cover image Anatomy of a Disappearance

Anatomy of a Disappearance

Hisham Matar. Dial, $22 (240p) ISBN 978-0-385-34044-1

Matar offers a searing vision of familial rupture and disintegration in his trenchant follow-up to In the Country of Men. Nuri el-Alfi is the son of Kamal Pasha el-Alfi, a powerful man (and exile from an unnamed Arab country that bears a striking resemblance to Matar's native Libya) living in Cairo and involved in "secret work." Two rough years after Nuri's mother dies, father and son meet Mona, a half-English, half-Arab woman, who, at 26 is 14 years older than Nuri and 15 years younger than Kamal. Nuri loves Mona madly, but of course she loves his father, and the two quickly marry and shuttle Nuri off to an English boarding school, where he pines for Mona and tries desperately to comprehend his father's personal history. Such understanding is made all the more impossible and necessary when, one wintry day, Kamal is abducted from the Geneva apartment of a woman neither Mona nor Nuri know. At once tough and tender, shaped by the sorrows of memory, Nuri's story is searching, acquiring power in its graceful acceptance of the impossibility of certainty. Although some of the novel's revelations seem more expedient than illuminating, the work as a whole is an elegant and smart evocation of the complexities of filial love. (Aug.)