Full text of speech: https://granta.com/the-guests/

Edward W. Said remained, for over forty years, concerned with Conrad. A fascinating conversation emerges between the two men’s work, one concerned with aesthetics, displacement and empire, and sheds an interesting light on the present moment.

The Fall 2018 Edward W. Said Memorial Lecture was given by Hisham Matar. Matar is the author of two novels and a memoir. The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between (2016) won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Autobiography, the PEN America Book of the Year Award, and the Rathbones Folio Prize.

The memoir tells of his father’s kidnapping when Matar was 19 and studying in London: one of the Qaddafi regime’s most prominent opponents in exile, his father was held in a secret prison in Libya and Hisham would never see him again. And yet The Return is an uplifting memoir; Matar recounts his journey home to Libya in search of the truth behind his father’s disappearance; he never gave up hope that his father might still be alive. “Hope,” as he writes, “is cunning and persistent.”

Matar’s debut novel, In the Country of Men (2008), won the inaugural Arab American Book Award and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; it also won numerous international prizes, including the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, a Commonwealth First Book Award, the Premio Flaiano and Premio Gregor von Rezzori. His second novel, Anatomy of a Disappearance (2011), was named one of the best books of the year by The Guardian and the Chicago Tribune. Matar’s novels have been translated to twenty-eight languages. Hisham Matar was born in New York City to Libyan parents and spent his childhood first in Tripoli and then in Cairo. He has lived most of his adult life in London and now divides his time between London and New York City where he serves as associate professor at Barnard College.

The Edward W. Said Memorial Lecture is given once a year in honor of the public intellectual and literary critic, Edward W. Said, who taught in the English & Comparative Literature Department at Columbia from 1963 until 2003, and who was a member of the board of guarantors at the Italian Academy. Professor Said was perhaps best known for his books Orientalism, published in 1978, and Culture and Imperialism, published in 1993, both of which made major contributions to the field of cultural and postcolonial studies. The Annual Edward W. Said Memorial Lecture pays tribute to Professor Said by bringing to Columbia speakers who embody his beliefs and the legacy of his work.

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