A conversation with Hisham Matar, Anton Shammas, and Khaled Mattawa.
Nuri is a young boy when his mother dies. It seems that nothing will fill the emptiness that her strange death leaves behind in the Cairo apartment he shares with his father.
When Nuri first sees Mona, sitting in her bright yellow swimsuit by the pool of the Magda Marina holiday resort, the rest of the world vanishes. But it is Nuri's father with whom Mona falls in love and who she will eventually marry. And their happiness consumes Nuri to the point where he longs to get his father out of the way. However, Nuri will soon regret what he wished for. And, as he and his stepmother's world is shattered by events beyond their control, they both begin to realise how little they really knew about the man they loved.
In a voice that is delicately wrought and beautifully tender, Hisham Matar asks, in his extraordinary new novel, when a loved one disappears how does their absence shape the lives of those who are left?
Hisham Matar was born in New York City to Libyan parents and spent his childhood first in Tripoli and then in Cairo. His first novel, In the Country of Men, was published in 2006 and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Guardian First Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award in the US. It won six international literary awards including the Commonwealth Writers' Prize Best First Book award for Europe and South Asia, the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, and the inaugural Arab American Book Award. It has been translated into twenty-eight languages. He lives in London.
Anton Shammas is professor of comparative literature, modern Middle Eastern literature, and Near Eastern studies at the University of Michigan. He is the author of three books of poetry (in Hebrew and Arabic); two plays; many essays in English, Hebrew and Arabic; and a novel, Arabesques, originally published in Hebrew (1986) and translated into eight languages.
Khaled Mattawa was born in Benghazi, Libya in 1964 and immigrated to the US in his teens. He is the author of three previous books of poetry, Ismailia Eclipse (Sheep Meadow, 1995), Zodiac of Echoes (Ausable, 2003), and Amorisco (Ausable, 2008). Mattawa has translated eight volumes of contemporary Arabic poetry and co-edited two anthologies of Arab American literature. He has received a Guggenheim fellowship, an NEA translation grant, the Alfred Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University, the PEN American Center Poetry Translation Prize, and three Pushcart Prizes. Mattawa teaches in the MFA (Creative Writing) Program at the University of Michigan.