Curing Oneself of One's (Father)Land Nosto/Patriography in "The Return: Fathers, Sons, and the Land in Between" by Hisham Matar

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Robert Kusek


In 2012, the acclaimed novelist Hisham Matar returned to his native Libya after a hiatus of over thirty years so as to learn about the fate of his father—an anti-Gaddafi political dissident who in 1979 took his family into exile and who only a decade later was kidnapped and imprisoned by the Libyan regime. However, the search for the writer’s father turned out to be something more than just a fact-finding inquiry into what had happened to Jaballa Matar. It metamorphosed into a profoundly auto/biographical project in which he investigated not only the father-son relationship but also his “expatriate” position with regard to his fatherland. Moreover, the whole experience resulted in Matar completing and publishing an account of his father/home-search entitled "The Return: Fathers, Sons, and the Land in Between" (2016). The aim of this paper is to discuss Matar’s "The Return" as a specimen of nosto- and patriography. The memoir will be analysed with reference to two narrative categories mentioned above (namely a narrative about one’s homecoming [nostos narrative] and about the father-son relationship [patriography]) and their specific poetics developed and formulated by the micro-genres’ prominent theorists. The paper will also address an issue which appears to be particularly pertinent both to the auto/biographical self and to the book’s readers: the “success” at both homecoming and overcoming grief.


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Author Biography

Robert Kusek, Institute of English Studies, Jagiellonian University, Poland

Robert Kusek, Assistant Professor, Department of Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture, Institute of English Studies, Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland. His research interests include life writing genres, the contemporary novel in English, poetics of memory and loss, queer heritage, as well as a comparative approach to literary studies. He is the author of two monographs, including Through the Looking Glass: Writers’ Memoirs at the Turn of the 21st Century (Jagiellonian University Press, 2017), and several dozen articles published in books, academic journals, and magazines, as well as co-editor of fourteen volumes of articles, most notably Travelling Texts: J.M. Coetzee and Other Writers (Peter Lang, 2014).