Inside “My Friends,” the Latest From Pulitzer Prize–Winning Author Hisham Matar

In the short time since its publication, “My Friends” has swept readers and critics off their feet.

Inside “My Friends,” the Latest From Pulitzer Prize–Winning Author Hisham Matar
The novel has been praised by many, including "American War" author Omar El Akkad, who called it "quite possibly Matar’s best work yet ... and that’s saying something."

"My Friends," the latest novel from the Pulitzer-wining author Hisham Matar, is a compelling exploration of the impact of exile that blends together historical fiction and cultural reflection.

The story follows a Libyan man named Khaled, who, after hearing a life-changing radio story in Benghazi, pursues an intellectual journey at the University of Edinburgh. The story unfolds from Khaled's teenage years in Benghazi to his adult life in England, marked by a fateful protest in front of the Libyan Embassy. When Khaled's trajectory is disrupted, the novel delves into his struggle to reconcile the longing for home with the fear of it. The narrative, which is set mostly during a walk in London, spans decades, portraying the profound power of friendship and the consequences of delayed action. “My Friends” ultimately celebrates the enduring influence of a few individuals on our lives, emphasizing the complexity of exile.

In the short time since its publication, “My Friends” has swept readers and critics off their feet. The Toronto Star effusively praised the novel, calling it, “Dazzling … a personal, deeply felt work … tightly structured and controlled, looping back and forth through time and memory, building on itself in a process of gradual expansion and revelation.” Meanwhile, The New York Times said in their review that “My Friends” is “a masterly literary meditation on [Matar’s] lifelong themes.”

Read the description of "My Friends" from its publisher, Penguin Random House:

A “masterly” (The New York Times, Editors’ Choice), “riveting” (The Atlantic) novel of friendship, family and the unthinkable realities of exile, from the Booker Prize–nominated and Pulitzer Prize–winning author of “The Return”
“A profound celebration of the sustaining power of friendship, of the ways we mold ourselves against the indentations of those few people whom fate presses against us.” — The Washington Post
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.

Born in New York City to Libyan parents, Hisham Matar spent his childhood in Tripoli and Cairo and has lived most of his adult life in London. His debut novel, “In the Country of Men,” was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and won numerous international prizes, including the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, a Commonwealth First Book Award, the Premio Flaiano and the Premio Gregor von Rezzori. His second novel, “Anatomy of a Disappearance,” published in 2011, was named one of the best books of the year by The Guardian and the Chicago Tribune. His work has been translated into 29 languages. He lives in London and New York.

“My Friends” published Jan. 9, 2024. Find your copy at your local bookstore or at the link below.

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