art & exhibitions
literature & poetry

Hisham Matar in Conversation

Part of Kader Attia: The Museum of Emotion

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Return reflects on the abiding themes of his writing life, from memory and family to war and repair, in conversation with writer, journalist and critic Boyd Tonkin.

Renowned for his distinctive and evocative writing, Hisham Matar bears witness through his work to both the trauma of loss and exile and consolation of love, art and our collective humanity.

In this collaboration with Hayward Gallery, Matar discusses his work in relation to acclaimed artist Kader Attia, who over the past 20 years has set out to create artworks that engage our capacity for thinking as well as feeling, and whose first major UK solo exhibition, The Museum of Emotion, opened at Hayward Gallery in February.

Born in New York City to Libyan parents, 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 Guardian First Book Award, and won numerous international prizes, including the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and a Commonwealth First Book Award. His second novel, Anatomy of a Disappearance, was published to great acclaim in 2011.

His memoir, The Return, was published in 2016 and was the recipient of awards including the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, the PEN/Jean Stein Award and Germany’s Geschwister Scholl Prize. It was one of the New York Times top 10 books of the year. Matar’s work has been translated into 30 languages.

Tonkin re-founded the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2001, co-judging and steering it until 2015, when it merged with the Man Booker International Prize. Tonkin is Special Adviser to the Man Booker International Prize, which he chaired in 2016.

He writes on books and arts for international media including The Economist, New Scientist and The Spectator. His critical guide to global fiction, The 100 Best Novels in Translation, appeared in summer 2018 and was praised by Ian McEwan as ‘a brilliant and extremely useful guide’.

Dates & times

This event has passed.


Purcell Room


Booking fee: £3.00 (Members £0.00)


25% off (limited availability)
Find out more about our Concessions policy

need to know

*Please note, the date of this event has changed from that previously advertised.

Age recommendation
For ages 16+

Related events
Visit Kader Attia: The Museum of Emotion, now open at Hayward Gallery, to consider the artist’s work in relation to Hisham Matar’s writing.
Find out more