and longings without hope -- the sum revealing the emptiness around which its emotional mass is built. Matar's writing is unglamourous and bare, but his simple recounting paints with unflinching -- even unnoted -- emotional truth, leaving the rea ...more
Dec 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Alena by: Karen Skinner
How does an author write about something/someone who no longer exists? In Matar's case, with incredible beauty and delicacy. He words seem not so much written, as poured gently.
"I felt dizzy, as if comprehending the scale of things for the first time and with it the vast yet intricate reality of the physical world and my precarious presence in it....I wanted this world to be still. I wanted to fix it and be fixed in it."
Matar provides a touching story of a boy whose father disappears. We assume
Karen Skinner
Dec 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorites of 2011! As the survivor of a "disapearance" perhaps this tale resonated with me in a particular way, but beyond that, this all at once precise, yet gentle writing style teases the reader into carrying the book everywhere, anxious for the chance to read another page, another chapter. Matar's actual story is compelling, but his style even more so. Maybe this is a bit of a political espionage mystery, maybe it is an exploration of an eastern culture, but certainly it is a comin ...more
May 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing, nothing less. Complicated and full, fiction that feels true, nothing contrived or forced. Beautifully written, grabbed me right at the start and never let go. Altogether a very satisfying, memorable read. I recommend it highly.
I've decided not to hold back on my stars. When a book is wonderful, it is just plain wonderful and deserves all 5 stars.
Esther Kofod
May 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Mr. Matar's style of writing in this book and his other previous works rate 5-stars, but this story was weak. ...more
David Hudson
May 03, 2017 rated it liked it
This novel seems to condone the patriarchal view of the world that it is set in, what with the unfaithful and reticent father, the women used and lodged in convenient compartments, the father glorified despite his sins because of one act of bravery, the main protagonist not knowing how to be a man on his own terms. Perhaps this is, after all, the point.

Still, the prose is jittery and with a few, intermittent poetic moods. The opening page is the highlight of the entire novel, as following that,
A young Libyan boy, Nuri, lives with his family in exile in Cairo where he is doted on by his maid, loses his mother to an unspoken illness, feels he doesn’t understand his father, falls in love with his half-Egyptian half-English stepmother, and is shipped away from Cairo to boarding school in England.

Then his father is abducted from the bed of blonde Swiss woman in Geneva just before their winter holiday, and Nuri tries to make sense of the first 14 years of his life. His father’s nervous Swi
Feb 05, 2022 added it
"Suddenly he is beside me. I do not know how, but we are the same age. There is something tragic about this fact. He is silent. He is wary of me. Perhaps, I hope from within the dream, one day I might put him at ease. In these dreams I am always the talkative one, like a nervous fellow train passenger. He hardly looks at me. Each time I see him I notice something else about him has changed: the rhythm of his breath, the way an unpressed collar curls round his neck. In one dream he places a hand ...more
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
A wonderful haunting story set in Cairo. Exiles from Libya fleeing the military coup, teenaged Nuri is living with his father after the death of his mother. Holidaying by the sea, Nuri meets Mona, a twenty something from London of mixed Arab English parentage. She becomes Nuri’s stepmother. The story unfolds around the father’s disappearance at the hands of Libya’s military dictatorship. A beautiful, elegant, page turning story of Nuri’s loss and loneliness, his attempt to get close to his fathe ...more
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Great African Reads: Matar: Anatomy of a Disappearance | (CL) first read: May 2012 6 92 Jan 13, 2018 05:35PM  
Naima 1 15 Apr 29, 2012 10:17AM  

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Hisham Matar was born in New York City, where his father was working for the Libyan delegation to the United Nations. When he was three years old, his family went back to Tripoli, Libya, where he spent his early childhood. Due to political persecutions by the Ghaddafi regime, in 1979 his father was accused of being a reactionary to the Libyan revolutionary regime and was forced to flee the country ...more

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