The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between

Viking, 2016

The Return is at once a universal and an intensely personal tale. It is an exquisite meditation on how history and politics can bear down on an individual life. And yet Hisham Matar's memoir isn't just about the burden of the past, but the consolation of love, literature and art. It is the story of what it is to be human.

Hisham Matar was nineteen when his father was kidnapped and taken to prison in Libya. He would never see him again. Twenty-two years later, the fall of Gaddafi meant he was finally able to return to his homeland. In this moving memoir, the author takes us on an illuminating journey, both physical and psychological; a journey to find his father and rediscover his country.

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“A triumph of art over tyranny, structurally thrilling, intensely moving, The Return is a treasure for the ages.”— Peter Carey

“What a brilliant book. Hisham Matar has the quality all historians—of the world and the self—most need: He knows how to stand back and let the past speak. In chronicling his quest for his father, his manner is fastidious, even detached, but his anger is raw and unreconciled; through his narrative art he bodies out the shape of loss and gives a universality to his very particular experience of desolation. The Return reads as easily as a thriller, but is a story that will stick: A person is lost, but gravity and resonance remain.” — Hilary Mantel

"A masterpiece of a different kind. . . . [T]he natural delicacy of Matar's writing, its concision and reserve, only heightens the power of a gripping and agonizing story." — Alan Hollinghurst

"A moving, unflinching memoir of a family torn apart." — Kazuo Ishiguro

The Return is a riveting book about love and hope, but it is also a moving meditation on grief and loss. It draws a memorable portrait of a family in exile and manages also to explore the politics of Libya with subtlety and steely intelligence. It is a quest for the truth in a dark time, constructed with a novelist’s skill, written in tones that are both precise and passionate. It is likely to become a classic.” — Colm Tóibín


Selected Reviews

He Will Need a RaincoatLondon Review of Books, Blake Morrison
Grammar of Loss, The Times Literary Supplement, Elizabeth Lowry
‘The Return,’ a Son’s Pained Search for a Missing Father, The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani
Among The Lost, The New York Times Book Review, Robyn Creswell
Living in the AftermathLA Review of Books, Leah Mirakhor
The Lost Souls of LibyaThe Telegraph, Duncan White
Books Inside Books: An Infinite History of Modern Libya, WarScapes, Marcia Lynx Qualey



Premio Libro Del Año, Gremio de Libreros de Madrid, Finalist (Spain), 2017
Geschwister-Scholl-Preis Winner (Germany), 2017
Rathbones Folio Prize, 2017
Pulitzer Prize Winner for Biography/Autobiography, 2017
PEN/Jean Stein Book Award Winner, 2017
Prix du livre étranger Winner (France), 2017
National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography, Finalist, 2017
The Baillie Gifford Prize, Shortlist, 2016
Costa Biography Award, Shortlist, 2016
The Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize Winner, 2016
Cited as one of The New York Times’ “Top 10 Books of 2016”


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