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‘In the Country of men’ by Hisham Matar Essay

‘In the Country of men’ by Hisham Matar elicits the condition of survival in an oppressive society. The concept of loyalty and betrayal is at the heart of the novel. It values the characters that fight to hold on to the people and things they value no matter the cost. The struggle between loyalty and betrayal is denoted in the novel by relationship between Faraj and Moosa, friends and family and Ustath Rashid and Faraj. The struggle between loyalty and betrayal is illustrated through the bond amid Faraj and Moosa. After Faraj returns from the torture of the revolutionary committee, Moosa says he ‘can’t bear looking at him…The betrayal in his eyes’ because Faraj ‘melted like butter’ when interrogated by the revolutionary committee. Moosa perceives this as betrayal since so many others have died including ‘the students closest to us’ for his cause. Moosa ‘looked up to him like an older brother’, and ‘would give [his] life for him’, but after this incident he was too ashamed to look at his face, Moosa says ‘his voice scorches me.

This is worse than death… this is the blackest day of my life’. Thus he cannot cope with Faraj’s failure; he grapples to sustain his allegiance to Faraj and soon afterwards deports to Egypt. The Relationship between friends and family further demonstrates the struggle between loyalty and betrayal. When Najwa’s friend’s salma’s husband is taken away, Najwa withdraws her friendship and even instructs her son that ‘this is a time for walking besides the wall.’ On one hand, this can be seen as a great betrayal between the two friends, as Najawa is effectively abandoning Salma in her time of greatest need, however conversely it illustrates her undying loyalty to her family.

Rather than compromising her family safety, she is willing to cease all interaction with the girl for that is described as ‘two lost sisters who had finally found each other’. Ustath Rashid’s does not betray his friend Faraj at any cost. Ustath Rashid refuses to implicate his friend Faraj as the originator and the leader of the ‘resistance group’. The ‘Democracy Now’ book Suleiman rescues from the fire was initially gifted to Faraj by Ustath Rashid. It is inscribed ‘To my eternal friend and comrade…With my undying loyalty’ and thus Rashid keeps his word as this friendship means more than his own life to him. Thus when he is publically interrogated before the execution, Rashid lies to protect Faraj, saving his life even when he cannot save his, knowing there is a family out there who will be losing a husband.

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