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‘The Gaddafi Regime Created A Society Characterised By Dishonesty And Betrayal.’ Discuss.

1289 words - 6 pages

The society depicted in Hisham Matar’s novel In the Country of Men is one where people do not feel safe to hold beliefs contrary to the beliefs of the Gaddafi regime and one where acts of dishonesty and betrayal are sometimes necessary for survival. As supreme leader of the Libyan people, Gaddafi dishonestly represents himself as the benevolent ‘Guide’ of his people embodying qualities such as generosity, love and forgiveness. This sort of misrepresentation and disloyalty is a betrayal of the Libyan people. Matar’s novel suggests the only hope the Libyan population has of a happy existence is to mimic the values of the regime, fight against it covertly or flee from it. Qualities such as ...view middle of the document...

This is clear in the story of the traitor who is caught in his attempt to kill the Guide. Um Masoud says the traitor ‘melted like ice in fire, weeping for forgiveness and the Guide forgave him there and then.’ The fantasy presented by Um Masoud is that the traitor is healed of his treachery by the Guide’s love and forgiveness when the obvious reality is that the traitor was probably murdered in cold blood like Ustath Rashid is and like Baba would have been had not Najwa made a plea to Ustath Jafer on his behalf.

The nature of the socio-political environment forces Faraj to conduct his democracy movement covertly, dishonestly. There is no room for democratic thought or any ideas that threaten the authority of the regime or question the benefits of Gaddafi’s supposedly democratic revolution. This being the case, Faraj’s desire to create a democratic society can only survive if he pretends to support the regime and its values. This sort of dishonesty for the sake of survival is clear in the scene where Moosa and Najwa burn all of Faraj’s books and writings to protect him from possible exposure as a traitor. Similarly, Moosa places an oversized picture of the Guide on the wall in place of Faraj’s own picture to create the illusion that Faraj and his family are loyal to the revolution. Ustath Rashid stands as an obvious example of what happens to those who question the regime. His refusal to name Faraj as a co-conspirator highlights his understanding that dishonesty is necessary for survival and his televised, brutal execution underscores the importance of concealing anything at all that might displease the authoritarian regime. The requirement to live dishonestly extends to less political characters like Najwa who must conceal her hatred of the regime and her dislike of supporters of the regime such as Um Masoud. Najwa abhors Um Masoud in private but must ingratiate her publically because her husband is powerful and ‘able to put people behind the sun’. Najwa’s desire to escape Libya and the dangerous political activism of her husband – ‘work hard and get us out of here, let me see the clouds above my country, Faraj’ – points to the unbearable pressure of living in a world where being true to yourself and your family runs contrary to the everyday realities of life.

The child narrator, Suleiman, commits acts of betrayal which highlight the corruption of his innocence more than they do the depth of his disloyalty. Being nine years old when the key events of the novel unfold, Suleiman is ill-equipped to deal with the terrible realities he encounters ‘in the country of men’. Despite his father’s assertion that he must shoulder the burden of manly responsibility when he...

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