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"The Return" by Hisham Matar

January 16, 2018

Hisham Matar was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his book about the search for his missing father. Born in 1970 in New York, Matar, the son of Libyan parents, grew up in Tripoli and – following the emigration of his family – in Cairo. His father disappeared when he was 19. The businessman and former diplomat led a group of partisans opposed to the Gaddafi dictatorship.

 

Excerpt from THE RETURN - FATHERS, SONS AND THE LAND IN BETWEEN:

 

In any political history of Libya, the 1980s represent a particularly lurid chapter. Opponents of the regime were hanged in public squares and sports arenas. Dissidents who fled the country were pursued—­some kidnapped or assassinated. The ’80s were also the first time that Libya had an armed and determined resistance to the dictatorship. My father was one of the opposition’s most prominent figures. The organization he belonged to had a training camp in Chad, south of the Libyan border, and several underground cells inside the country. Father’s career in the army, his short tenure as a diplomat, and the private means he had managed to procure in the mid-­1970s, when he became a successful businessman—­importing products as diverse as Mitsubishi vehicles and Converse sports shoes to the Middle East—­made him a dangerous enemy. The dictatorship had tried to buy him off; it had tried to scare him. I remember sitting beside him one afternoon in our flat in Cairo when I was ten or eleven, the weight of his arm on my shoulders. In the chair opposite sat one of the men I called “Uncle”—­men who, I somehow knew, were his allies or followers. The word “compromise” was spoken, and Father responded, “I won’t negotiate. Not with criminals.”

 

 

Read also: 

You can't turn back the clock by Claudia Mende, published in Qantara.

Libya's prisons were emptying, but Hisham Matar's father was nowhere to be found by Robin Creswell, published in the New Yorker.

 

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