Every country in Africa has its perculiar story on how literature has developed over the years, and as far as there is the gift of language, there is literature. Writing can be harnessed for proper documentaion and the preservation of history and culture, it can also be adopted to foster social interraction and entertainment. Meanwhile, there are generations of writers that have made it possible for the development of the art. A child of the 70s, Hisham Matar is a Libyan writer. His debut novel In the Country of Men was shortlisted for the 2006 Man Booker Prize. Matar’s essays have appeared in the Asharq Alawsat, The Independent, The Guardian, The Times and The New York Times. His second novel, Anatomy of a Disappearance, was published on 3 March 2011. He currently lives and writes in London. Hisham Matar was born in New York City. He spent his childhood in America with his Libyan parents while his father, Jaballa Matar, was working for the Libyan delegation to the United Nations. When he was three years old, his family went back to Tripoli, Libya, where he spent his early childhood. Due to political persecutions by the Gaddafi regime, in 1979 his father was accused of being a reactionary to the Libyan revolutionary regime and was forced to flee the country with his family. They lived in exile in Egypt where Hisham and his brother completed their schooling in Cairo. In 1986 Matar moved to London where he continued his studies and received a degree in architecture. Also in London he completed the MA in Design Futures at Goldsmiths, University of London. In 1990, while Matar was in London, his father Jaballa, a political dissident, was kidnapped in Cairo. He has been reported missing ever since. However, in 1996, the family received two letters in his father's handwriting stating that he had been kidnapped by the Egyptian secret police, handed over to the Libyan regime, and imprisoned in the notorious Abu Salim prison in the heart of Tripoli. Since that date, there has been little information about Jaballa Matar's whereabouts. In 2010 Hisham Matar reported that he had received news that his father had been seen alive in 2002, indicating that Jaballa had survived a 1996 massacre of 1200 political prisoners by the Libyan authorities. In March 1990, Egyptian secret service agents abducted my father from his home in Cairo. For the first two years they led us to believe that he was being held in Egypt, and told us to keep quiet or else they could not guarantee his safety. In 1992 my father managed to smuggle out a letter. A few months later my mother held it in her hand. His careful handwriting curled tightly on to itself to fit as many words as possible on the single A4 sheet of paper. Words with hardly a space between, above or beneath them. No margins, they run to the brink. Matar began writing his first novel, In the Country of Men, in early 2000. In the autumn of 2005, the publishers Penguin International signed him to a two-book deal. In the Country of Men was published in July 2006 and has been translated into 22 languages. In 2008 Matar became the Mary Amelia Cummins Harvey Visiting Fellow Commoner at Girton College at the University of Cambridge. He is currently a writer-in-residence for the charity First Story. Matar's second novel, Anatomy of a Disappearance, contains a character whose father is taken away by the authorities; while Matar acknowledges the relation to his own father's disappearance, he has stated that the novel is not autobiographical. In the Country of Men received accolades from writers including J. M. Coetzee, Anne Michaels and Nadeem Aslam. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award 2006. The book won the 2007 Commonwealth Writers' Prize Best 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 Book Award. "In the Country of Men" has been translated into 22 languages. Matar's short story, "Naima", was included in The Pen/O. Henry Prize Short Stories, The Best Stories of the Year, 2012 collection of short stories, which, as a quote by The Atlantic Monthly reads on its cover, is "Widely regarded as the nation's most prestigious awards for short fiction." Written by: Azeez Sanusi
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