Hisham Matar Biography
Hisham Matar was born in 1970 in New York City where his father, Jaballa
Matar, worked for the Libyan delegation to the United Nations. When
he was three years old, his family returned to Tripoli, Libya where he spent his
early childhood until political persecution forced his mother to flee with the
children first to Kenya and then to Egypt, where they settled in Cairo and
Hisham and his brother Ziad attended a school with 70 pupils per classroom (the
only school they could afford). Later, Hisham's father managed to get out of
Libya and join them.
In Cairo, Hisham's father began his political work in earnest: writing against
the Libyan regime and mobilizing the various factions of the exiled Libyan
resistance to unite in order to overthrow the regime. In 1986, Hisham moved to
London, England where he received a degree in architecture. In 1990, while
Hisham and his brother were both in London, their father was taken away by the
Egyptian secret police.
The family heard nothing until 1996 when they received two smuggled letters in
Jaballa's hand, written a year earlier, and a tape recording stating that he had
been kidnapped by the Egyptian secret police and handed over to the Libyan
regime where he was imprisoned in the notorious Abu-Salim prison in Tripoli.
Since then, nobody has heard from him.
Hisham Matar's first novel, In the Country of Men, was shortlisted for a
number of literary prizes including the 2006 Man Booker Prize, and won the 2007
Commonwealth First Book Award for Europe and South Asia, the 2007 Royal Society
of Literature Ondaatje Prize, the Italian Premio Vallombrosa Gregor von Rezzori,
the Italian Premio Internazionale Flaiano (Sezione Letteratura) and the
inaugural Arab American National Museum Book Award. To date, In the Country
of Men has been translated into 22 languages. Matar is also the author of a novel, Anatomy of a Disappearance. Hisham Matar lives in
Read Hisham Matar's story in his own words at
This biography was last updated on 08/11/2011.
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