The Return : Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between
When Hisham Matar was a nineteen-year-old university student in England, his father was kidnapped. One of the Qaddafi regime’s most prominent opponents in exile, he was held in a secret prison in Libya. Hisham would never see him again. But he never gave up hope that his father might still be alive. “Hope,” as he writes, “is cunning and persistent.”
Twenty-two years later, after the fall of Qaddafi, the prison cells are empty and there is no sign of Jaballa Matar. Hisham returns with his mother and wife to the homeland he never thought he’d go back to again. The Return is the story of what he found there. It is at once an exquisite meditation on history, politics, and art, a brilliant portrait of a nation and a people on the cusp of change, and a disquieting depiction of the brutal legacy of absolute power. Above all, it is a universal tale of loss and love and of one family’s life. Hisham Matar asks the harrowing question: How does one go on living in the face of a loved one’s uncertain fate?
Praise for The Return
“[Matar] writes with both a novelist’s eye for physical and emotional detail, and a reporter’s tactile sense of place and time. The prose is precise, economical, chiseled; the narrative elliptical, almost musical. . . . The Return is, at once, a suspenseful detective story about a writer investigating his father’s fate at the hands of a brutal dictatorship, and a son’s efforts to come to terms with his father’s ghost, who has haunted more than half his life by his absence.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“It seems unfair to call Hisham Matar’s extraordinary new book a memoir, since it is so many other things besides: a reflection on exile and the consolations of art, an analysis of authoritarianism, a family history, a portrait of a country in the throes of a revolution, and an impassioned work of mourning. . . . For all its terrible human drama . . . the most impressive thing about The Return is that it also tells a common story, the story of sons everywhere who have lost their fathers, as all sons eventually must.”—Robyn Creswell, The New York Times Book Review
“A moving, unflinching memoir of a family torn apart by the savage realities of today’s Middle East. The crushing of hopes raised by the Arab spring—at both the personal and national levels—is conveyed all the more powerfully because Matar’s anger remains controlled, his belief in humanity undimmed.”—Kazuo Ishiguro, “The Best Summer Books,” The Guardian
“Few trips could be as emotionally freighted as the one taken by Libyan-raised novelist Hisham Matar in his thriller-like memoir, The Return: Fathers, Sons, and the Land in Between, about the post-Qaddafi search for his dissident father—and his own deeply ambivalent sense of homecoming.”—Vogue
“A triumph of art over tyranny, structurally thrilling, intensely moving, The Return is a treasure for the ages.”—Peter Carey
“The Return is tremendously powerful. Although it filled me with rage again and again, I never lost sight of Matar’s beautiful intelligence as he tried to get to the heart of the mystery. I am so very grateful he has written this book.”—Nadeem Aslam.