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My Friends: Book summary and reviews of My Friends by Hisham Matar

My Friends

A Novel

by Hisham Matar

My Friends by Hisham Matar X
My Friends by Hisham Matar
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  • Published Jan 2024
    416 pages
    Genre: Literary Fiction

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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Pulitzer winner Matar (for The Return, a memoir) presents a poised and poignant story of a Libyan dissident exiled in the United Kingdom during the Qaddafi era...Khaled's elegiac ruminations never throttle the suspense as the characters continuously risk their lives for Libyan liberation. This is both a melancholic examination of the horrors of repression and a powerful ode to the freedom of speech." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"This is a book about exile and violence and grief, but it is above all – as the title tells us – a study in friendship. Khaled loves his two friends, although he doesn't always like them. He observes their rivalries. He is hurt when they exclude him. He is often self-deluded, but the frankness with which he thinks, as he walks and remembers, about what they have meant to him, gives this quietly spoken book a slow-growing but impressive force. "Friends," says Hosam. "What a word. Most use it about those they hardly know. When it is a wondrous thing." —The Guardian, Lucy Hughes-Hallett

"The unassuming title of Hisham Matar's third novel conceals a sophisticated work that skillfully explores themes of human connection, exile, and return at the scale of both intimate relationships and world-altering historical events." - Shelf Awareness

"It is impossible to describe the profound depth and beauty of this book. My Friends is a breathtaking novel, every page a miracle and an affirmation. If there is a language of exile, My Friends is what it sounds like: exquisite and painful, compassionate and unflinching, and, above all, overwhelming in its boundless hope that within exile rests a path toward a different kind of return—one that leads us back to ourselves. Hisham Matar is one of our greatest writers. How lucky we are to be in his midst." —Maaza Mengiste, author of The Shadow King, shortlisted for the Booker Prize

"Hisham Matar's My Friends recounts an exile's life shattered by violence, yet sustained, fiercely if complicatedly, by friendship. An unforgettable novel—wise, urgent, and profound—from one of our era's great writers." —Claire Messud, author of The Emperor's Children

"My Friends is a brilliant novel about innocence and experience, about friendship, family, and exile. It makes clear, once more, that Hisham Matar is a supremely talented novelist." —Colm Tóibín, New York Times bestselling author of The Magician

"My Friends is Matar's most political novel, but also an intimate meditation on friendship and love and everything in between. It is deeply affecting, generous and wise, and all these virtues come in writing of extraordinary elegance, with one of those voices that you want to listen to for the rest of your life." —Juan Gabriel Vásquez, author of The Sound of Things Falling

"My Friends is quite possibly Hisham Matar's best work yet, and that's saying something. A quiet detonation of a novel, this masterful inquiry into the nature of friendship, exile and place is not so much to be read as lived through. The depth of thought, the unflinchingly honest confrontation with loss and longing, is there on every page, in every moment. Very few writers alive can converse with negative space the way Matar does, and My Friends is stunning, beautiful proof." —Omar El Akkad, author of American War

This information about My Friends was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Hisham Matar Author Biography

Photo: © Diana Matar

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...

... Full Biography
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Name Pronunciation
Hisham Matar: ma-TARR

Other books by Hisham Matar at BookBrowse
  • In the Country of Men jacket
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