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The High School Student News Site of The American School in London

The Standard

Hisham Matar gives talk at ASL

On March 25, writer Hisham Matar came to the school to speak about his work, artists and writers he enjoys, and appreciating art today. Around 30 members of the community, ranging from students to faculty, parents and administrators attended the talk.

“I came to share some ideas about how I see art and literature. [I also came to] read from my own work and say something about how these books have started and how they’ve occupied me for the past years,” Matar said.

Matar has published two books,called In the Country of Men and Anatomy of a Disappearance. His debut book, In the Country of Men was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award and Man Booker Prize in 2006. Matar also contributes to The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Economist and The Guardian.

Leila Ben Halim (’15) organized the event with Director of Academic Advising and College Counseling Patty Strohm with English Teacher Peggy Elhadj assisting.

“I organized [the event] because there’s no outlet for Middle Eastern writing and I don’t think there’s a huge spotlight on Middle East writing. I think a lot of the focus centered to the Middle East is focused on extremism and violence and aggression and I don’t think there’s a developed appreciation for how rich Arab writing is and I wanted to bring attention to it,” Ben Halim said.

Matar aimed for a genuine and spontaneous lecture. “I [came] here to improvise and speak as clearly and as authentically as I can about the things that are difficult to describe. It’s very difficult to describe what art is or what literature is,” Matar said.

Likewise, because of the smaller audience, Matar believed the talk had a more intimate feeling.  “They seemed present. They seemed like they wanted to be there,” he said.

While Matar spoke of relevant global topics and also touched upon subjects more relatable to ASL and international communities like it. “He talked a little bit about self identity and obviously that’s relevant to a place at ASL where people come from a million different places and don’t know how to identify themselves,” Ben Halim said.

Matar hopes to publish a book called “The Return” describing what his experience when he and his family visited Libya, the place where he lived during his childhood. The book expands on an article Matar wrote for The New Yorker in the April 8, 2013 issue with the same name.

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