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In Conversation with...Hisham Matar

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Hisham Matar is a Libyan writer whose debut novel is In the Country of Men (partly autobiographical). Matar has also written for Asharq Alawsat, The Independent, The Guardian, The Times and the The New York Times.

In the Coutry of Men was published in July 2006. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Guardian First Book Award 2006, it won the 2007 Commonwealth First Book Award for Europe and South Asia, the 2007 Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, the Italian Premio Vallombrisa Gregor von Rezzori, the Italian Premio Internazionale Flaiano (Sezione Letteratura) and the inaugural Arab American National Museum Book Award. In the Country of Men has been translated into 22 languages.

Matar’s novel tracks the effects of Libyan strongman Khadafy’s 1969 September revolution on the el-Dawani family, as seen by nine-year-old Suleiman, who narrates as an adult. Living in Tripoli 10 years after the revolution with his parents Suleiman has his world turned upside down when the secret police–like Revolutionary Committee puts the family in its sights—though Suleiman does not know it, his father has spoken against the regime and is a clandestine agitator—along with families in the neighborhood. The ensuing brutality resonates beyond the bloody events themselves to a brutalizing of heart and mind for all concerned. Matar renders it brilliantly, as well as zeroing in on the regime’s reign of terror itself: mock trials, televised executions, neighbors informing on friends, persecution mania in those remaining. (Adapted review from Publishers Weekly.)

This talk is part of the Centre for Gender Studies-Public Events series.

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