The Return

Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between

Publisher: Vintage Canada
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 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 hope remains that Jaballa Matar will be found alive. Yet, as the author writes, hope is "persistent and cunning."
     This book is a profoundly moving family memoir, a brilliant and affecting portrait of a country and a people on the cusp of immense change, and a disturbing and timeless depiction of the monstrous nature of absolute power.


Finalist - 2016 Los Angeles Times Book Prize: The Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose
Winner - France’s 2017 Prix du Livre Étranger (Foreign Book Prize)

Finalist - 2017 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award
Winner - 2016
 Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize
Shortlist - Costa Biography Award
Shortlist - Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 

“Hisham Matar’s The Return . . . moved me to tears and taught me about love and home.” —Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“[A] haunting and terrifying story, told with courage, anger, dignity and unswerving determination.” —Blake Morrison
“The intelligence and grace of Matar’s writing is fuelled by a fierce and valid rage.”  —Rupert Thomson
“What makes The Return outstanding . . . is not its highly charged subject matter but its subtle and ingenious structure, and the patient attentiveness with which Matar observes and listens. A humane and haunting book.” —Lucy Hughes-Hallet
“A brilliant, moving and beautiful book about family, longing and exile.” —Matthew Dennison, Mary Loudon and Sarra Manning, judges of the 2016 Costa Biography Award
The Return is an elegy by a son who, through his eloquence, defies the men who wanted to erase his father and gifts him with a kind of immortality.” —The Washington Post

“A personal memoir, concerned with the kidnap and disappearance of the writer’s father at the hands of the Gaddafi regime. It is wise and agonizing and thrilling to read.” —Zadie Smith

“What a brilliant book. Hisham Matar knows how to stand back and let the past speak. In chronicling his quest for his father, his manner is fastidious, even detached, but his anger is raw and un-reconciled; through his narrative art he bodies out the shape of loss, and gives a universality to his very particular experience of desolation. The Return reads as easily as a thriller, but is a story that will stick; a person is lost, but gravity and resonance remain.” —Hilary Mantel

“A magnificent memoir of exile and loss. Hisham Matar writes Libya’s contemporary history with a Proustian sensibility and the intellect of Al-Jahiz. A timeless read.” —Rawi Hage

“A triumph of art over tyranny, structurally thrilling, intensely moving, The Return is a treasure for the ages.” —Peter Carey 

The Return is tremendously powerful. Although it filled me with rage again and again, I never lost sight of Matar’s beautiful intelligence as he tried to get to the heart of the mystery. I am so very grateful he has written this book.” —Nadeem Aslam, author of The Blind Man’s Garden

The Return is a riveting book about love and hope, but it is also a moving meditation on grief and loss. It draws a memorable portrait of a family in exile and manages also to explore the politics of Libya with subtlety and steely intelligence. It is a quest for the truth in a dark time, constructed with a novelist’s skill, written in tones that are both precise and passionate. It is likely to become a classic.” —Colm Tóibín

“[E]loquent. . . . [Matar] writes with both a novelist’s eye for physical and emotional detail, and a reporter’s tactile sense of place and time. The prose is precise, economical, chiseled; the narrative elliptical, almost musical. . . . [H]aunting.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times Book Review
“[B]eautifully described. . . . [M]agnificent.” —David Aaronovitch, The Times
“[M]oving and vividly documented. . . . Matar provides an intimate and absorbing account of the complex political events that would eventually lead to Gaddafi’s downfall. As he shifts his focus between past and present events, allowing details of his father’s disappearance to slowly and subtly emerge, he reveals a suspense novelist’s seasoned instincts. In his ruminations on returning to a long-forgotten family and country, and the consequences of time passing, he applies a poet’s sensibility. . . . A beautifully written, harrowing story of a son’s search for his father and how the impact of inexplicable loss can be unrelenting while the strength of family and cultural ties can ultimately sustain.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“[M]arvellously well-handled memoir. . . . The Return . . . burns with anger at the frustration of Hisham’s attempts to find out what had happened to his father. . . . Yet it is also remarkably composed and calmly written, its tone at times reminiscent of one of Kazuo Ishiguro’s puzzled, damaged narrators, at others of the skilful recovery of the past performed in Edmund de Waal’s The Hare with Amber Eyes. Although highly informative about what it is to be part of Libya’s tormented history, it is even more valuable as an expression of both filial and paternal love.” —London Evening Standard
[B]eautifully written account of Matar’s pained search. . . . Written with hard-won clarity and unsentimental intelligence, The Return stands comparison with the best literature of exile.” —Prospect Magazine
“[E]xtraordinary memoir. . . . [S]kilfully layered, this memoir is also a feat of imagination. Out of his protracted torment Matar has forged a memoir that in its nuance and nobility bears unforgettable witness to love, to courage and to humanity. The Return is also a subtle and nimble work of art. It shifts elegantly between past and present, between dialogue and soliloquy, between urgent, even suspenseful action and probing meditations on exile, grief and loss.” —Boyd Tonkin, Financial Times