Once upon a life: Hisham Matar

Hisham Matar in The Observer:

ScreenHunter_05 Feb. 24 13.12 I can pinpoint the exact moment when I first began to think about what profession I should go into. It was 1978, I was seven and had just been handed over by the women of my family to the earnest and self-important gatherings of the men. I was no longer the responsibility of my aunts and older female cousins. I was now a man. This was a tragedy. Women were fun. They produced things: feasts and gossip. They sang, played the goblet drum and danced that miraculous Libyan dance where the hips seem to move independent of the body. They painted their hands and feet with henna. They cut up aloe plants to extract the slimy stuff for their skin. They were like mad scientists, whisking up egg, honey, olive oil and God-knows-what to bathe their hair in the mixture. They plotted social manoeuvres, planned parties and funerals, and had an opinion about everything. As a young boy in Libya it was hard to escape the conclusion that the women were the most feeling and most functional part of society.

As part of the ritual of becoming a man, my maternal uncle, a judge, and his four sons, each older than me, took me deer hunting. I had heard about these trips before, and once saw the Range Rover return caked in yellow sand. There were carcasses roped to the roof. One deer had its head over the rail of the roof rack, its mouth open and, like an offering, a bright purple tongue hung out of it.

More here. [Thanks to Laila Lalami.]

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