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The Return is a memoir by Hisham Matar that was first published in June 2016.[4] The memoir centers on Matar's return to his native Libya in 2012 to search for the truth behind the 1990 disappearance of his father, a prominent political dissident of the Gaddafi regime.[1] It won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography,[5] the inaugural 2017 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award[6] and the 2017 Folio Prize, becoming the first nonfiction book to do so.[7]

The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between
Cover of The Return, memoir by Hisham Matar.jpg
AuthorHisham Matar
CountryUnited States
Publication date
June 2016
Media typePrint (hardback and paperback), e-book, audiobook[3]
ISBN978-0-670-92333-5 (Hardcover)


In 1990, Hisham Matar's father, a prominent critic of Muammar Gaddafi's dictatorship, was kidnapped by Gaddafi's agents and imprisoned in Libya. Matar never saw his father after that. The memoir follows Matar's return to Libya in 2012, following Gaddafi's death, to find out what happened to his father.[1][8]


Critical responseEdit

The Return was critically acclaimed.[7] It was named as one of the 10 best books of 2016 by the editors of The New York Times Book Review[9] and The Washington Post.[10] Writing for The Guardian, writers Julian Barnes, Alan Hollinghurst, Blake Morrison, Rupert Thomson, Lucy Hughes-Hallett and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie named The Return as one of their favorite books of 2016, with Adichie noting that it "moved [her] to tears and taught [her] about love and home."[11][12] Writing for The New York Times, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Michiko Kakutani selected the book as one of her top 10 books of 2016, describing it as part "detective story", part "story of exile" and part "story of what's happened in Libya and the Middle East."[13]


The Return won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography[5] and the 2017 Folio Prize, becoming the first nonfiction book to do so.[7] It also won the inaugural 2017 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award[6] and the 2016 Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize.[4] The memoir was a finalist for the 2016 Baillie Gifford Prize,[14] 2016 Costa Biography Award,[15] 2017 National Book Critics Circle Award[16] and 2017 Los Angeles Times Book Prize.[17]


  1. ^ a b c "The Return - Kirkus Review". Kirkus Reviews. April 18, 2016. Retrieved June 25, 2017.
  2. ^ Cooke, Rachel (July 3, 2016). "The Return by Hisham Matar – exquisite pain of a fatherless son". The Guardian.
  3. ^ "The Return (official publisher's page)". Penguin Books. Retrieved June 26, 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize 2016: The Winner". Slightly Foxed. Retrieved June 26, 2017.
  5. ^ a b "2017 Pulitzer Prize winners". The Washington Post. April 10, 2017.
  6. ^ a b Maher, John (March 27, 2017). "At PEN Awards, A Scaled-Up Atmosphere and Political Bent". Publishers Weekly.
  7. ^ a b c Kean, Danuta (May 24, 2017). "Folio prize goes to Hisham Matar's memoir The Return". The Guardian.
  8. ^ Creswell, Robyn (July 5, 2016). "Libya's Prisons Were Emptying. But Hisham Matar's Father Was Nowhere to Be Found". The New York Times.
  9. ^ Editors of The New York Times Book Review (December 1, 2016). "The 10 Best Books of 2016". The New York Times.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  10. ^ Book World Reviewers (November 17, 2016). "The 10 Best Books of 2016". The Washington Post.
  11. ^ "Best books of 2016 – part one". The Guardian. November 26, 2016. Retrieved June 26, 2017.
  12. ^ "Best books of 2016 – part two". The Guardian. November 27, 2016. Retrieved June 26, 2017.
  13. ^ Kakutani, Michiko; Garner, Dwight; Senior, Jennifer; Maslin, Janet (December 14, 2016). "Times Critics' Top Books of 2016". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Flood, Alison; Cain, Sian (November 15, 2016). "Philippe Sands wins the 2016 Baillie Gifford prize for nonfiction". The Guardian.
  15. ^ Cain, Sian (November 22, 2016). "Costa book award 2016 shortlists dominated by female writers". The Guardian.
  16. ^ Charles, Ron (January 17, 2017). "Finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Awards". The Washington Post.
  17. ^ Schaub, Michael (February 22, 2017). "L.A. Times Book Prize finalists include Zadie Smith and Rep. John Lewis; Thomas McGuane will be honored". Los Angeles Times.

External linksEdit