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Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, Biography/Autobiography, 2017

From the author of In the Country of Men, a Man Booker Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, comes a beautifully written, uplifting memoir of his journey home to his native Libya in search of the truth behind his father's disappearance.

When Hisham Matar was a 19-year-old university student in England, his father was kidnapped. One of the Qaddafi regime's most prominent opponents in exile, he was held in a secret prison in Libya. Hisham would never see him again. But he never gave up hope that his father might still be alive. "Hope," as he writes, "is cunning and persistent." Twenty-two years later, after the fall of Qaddafi, the prison cells were empty, and there was no sign of Jaballa Matar. Hisham returned with his mother and wife to the homeland he never thought he'd go back to again.

The Return is the story of what he found there. It is at once an exquisite meditation on history, politics, and art; a brilliant portrait of a nation and a people on the cusp of change; and a disquieting depiction of the brutal legacy of absolute power. Above all, it is a universal tale of loss and love and of one family's life. Hisham Matar asks the harrowing question: How does one go on living in the face of a loved one's uncertain fate?

©2016 Hisham Matar (P)2016 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

  • Pulitzer Prize, Biography, 2017
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)
“A triumph of art over tyranny, structurally thrilling, intensely moving, The Return is a treasure for the ages.” (Peter Carey)
“What a brilliant book. Hisham Matar has the quality all historians - of the world and the self - most need: He 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 unreconciled; through his narrative art he bodies out the shape of loss and gives a universality to his very particular experience of desolation.” (Hilary Mantel)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Astounding

Glorious in every conceivable way. Matar gives a moving performance. The end is absolute perfection, leaving you both warm and cold at the same time.

22 of 22 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Touching memoir. Consider hard copy

Sometimes I wondered whether this book would not deserve to be read rather than being listened to. Though the voice of the author carries the story well, its low tone can at first appear monotonous, and later accentuates the story's heaviness to a degree that is hardly bearable at times. I also have the hard copy of the book and turning the pages from times to times felt good; the poetry seemed even more multi-faceted and the depths were easier to deal with. Anyway, whatever format one prefers, I highly recommend it.

56 of 58 people found this review helpful

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The author's own voice

Hisham Matar's voice is haunting and authentic. You hear all the names and places pronounced as intended. Placing Tony Blair in the Libyan circle of influence is chilling.
As much as his novel, Country of Men continues to haunt me 5 years after I read it, this autobiographical narrative is historically relevant beyond mere words.

21 of 22 people found this review helpful

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a beautiful book, and a perfect reading by the aut

Matar is a master storyteller, beautifully and lyrically intertwining social and personal loss. and he narrated the story incredibly well.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Predominantly Political

This was rather dry and overly politically-oriented than suits my taste. It is an intelligent discourse, however, but I must admit that I did not find it as interesting as I had anticipated. It lacked a warmth necessary to engage this reader.

36 of 43 people found this review helpful

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  • Bryan
  • westmount, Quebec, Canada
  • 09-20-17

A powerful and affecting memoir

Matar writes seamlessly from the heart and head. A powerful and concisely told story that puts a human face on Libya.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating Ride

As a victim of another authoritarian regime in East Asia who just experienced his father sentenced for 15 years on totally baseless and absurd charges of "subversion of state power", this book resonated with me on so many levels. I was transfixed by the similarities of the feelings between the author and me. This book also gave me some inspiration on what steps should I take in the future to struggle for my father's freedom. Thank you Hisham Matar for writing such a wonderful book!
I hope people don't fail to realize that fascistic, authoritarian regimes never ceased to exist and it's always worth fighting for the freedom of the oppressed.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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slow at the beginning, but so worth it.

Slow at the beginning, but so worth it. No one was better to read it than the writer.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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A meditation on love and loss

Where does The Return rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Very much at the top!

What other book might you compare The Return to and why?

I don't read very many memoirs because I find they hold my attention less so than great fiction. But this one gripped me from the very first page and kept me riveted to the page till the very end.

Have you listened to any of Hisham Matar’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

This is the first time I have listened to Matar and I found his reading truly remarkable. His distinctive accent, I suppose a mix of English and Arabic, coupled with the slow, measured pace of the delivery made the listening experience a rapturous one. Matar recounts how his father used to recite poetry at social gatherings, and later when he was captive in prison. The author has clearly inherited his father's gift.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

There were so many. Here is one from the beginning. When Matar went to boarding school in England, he went under a false name and a false background, as a Christian Egyptian. There he befriends a Libyan Muslim: it is only at the end of their schooling that he confesses his true identity to his friend.

Any additional comments?

The language here is so lovely, akin to reading poetry. And Matar gave me insights on how to observe art.

9 of 13 people found this review helpful

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A Moving Bio That Captured Me...

I didn't expect this book to move me like it did. I came away with a sincere love for the people of Libya and deeper understanding of their history. This all told, through the story of the Matar family. You will enjoy this greatly!