In 1990, diplomat Jaballa Matar was kidnapped in Cairo – where he lived in exile with his family – and taken by his captors back to his home country of Libya. There, he was imprisoned by the Gaddafi regime for his political leanings.
Ever since, his son Hisham has been searching for information about his father’s fate. Intensely personal and evocatively written, The Return is Hisham’s memoir of his journey to Libya to discover the truth. As he searches for answers, he introduces the reader to his extended family and a country teetering on the edge of revolution.
“After lunch, I sat with Uncle Mahmoud, the shutters closed against the sun. I thought about the endless questions I had for him. But he did not need me to encourage him; he wanted to speak about his time in prison. It was most of what we talked about. My uncle had spent twenty-one years in Abu Salim. And, like the things he had told me over the telephone when he was first released, his stories were aimed at proving that the authorities had failed, that he had not been erased, that he continued to remember and follow even what his nephew the novelist was up to in far-away London. His stories were an attempt to bridge the vast distance that separates the austere cruelty of Abu Salim and the world outside. Like most stories, what Uncle Mahmoud’s recollections were saying was ‘I exist.'”
Hisham Matar is a novelist, memoirist, and essayist. His books include In the Country of Men, The Return, and The Anatomy of a Disappearance. Born in New York, he spent most of his childhood in Libya and Egypt. He now lives in London.
Length: 288 pages
Main Setting: Tripoli and Benghazi, Libya
Secondary Settings: Cairo, Egypt; London, England
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