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The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between (2016)

by Hisham Matar

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4122244,301 (3.9)54
"In 2012, after the overthrow of Qaddafi, the acclaimed novelist Hisham Matar journeys to his native Libya after an absence of thirty years. When he was twelve, Matar and his family went into political exile. Eight years later Matar's father, a former diplomat and military man turned brave political dissident, was kidnapped from the streets of Cairo by the Libyan government and is believed to have been held in the regime's most notorious prison. Now, the prisons are empty and little hope remains that Jaballah Matar will be found alive. Yet, as the author writes, hope is "persistent and cunning." This book is a profoundly moving family memoir, a brilliant and affecting portrait of a country and a people on the cusp of immense change, and a disturbing and timeless depiction of the monstrous nature of absolute power"--… (more)

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» See also 54 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
Read 2019. ( )
  sasameyuki | May 14, 2020 |
In 1969 a coup d'état took place in a North African country. The Free Officers Movement, a revolutionary group headed by a 27-year-old army officer called Muammar Qaddafi, disposed King Idris, Libya’s monarch. So began a 42 year reign of terror by the iron grip of Qaddafi and his family and supporters, where anyone who dared oppose the regime would be removed and imprisoned. Hisham Matar was born in the United States as his father was working there at the time with the Libyan delegation to the UN. At the age of three, he first set foot in his home country. It was to become his home for the next few years, but as the political persecution grew in the country, Jaballa Matar was accused of being opposed to the regime. The family fled the country and Hisham and his brother spent the rest of their childhood in Cairo. University beckoned, and Hisham headed to London to study. Whilst he was in London, his father was kidnapped by the Egyptian secret police, and handed over to the Libyan authorities.

Hisham Matar last saw his father when he was nineteen. He was never to see or speak to him again.

Six years after he was snatched, the family had two letters delivered written in Jaballa’s hand. It explained what had happened and he said he was in the infamous Abu Salim prison. They received no other details until 2010, when Hisham was told that his father had been seen in 2002, implying that he had survived the horrific massacre of 1200 prisoners in 1996. All enquires to the Libyan authorities about their father’s whereabouts and welfare were met with silence or promises of answers. Everything changed in 2011; another revolution overthrew Qaddafi and for the first time in 22 years Hisham could return to his homeland once again and see family that he never thought he would see.

He involves the Foreign Office, as the Labour government at the time was building a relationship with Qaddafi, even having meetings with David Miliband to push for answers from the Libyan authorities on his father. He talks with and meets Sief el-Islam in the hope of finding something; but all he gets is promises. It is an eloquent but painful and emotional memoir to read; you feel his anguish every step of his journey. But it is fascinating too; there is as much about the humanity of some and the shocking indifference from others. Well worth reading. ( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
I continue to be blown away by everything Matar writes. ( )
  nicholasjjordan | Nov 13, 2019 |
This is the touching memoir of a man whose father and many of his relatives were arrested by the Qaddafi regime in Libya. The crux of the book is his search for what happened to his father in prison. Over the years (even after Qaddafi's fall) there is no end to the misinformation and red tape he has to endure in his search. Ultimately he finds some of his other relatives but not his dad. This is poignant well written book that deserves all the plaudits he has garnered. ( )
  muddyboy | Oct 13, 2019 |
A fascinating memoir/history lesson/thriller. Shines a light on dark periods for both Libya and Britain for our complicity in Gaddafi’s misdeeds. My main struggle was warming to the author himself, as his pretentiousness stood in such stark contrast to the heroism of his family members he records. ( )
  alexrichman | Feb 22, 2019 |
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"In 2012, after the overthrow of Qaddafi, the acclaimed novelist Hisham Matar journeys to his native Libya after an absence of thirty years. When he was twelve, Matar and his family went into political exile. Eight years later Matar's father, a former diplomat and military man turned brave political dissident, was kidnapped from the streets of Cairo by the Libyan government and is believed to have been held in the regime's most notorious prison. Now, the prisons are empty and little hope remains that Jaballah Matar will be found alive. Yet, as the author writes, hope is "persistent and cunning." This book is a profoundly moving family memoir, a brilliant and affecting portrait of a country and a people on the cusp of immense change, and a disturbing and timeless depiction of the monstrous nature of absolute power"--

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