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The New York Times book review cover • Hisham Matar

Emiliano Ponzi illustration for The New York Times Book Review:

Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between
By Hisham Matar
243 pp. Random House. $26.

It seems unfair to call Hisham Matar’s extraordinary new book a memoir, since it is so many other things besides: a reflection on exile and the consolations of art, an analysis of authoritarianism, a family history, a portrait of a country in the throes of revolution, and an impassioned work of mourning.

Matar’s father, Jaballa Matar, was a Libyan businessman who became, in the late 1970s, a prominent critic of Muammar el-Qaddafi’s dictatorship. After fleeing to Cairo, where he and his family lived for a decade, Matar was abducted by Egyptian security agents in 1990 and turned over to the Libyan regime. He was jailed in Tripoli’s Abu Salim prison, a notorious torture site, where approximately 1,270 prisoners were massacred in June 1996.

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