Hisham Matar, The Weiss International Fellow in Literature and the Arts & Adjunct Associate Professor in the English Department, has written an article in The Guardian on his relationship with Arabic and English, and the power of language.
"Language is translation. Each word we use stands for something but can never be that thing. And like all translation, language is compromised and propelled and made more wondrous by its unreliability, its shifting nuances, its shadows and half-suggestions, all the gaps where we might find ourselves," the essay reads. "The secret plea is for directness, for a true mother tongue, a language before language, one that can go straight to the heart of things, that can capture the quickest, most nebulous and fleeting thought or emotion."
Hisham Matar was born in New York City to Libyan parents and spent his childhood first in Tripoli and then in Cairo. He writes in English. His first novel, In the Country of Men (2006), was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, The Guardian's First Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. It won six international literary awards including a Commonwealth Writers' Prize Best First Book award, the Royal Society of Literature's Ondaatje Prize, and the inaugural Arab American Book Award. His second novel,Anatomy of a Disappearance (2011), was shortlisted for the Encore Award, The Arab American Book Award, and was named one of the best books of the year by the Chicago Tribune, The Daily Beast, The Independent, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, Toronto Sun, and the Irish Times. His novels have been translated to twenty-eight languages.