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The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  5,796 ratings  ·  697 reviews
From Man Booker Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist Hisham Matar, a memoir of his journey home to his native Libya in search of answers to his father's disappearance. In 2012, after the overthrow of Qaddafi, the acclaimed novelist Hisham Matar journeys to his native Libya after an absence of thirty years.
When he was twelve, Matar and his family went int
Paperback, 272 pages
Published April 4th 2017 by Vintage Books Canada (first published June 2016)
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4.14  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,796 ratings  ·  697 reviews

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Diane S ☔
Jul 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the United States, I first heard of the overthrow of Qaddafi on our nightly news, just pieces here and there, atrocities committed by the regime just lightly touched on. So this book was very eye opening to me, the details were anguishing to read. First book I have read about Libya, or even set in Libya.
The author's father was a very successful businessman, quite wealthy and against the Qaddafi regime, he put his money into the overthrow of this corrupt and abusive government as he and extend
There are several reasons to choose this book:

-beautiful prose.
-thoughtful, philosophical content about a son's relationship to an absent father.
-a memoir that illustrates how political events shape the lives of a nation's people.
-details about life under the Libyan dictator Qaddafi.

Themes are smoothly and thoughtfully interwoven. This is not merely a book about historical events. It is not only one man's, the author's, struggle to come to terms with the uncertainty of his father's death and h
aPriL does feral sometimes
Hisham Matar’s revered Father, businessman and wealthy ex-Libyan Jaballa Matar, was a financier hero of several mysterious and failed Libya liberation movements fighting against the alpha male dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Muammer Qaddafi had engineered a coup in Libya in 1969 overthrowing Libya’s monarch, and he soon began a campaign of torture and terror to kill any possible political competition.

Very male author Hisham Matar, the respected masculine writer of this award-winning very masculine-ge
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wishlist
Nessuna di quelle domande

“Il potere evidentemente sa quanto è affaticata la natura umana, quanto siamo impreparati ad ascoltare, e disposti ad accontentarci di menzogne. Il potere evidentemente sa che, in fin dei conti, preferiremmo non sapere. Il potere evidentemente ritiene, visto come vanno le cose, che il mondo si confaccia di più a chi perpetra i crimini che a coloro che arrivano a fatto compiuto, cercando giustizia, spiegazioni, verità. Il potere evidentemente considera patetici tali tenta
After over thirty years in exile, Hisham Matar returned to Libya in his long quest to find out what happened to his father, Jaballa Matar. His father was a resistance leader during the time when Muammar Qaddafi was Libya's totalitarian leader. The Matar family was living in exile in Cairo when Jaballa was kidnapped in 1990, and thrown in the Abu Salim prison in Tripoli. Except for three letters smuggled out of the prison, his family never heard from Jaballa again. He may have perished in the mas ...more

Description: In 2012, after the overthrow of Qaddafi, the acclaimed novelist Hisham Matar journeys to his native Libya after an absence of thirty years. When he was twelve, Matar and his family went into political exile. Eight years later Matar's father, a former diplomat and military man turned brave political dissident, was kidnapped from the streets of Cairo by the Libyan government and is believed to have been held in the regime's most notorious prison. Now, the prisons are empty and little
Aug 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
Deeply moving, this is quite possibly the best book I've read so far this year!

In this memoir, Matar writes of his personal experience of the Libyan revolution, it's history, and the disastrous effects complete power can have on a nation. He writes of his family's time in exile, of grief and of loss, with an underlying note of hope throughout. Exquisitely written, this book deserves a lot more credit.

It may hurt your heart a little, but I think we all need that from time to time.

Straight to t

I tried people! I tried so damn hard, but…

Hisham Matar’s family is from Libya, but Matar grew up in Egypt, because his father was an opponent of the Qaddafi regime. If you don’t know anything about the Qaddafi regime here’s a buzzword: Benghazi.

Qaddafi imprisoned dissidents, or had them assassinated. Many of his opponents lived abroad, but that did not deter Qaddafi! He happily sent assassins all over the world to murder his adversaries.

An example from the book: Matar’s brother Ziad, while at sc

Peter Boyle
One of my favourite TV shows at the moment is The Leftovers. On an ordinary October day in 2011, two percent of world's population vanishes simultaneously, without trace. The plot focuses not on the mystery of the disappearance but on the deep anguish of the people left behind. It is the uncertainty surrounding the departure that hurts the most - those that remain cannot know for sure if their missing loved ones are dead or alive. They are forever denied a sense of closure - they don't even have ...more
I'm the odd one out here, I guess. 50 + pages in, and I still find this book boring, and the writing far from natural. Better luck to others
In 1969 a coup d'état took place in a North African country. The Free Officers Movement, a revolutionary group headed by a 27-year-old army officer called Muammar Qaddafi, disposed King Idris, Libya’s monarch. So began a 42 year reign of terror by the iron grip of Qaddafi and his family and supporters, where anyone who dared oppose the regime would be removed and imprisoned. Hisham Matar was born in the United States as his father was working there at the time with the Libyan delegation to the U ...more
Dec 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
همیشه پس از سرنگونی حکومت ها، روی دیگری از آن حکومت که تا آن زمان اجازه بازگویی اش وجود نداشت نمایان می شود. پس از سقوط معمر قذافی نویسندگان و راویان و خبرنگاران و شاهدین و ستمدیدگان توانسند تا ستم هایی که بر آنها روا شده بود را به گوش جهانیان برسانند. چندی پیش کتابی تحت عنوان حرمسرای قذافی به چاپ رسید که مورد استقبال قرار گرفت و روایتگر فساد اخلاقی در زندگی و حکومت قذافی داشت. کتاب بازگشت پیشتر چاپ شده بود و خیلی کمتر دیده شد. در این کتاب هشام مطر خود زندگی نامه ای را نوشته که به شرح زندگی خود ...more
Marcello S
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Il dolore rattrappisce il cuore. E questo, io credo, è uno degli obiettivi. Fai sparire un uomo per metterlo a tacere ma anche per restringere la mente di quelli che rimangono, per corromperne l'anima e limitarne l'immaginazione. Quando Gheddafi ha preso mio padre, ha messo me in uno spazio non più grande della cella in cui era lui. (…) Ho vissuto perlopiù così, fra i venti e i trent'anni, finché, nell'autunno del 2002, dodici anni dopo la sparizione di mio padre, mi sono ritrovato sull'orlo del ...more
This is a wonderful book. Read it and be a part of humanity.
João Carlos
Nov 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, l2018

Jaballa Matar

”O avião estava cheio. Sentámo-nos, mas depois a minha mãe levantou-se para me deixar sentar junto da janela.
- Para veres o teu país – disse. Fecharam a porta do avião. Peguei no meu diário e comecei a escrever, lenta e deliberadamente. O pânico, como nos sonhos em que abro a boca e não sai de lá qualquer som, nasceu da perda. Ou daquele sonho recorrente que costumava ter, depois de terem levado o meu pai, em que percebia que tinha sido arrastado pelas correntes marinhas para o mar
This memoir is the long, sad story of a 19-year-old Libyan boy (the author, Hisham Matar) who learns his father has been kidnapped and imprisoned as an opposition leader by Qaddafi. Finding out what became of his father becomes Hisham's lifelong purpose, and it's all detailed in this book.

In addition to tales of the family clan and the search, Hisham gives a little history of Libya which, I daresay, many no little about. For instance, I learned that the Italians who occupied Libya as colonial op
Atty. Winston
Aug 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, this book hooked me from the start and glued me to every page! Eloquently written and deeply felt, The Return by Hisham Matar is a haunting memoir about a son investigating the fate of his missing father under Qaddafi's reign in Libya. Hisham endeavors also to convey the modern history of Libya, what it was like to live under a brutal dictatorship and how the dissidents were inhumanely treated. This is a story of a terribly unimaginable deeds, but also a tale of oozing hope and indomitable ...more
Jan 26, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A sad story but didn't work for me. After reading about this book I thought I absolutely had to read it. While studying at university in London, author Matar's father is kidnapped. Matar never sees his father again (this is not a spoiler as it's on the flap and was noted in several book previews). Yet the author hopes that his father might very well be alive, despite the horrors of the Gaddafi's regime. The book is the story of his journey and his search.
The book was a struggle. I really wanted
Leila Soltani
Apr 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Living in a dictatorship, you would ask yourself how it’s possible that dictator regimes are this much similar...
After I finished the book this Persian poem came to my mind:
imprisoned bird, may you live and see that promising day that there is no cage in the world.
ای مرغ گرفتار بمانی و ببینی، آن روز همایون که به عالم قفسی نیست
Mikey B.
This is about prisoners in the jails of Libya during the long Qaddafi dictatorship. It is also, as in the author’s case, about those who quest forlornly, using any fragment of information, on those imprisoned. The author’s father, a resistance fighter against Qaddafi, was abducted on the streets of Cairo by Egypt’s secret police. From there he was sent to Libya and essentially disappeared in the morass of the Libyan prison system. This happened in 1990 when the author was 19 years old. Understan ...more
Oct 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
«Il corpo di mio padre se n’è andato, ma il suo spazio è qui ed è occupato da qualcosa che non può essere considerato semplicemente un ricordo. È vivo e vitale. Come potrebbero la complessità dell’essere, la meccanica della nostra anatomia, l’intelligenza della nostra biologia, e lo sconfinato firmamento della nostra interiorità – pensieri, domande, struggimenti, speranze, bramosia e desiderio e le mille e una contraddizioni che ci abitano in ogni momento – avere una fine che si possa segnare co ...more
Fatimah  Elfeitori
Thoughtful, emotional, philosophical and highly relatable. I cannot recommend this book enough!
Hisham Matar put into words my unexplained sense of 'belonging' and (over)romanticization of Benghazi, and Libya.

"My silent condemnation of those fellow exiles who wished to assimilate- which is to say, my bloody-minded commitment to rootlessness- was my feeble act of fidelity to the old country, or maybe not even to Libya but to the young boy I was when we left."

"Revolutions have their momentu
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book with my phone sitting next to me. I learnt quite a bit of Libyan history as I read about Matar's quest to find out what happened to his father Jaballa Matar once he was kidnapped from his Cairo flat and imprisoned in the notorious Abu Salim prison by Gaddafi. After two and a half decades and numerous attempts to locate him Hisham Matar still does not know. A difficult read yet a compelling one.
An incredibly vulnerable and a heartbreaking memoir that will stay with me forever.
Jul 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I strongly recommend this moving account of a man coming to terms with his father's disappearance under the brutal Gaddafi regime in Libya.

Hisham Matar and his brother were born into a wealthy Libyan family and were both educated overseas. Their father, Jaballah Matar, was a prominent figure in Libyan political life and was an outspoken detractor of Gaddafi’s. In 1979 the family fled to Cairo, fearing for their safety. Despite this evasive measure and the family’s vigilance, in 1989, when Hisha
Jean Borg
Jul 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read Hisham Matar's previous two books last Summer, in anticipation to his reading at the Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival. 'In the Country of Men' become my read of last year.

I had high expectations and it's one of the few books I ordered before the actual publishing date in these past few years, and the hardback and its beautiful cover was a joy to hold.

It starts rather slowly, since the writer does not have the freedom as when writing fiction, but then he seems to get true to his mot
Sep 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Magari fossi il figlio di un uomo felice, che arriva alla vecchiaia con tutti i suoi beni, sono le parole di Telemaco che Hisham Matar sente come sue, nella perenne ricerca delle tracce del padre. Mi ha toccato profondamente questo libro, sia per il modo in cui si segue il filo della storia dolorosa di un paese , dell'esilio, dell'assenza, sia per la conoscenza che questo filo porta. Mi ha colpito l'amore per un paese in cui non si può più vivere, il senso di vicinanza con chi è rimasto e con ch ...more
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hisham Matar is a novelist of Libyan extraction--"extraction" being a word here that is especially appropriate, since various members of the Matar family spent time fleeing Gaddafi's goons. At times unsuccessfully, alas. In particular, Hisham's father was handed over to Gaddafi's goons by Hosni Mubarak's goons. "The Return" is an account of Hisham's search for his father, or to at least find out what happened to him. Hisham's prose fluid, thoughtful, but never self-indulgent. The focus here is o ...more
Azam Amirgholami
Apr 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
خواندن این کتاب برای من سخت و منقلبکننده بود. زمانی که با داستان خانوادهی مطر در لیبی پیش میرفتم، مدام تصویر آدمهایی در ذهنم نقش میبست که در جغرافیایی دیگر، دیکتاتوری برای زندگی آنها هم سرنوشت مشابهی رو رقم زده بود؛ سرنوشتی پر از سوال، انتظار و البته امید. ...more
From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week:
In this powerful memoir, Libyan novelist Hisham Matar describes the state of hope and grief he has endured in the two decades since his father, Jaballa, was kidnapped by Qaddafi's regime in 1990. Imprisoned and kept isolated from other prisoners, Jaballa managed to send only a handful of letters to his family before he disappeared without trace. To this day, no-one is sure what happened to him, although it is likely that he died in a massacre at Abu Salim pris
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Hisham Matar was born in New York City, where his father was working for the Libyan delegation to the United Nations. When he was three years old, his family went back to Tripoli, Libya, where he spent his early childhood. Due to political persecutions by the Ghaddafi regime, in 1979 his father was accused of being a reactionary to the Libyan revolutionary regime and was forced to flee the country ...more
“What do you do when you cannot leave and cannot return?” 7 likes
“And I remember this man who never ran out of poems telling me once that knowing a book by heart is like carrying a house inside your chest.” 5 likes
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