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Conference Proceeding

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Reserves a la Faculte des Lettres et des Sciences Humaines - El Jadida


In a recent study of masculine identity in the fiction of the Arab East since 1967, Samira Aghacy analyzes those novels that "possess an underlying political awareness revealing the centrality of political life in the fiction of the Arab East and the precedence of collective over private issues" (Aghacy, 7). Hisham Matar, though, has chosen to work against the grain and to shrink the political down to the personal; politics remain almost unseen, ghost-like, something his protagonists cannot comprehend or fully see. 1 Muhammad Siddiq famously notes that "any writer can ill afford to remain uninvolved and merely watch history march by from his aesthetic ivory tower" (Siddiq, xi), but Matar' s decision to employ youthful narrators reflecting back on their younger selves provides more than an aesthetic withdrawal from politics: he has found a method to create an ironic distancing from the larger social upheaval that continues to disrupt the lives of countless Libyan men. He is intent on examining a personal crisis not only in its particular Libyan historical context, but also as exemplary of some common tropes of the psychosexual development of many men across the Arabic world. Aghacy suggests that "patriarchal masculinity" - the sort embodied by Qaddafi, for example - "remains a fundamentally paradoxical and non-uniform phenomenon, both commanding and impotent, heroic and cowardly, central and marginal ... [so that] instead of generating autonomy and self-government, patriarchy exposes the male individual to a strong sense of personal inadequacy, ineffectuality, and failure to measure up to phallocentric masculine ideals" (3, 5). This is, indeed, Matar's recurring theme, and he chooses the trope of the missing father to suggest a tenuous hold on masculine agency throughout today's Middle East.


Copyright © 2017 Reserves a la Faculte des Lettres et des Sciences Humaines - El Jadida. Reprinted with permission.



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