PRH acquires new novel from Pulitzer-winner Hisham Matar

Penguin Random House imprints in the US, UK and Canada including the Viking have bought the new novel “My Friends” by Hisham Matar, the US-born, British-Libyan writer whose memoir The Return, about the search for his father, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2017.

The synopsis for his new novel reads: “Khaled and Mustafa meet at university in Edinburgh: they are two Libyan 18-year-olds expecting to return home after their studies. In a moment of recklessness and courage, they travel to London to join a demonstration in front of the Libyan Embassy. Government officials open fire, killing a policewoman and wounding eleven Libyan demonstrators. Both friends are critically injured and their lives are forever changed.

“Over the years that follow, Khaled, Mustafa and their friend Hosam, a writer, are bound together by their shared history. If friendship is a space to inhabit, theirs becomes small and inhospitable when a revolution in Libya forces them to choose between the lives they have created in London and the lives they left behind.”

US rights were sold to Andy Ward at Random House and Canadian rights to Nicole Winstanley and David Ross at Penguin Canada by Zoë Pagnamenta at her eponymous agency in New York.  Isabel Wall, editorial director, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights in an exclusive submission from Georgia Garrett at Rogers, Coleridge and White.

Wall commented: “Nobody writes like Hisham Matar. My Friends is the story of three friends suspended between their past and future selves, told with intense emotional and philosophical power. This is an indelible novel about love and friendship pressing against the confining limits of history itself.”

Matar added: “This is a book I have been thinking about since the Arab Spring of 2011. Or so I thought until I recently discovered a note, written on the back of an envelope from 2003, where I had scribbled an idea for a book about friends in exile and the emotional country that certain deep friendships can provide. It is a book about how people end up where they end up, and how often that seems to be determined as much by ideology or politics as by personal temperament. It is a book told across a walk, from St Pancras to Shepherd’s Bush, and therefore as well as being the story of these Libyan exiles, it is also a book about London.”

Born in New York City to Libyan parents, Hisham 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 Disappearancewas published to great acclaim in 2011.

His prize-winning memoir The Return was published in 2016 and was the recipient of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, the PEN/Jean Stein Award, the Prix du Livre Etranger Inter & Le Journal du Dimanche, the Rathbones Folio Prize, The Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize 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 thirty languages.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and Associate Professor of Professional Practice in Comparative Literature, Asia & Middle East Cultures, and English at Barnard College, Columbia University.