The New York Times book review cover • Hisham Matar

Emiliano Ponzi The New York Times book review cover

Emiliano Ponzi 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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