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92Y's Read By

Apr 25, 2020

Hisham Matar on his selection:

In 2016, when I finished writing my book, The Return, which chronicles my return to Libya after 33 years of not being able to go there for political reasons, and my failed search for my father, a Libyan political dissident who was imprisoned and made to disappear by the Qaddafi dictatorship, I went to Siena. I spent a month in that Tuscan city looking at paintings from the Sienese School, which covers the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries. These paintings have interested me ever since I had first encountered them at the National Gallery in London, some quarter of a century before, when I was nineteen, the year my father was abducted. The time spent in Siena produced my latest book, A Month in Siena, which is a record of my looking at the paintings, but also a mediation on loss, love, intimacy and art. It is also a book about solitude and its surprises. I wanted to read to you from a section that expresses this as well as the joys of the accidental social encounter. In a time where we are isolated and told, for good reasons, to be wary of the possibility of being contaminated by one another, I thought it fitting to share with you some of those common old joys of spontaneous and unexpected human encounters. And finally, because we are barred from travel, I wanted to take you away, to go travelling in the imagination together.  

A Month in Siena at IndieBound

Music: "Shift of Currents" by Blue Dot Sessions // CC BY-NC 2.0