Hisham Matar wins PEN/Jean Stein Book Award

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Hisham Matar, winner of The Biographers’ Club Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize 2016, has won the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award for his memoir The Return at the PEN America Literary Awards.

The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between is an intensely personal tale of loss. Matar was nineteen when his father was kidnapped and taken to prison in Libya. He would never see him again. Twenty-two years later, after the fall of Gaddafi, he was finally able to return to his homeland for the first time. In this heartbreaking, illuminating memoir he describes his return to a country and a family he thought he would never see again.

On winning the prize, Matar said ‘every book arises from conversations with our culture and our history, but also with other books – at least for me in this case, with other paintings and buildings and cities and many individuals living and dead. By its very nature, its will for doubt and remembrance and complexity and expansion, literature can hinder the cruel oversimplifications required by every tyrannical gesture.’

If you haven’t read The Return, we highly recommend it. An extract is available on the PEN America website.


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