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DubaiReader

DubaiReader

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A Child is Torn: Innocence Lost
Dawn Kopman Whidden

“I decided to work and survive.”

The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between - Hisham Matar

Having read both of Hisham Matar's novels, In the Country of Men (4*) and Anatomy of a Disappearance (4*), I approached his third book with enthusiasm. This one was somewhat different, however, being a memoir, mainly centred around Hisham's relationship with his father and his life-long battle to find out how his father died and when.

It has been over twenty years since anyone heard from, or saw, Jaballa Matar. He was abducted from his adopted home of Cairo and imprisoned in the notorious Abu Salim prison in Libya for many years, but then the trail went cold.

Based in London, Hisham has battled with authorities for all these years, writing hundreds of letters to the Libyan government, humanitarian organisations and other influential people all over the world. Yet closure seems no nearer.

 

Once the Qadaffi regime had fallen, Hisham, his mother and brother, make their way back to the country for the first time since their exile to Cairo. Hisham meets many of his relatives and friends of his father's. Some of these people may even have been saved from their incarceration by Hisham's continuous efforts, but Jaballa was presumably assumed to be the ring-leader, and was never released.

 

It's a distressing story and Hisham's lack of closure and yearning for his father is palpable, but it also rather repetitive and was not particularly well received by my book group. An interesting account and an eye-opener into Libya behind the scenes, but I enjoyed this less than his novels.