Literati is pleased to welcome Pulitzer Prize winning author Hisham Matar in celebration of his new book, My Friends. He will be joined in conversation by writer and UM faculty member Anton Shammas.
A luminous novel of friendship, family, and the unthinkable realities of exile, from the Booker Prize–nominated and Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Return
One evening, as a young boy growing up in Benghazi, Khaled hears a bizarre short story read aloud on the radio, about a man being eaten alive by a cat, and has the sense that his life has been changed forever. Obsessed by the power of those words—and by their enigmatic author, Hosam Zowa—Khaled eventually embarks on a journey that will take him far from home, to pursue a life of the mind at the University of Edinburgh.
There, thrust into an open society that is miles away from the world he knew in Libya, Khaled begins to change. He attends a protest against the Qaddafi regime in London, only to watch it explode into tragedy. In a flash, Khaled finds himself injured, clinging to life, unable to leave Britain, much less return to the country of his birth. To even tell his mother and father back home what he has done, on tapped phone lines, would expose them to danger.
When a chance encounter in a hotel brings Khaled face-to-face with Hosam Zowa, the author of the fateful short story, he is subsumed into the deepest friendship of his life. It is a friendship that not only sustains him but eventually forces him, as the Arab Spring erupts, to confront agonizing tensions between revolution and safety, family and exile, and how to define his own sense of self against those closest to him.
A devastating meditation on friendship and family, and the ways in which time tests—and frays—those bonds, My Friends is an achingly beautiful work of literature by an author working at the peak of his powers.
Hisham Matar was born in New York City to Libyan parents, spent his childhood in Tripoli and Cairo, and has lived most of his life in London. His memoir The Return was the recipient of many awards, including the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, and the Rathbones Folio Prize. It was also shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize, the Costa Biography Award, and a National Book Critics Circle Award. Matar is also the author of the novels In the Country of Men, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and Anatomy of a Disappearance. His most recent book is A Month in Siena. Matar is a professor at Barnard College and Columbia University, and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and an honorary fellow of the Royal Academy of Arts. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages.