Shortly after completing his searing work of non-fiction, The Return, Hisham Matar set off for Siena, a city he had never visited before. His plan was to see the paintings of the Sienese school, to immerse himself in the work of artists he admired perhaps above all others.
This month in Siena would be an extraordinary period in the life of this writer- an immersion in art, a consideration of grief and violence, an intimate encounter with the city and its inhabitants. Hisham Matar's short book is the story of how art can console and disturb in equal measure. It is a profoundly moving contemplation of the relationship between art and the human condition.
Hisham Matar was born in New York City to Libyan parents and spent his childhood first in Tripoli and then in Cairo. He is the author of two novels, In the Country of Men and Anatomy of a Disappearance, and a work of non-fiction, The Return. In the Country of Men was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Guardian First Book Award and the National Critics Book Circle Award in the US and won six international literary awards. The Return won a Pulitzer Prize, the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, the Folio Prize and was shortlisted for many other awards including the Baillie Gifford Prize. Hisham Matar lives in London.
Bewitching . . . Meditating on art, history and the relationship between them, this is both a portrait of a city and an affirmation of life's quiet dignities in the face of loss The Economist, Books of the Year Everybody should get to spend a month with Mr. Matar, looking at paintings Zadie Smith An exquisite, deeply affecting book Evening Standard A dazzling exploration of art's impact on his life and writing, and a moving contemplation of grief Financial Times A thing of beauty and wisdom Monocle Hisham Matar has the quality all historians - of the world and the self - most need: he knows how to stand back and let the past speak Hilary Mantel A deeply moving, engrossing book. Written in elegant, concise prose, it is a remarkable mediation on life, loss, mourning, exile, friendship and the power of art Wall Street Journal A Month in Siena bears all the hallmarks of Matar's writing: it is exquisitely constructed and the use of language is precise and delicately nuanced without pretension. And there is a deceptive simplicity to his endeavour: to look at art. What emerges is an altogether more complex philosophical exploration of death, love, art, relationships and time Financial Times What interests him in this art is the human knowledge the painter is trying to convey. The description is exact and graceful, as Matar's prose tends to be New York Times, 11 New Books We Recommend This Week Hisham Matar is a brilliant narrative architect and prose stylist, his pared-down approach and measured pace a striking complement to the emotional tumult of his material Wall Street Journal Mingles insightful and often moving art history with frank personal recollection in a way that reminds us of the communality we share not only with our contemporaries, but with all historical epochs. I can think of no better expression of the humane than this economical, modest, yet altogether breathtaking book New Statesman A fluid series of meditations on the big questions of life, on love, faith, time and on the nature and purpose of art, the influence of architecture and, most important of all to this author, grief, mourning and memory Spectator What a jewel this is, driven by desire, grief, yearning loss, illuminated by hope, the kindness of strangers continually making tribute to the delicacy and grace of the Arab home the author lost so many years ago Peter Carey, The Australian, Books of the Year This book tells us much about the extraordinary power of art to inspire Literary Review This slim, beautifully produced book, sparkles with brilliant observations on art and architecture, friendship and loss. Matar's prose is exquisitely measured and precise - not unlike one of the paintings from the Sienese school that he has admired for so many years PD Smith, Guardian An intensely moving book, at once an affirmation of life's quiet dignities in the face of loss and a portrait of a city that comes to stand for all cities The Economist
An intensely moving book, at once an affirmation of life's quiet dignities in the face of loss and a portrait of a city that comes to stand for all cities
A moving reflection on the intersection of life and art, from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Return .
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