Tag-Archive for ◊ hair ◊

Author:
• Saturday, October 27th, 2007

Hisham Matar was born in New York in 1970 to Libyan parents. His father worked for the Libyan mission to the United Nations. But in 1979 being against the regime, he left Libya and went into exile in Egypt with his family. After living in Cairo for eleven years, his father was kidnapped and sent back to Libya where he was sent to prison and since 1995 Hisham Matar has no news of his father’s whereabouts. His mother and elder brother still live in Egypt.

Hisham Matar spent his young years in Tripoli and Cairo. He lived in Cairo for four years, and at fifteen went to boarding school in England. Then he studied architecture at Goldsmith college London University and still lives in London, married to American photographer, Diana Matar. He is working on a new novel set in Cairo and London.

In his twenties Hisham Matar worked as an architect and also wrote articles for the London based Arabic daily newspaper, Al Shark Al Awsat. His essays have been published in The Independent, The New York Times, The Guardian and The Times. In 2002 he was a finalist in East Anglia’s Best New Talent Awards for his poems, before preferring prose to poetry.

Hisham Matar’s first novel In the Country of Menwas first published in 2006 and was nominated for The Guardian First Book Award. It was on the short list of The Booker Prize of 2006 and won The Commonwealth Writers Prize in 2007. “In The Country of Men” was a big success and has been translated into 22 languages. Despite its short length it took five years to write.

The novel is narrated by a bewildered nine year-old Suleiman who is trying to decode the adult world that takes place inside his own family and in Tripoli, ten years after the 1969 Libyan revolution. The book starts in 1979, the year before he left Tripoli to go and live in Cairo.

Little Suleiman is confused as would be a nine year old who lives with a depressed, domineering, alcoholic and emotionally unpredictable mother (Mama), a nearly non-existent figure-head of a businessman father (Baba), and suspicious men (the secret police) moving around Tripoli and his neighbourhood.

Apart from Suleiman’s mother, the main character in the story who plays an important part in Suleimen’s life, the story is mainly about men, as the title of the novel suggests. The novel is not only about politics, it’s also about strong emotions, compassions and relationships between people sharing almost the same fate.

The story is poignant. Suleiman who at his age should be living a carefree life, is burdened by the cruel events surrounding him. Like nine year old Michele in “I’m Not Scared” by Niccolo Ammaniti and twelve year old Amir in “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, he is ejected too soon into adulthood due to circumstances and without any mercy.

Throughout the novel there is a sense of danger, fear, betrayal, and a very heavy atmosphere of oppression, that the nine-year old child caught in this claustrophobic world would rather not even attempt to decipher but instead escape to a freer place.

Nevertheless, the story is evoked with great subtlety and compassion. “In The Country of Men” is an interesting novel because it’s about Libya, a country which has encountered many world-wide controversies in recent years and yet remains completely unknown to the outsider.

Very rarely would one come across a book about Libya, its every day life and its regime. In one of his interviews Hisham Matar says : “I would have liked to write a book that had nothing to do with politics… I’m not really interested in politics, but politics was part of the canvas. I had to say something about it, otherwise all the different forces that are shaping these characters would be abstract.”

The characters in the novel are not fully developed but rather sketched apart from the character of Suleimen’s mother who stands out vividly among the other hazy characters, emphasising the endearing love binding the little boy to his mother, love that will remain just as strong even when the little boy becomes a young man in exile in Egypt.

“I look down at my legs, my grown-up legs in their grown-up trousers…. You’re a man, I tell myself. And she (his mother) is coming to see you, to see what has become of her darling boy, her only son. How will she be? …What will she think of me… Then I see her. She is standing next to her suitcase like a girl in the city for the first time… Mama, I say and say it again and again until she sees me. Mama! Mama! When I reach her she kisses my hands, my forehead, my cheeks, combs my hair with her fingers, straightens my collar.”

The style, in its unpretentious appealing simplicity, speaks to the heart on an emotionally realistic level. In one of his interviews, Hisham Matar denies that his novel In the Country of Menis autobiographical. He said it’s pure fiction and that he chose to fictionalise events of his childhood:

“The book is a product of my imagination: a human faculty that many, I am learning these days, are suspect of. This book took me five years to write; I am not yet interested enough in my own autobiography to spend that long writing it down. Besides, knowing what will happen next bores me… I enjoy the pleasure of inventing characters and their circumstances on the page. They remain mysterious even after the work is complete; in some ways even more mysterious. It’s magic.”

“Libya is a silent and silenced country. Somewhere between the covers of my book is a Libya that speaks. But most of all, I hope anyone who reads my novel is entertained and perhaps nudged a little.”

Author:
• Saturday, March 03rd, 2007

Audrey Niffenegger was born in June 1963 in south Haven Michigan. She grew up in Evanston, Illinois, which is the first suburb north of Chicago. She is a spinster with a permanent boy friend, a writer and an artist.

She obtained a BFA in 1985 from the school of The Art Institute of Chicago, and an MFA in 1991 from Northwestern University.

She is a full time professor in the Interdisciplinary Book Arts MFA program at the Columbia College Chicago Center for Book and Paper Arts, where she teaches writing, letterpress printing, and fine edition book production.

Audrey Niffenegger loved writing books and illustrating them since she was a young girl, as a part-time.

Her first book was about an imaginary road trip that she went on with The Beatles (the pop group). She was eleven years old when she wrote and illustrated this book.

But Niffenegger’s first real book is The Time Traveler’s Wife published in 2003. It was a bestseller when it came out.

She says: “The title came to me out of the blue, and from the title sprang the characters, and from the characters came the story… I got the title first, and played around with it for quite a long time, slowly evolving the characters in my head. I wrote the end before anything else, and then began to write scenes as they occurred to me.
The Time Traveler’s Wife was written in a completely different order than the one it finally took. I understood early on that it would be organized in three sections, and that the basic unit was the scene, not the chapter. It has a rather chaotic feel to it, especially at the beginning, and that is deliberate-there is a slow piecing together, a gradual accumulation of story, that mimics the experience of the characters. I made a lot of notes about the characters. I had two timelines to help me stay organized, but no outline of the plot.”

The Time Traveler’s Wife is a love story in a science fiction setting.

Clare and Henry love each other very dearly. Clare knows that she is destined to marry Henry, which creates an element of fatalism in the story.

They have to live with each other, go through the every day tasks, Clare being a free- lance artist, and Henry De Tumble a librarian in the famous Newberry Library in Chicago, while overcoming Henry’s genetic disorder called Chrono-Displacement Order. Which whisks him around in time. He disappears against his own will, to find himself transiting somewhere in a different year at any time or season.

For Clare to have Henry appearing and disappearing without any notice, spontaneously, and unpredictably, when he is needed, is quite a challenge for her love. She fears the consequences of Henry’s disappearance since she doesn’t know each time he comes back how that is going to affect her life in real time, according to whether he is returning from the past or the future.

Periodically, Henry finds himself travelling in time, faced with very emotional and sometimes dangerous situations in his existence. He is struggling to keep his sanity and is coping with his disease quite well.

Like Tamino and Pamina in Mozart’s Magic Flute, Clare and Henry had to undergo the Love Test in order to come out of it worthy of each other.

Niffenegger says:” I wanted to write about a perfect marriage that is tested by something outside the control of the couple.”

But then, The Time Traveler’s Wife is not only about love, it’s also about the notion of time, about the endless waiting, which is one of the themes in the novel we discover in the prologue.

” I wanted people to think about the intimacy of time, how ineffable it is, how it shapes us. I wanted to write about waiting, but since waiting is essentially a negative (time spent in the absence of something) I wrote about all the things that happen around the waiting.”

Clare is six years old when she meets Henry for the first time, while Henry has travelled back thirty-six years to meet Clare. But then, when they get married Clare is twenty-three and Henry thirty- one.
They both have to be patient in order to fulfil their destiny, and to prove that no matter how long it takes nothing alter their passion for each other.

Henry summarizes his love for Clare in the letter she is meant to read after his death: “ Clare, I want to tell you, again, I love you. Our love has been the thread through the labyrinth, the net under the high-wire walker, the only real thing in this strange life of mine that I could ever trust.”

Clare on the other hand, carries on living patiently waiting for the right time when Henry will come to her, when she is in her eighties, and takes her with him. Henry had seen that day and told her about it.

Niffenegger likes to go into the minute details in order to bring some life and plenty of essence to her story. We learn about different places in Chicago, about the pop groups of the time, about the taste of various characters. Even the couple’s sex life is described in details.

The author says in one of her interviews: “I am interested in mutants, love, death, amputation, sex, and time (the themes of my novel, The Time Traveler’s Wife)

She has also written two other books. The Three Incestuous Sisters, a 176- page graphic novel or “novel in pictures” as she calls it. And The Adventuress published 1st September 2006.

The actors Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston bought the rights to the film, which is going to be released in 2008.

In an interview, Audrey Niffenegger was asked: “How much of Clare or Henry is you?
The answer was: “Contrary to popular belief, not much. I died my hair red as a way of saying goodbye to Clare, as I was finishing the book. She makes very different art from mine, and she’s much quieter and more patient. Henry and I share a quirky sense of humour and a taste for punk, but not much else. First novels are often said to be thinly disguised autobiography. This one uses my places and things I know something about (libraries, paper making) but alas, this is not my life, and these characters are not me.