A personal reading by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Hisham Matar from his new book, A Month in Siena, a record of looking at paintings from the Sienese School, but also a meditation on loss, love, intimacy and art.
“The Sienese School, which sits between the waning influence of the eastern church and before that fabulous activity which we call the Renaissance, was dramatically altered by the 1348 plague, the Black Death. The chapter I will read from, titled ’The Problem with Faith’, looks at how that pandemic changed not only human society, but the imagination itself. Its traces can be perceived even today, perhaps more lucidly during these difficult days of Covid-19.” – Hisham Matar
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 Disappearance, was published to great acclaim in 2011. His 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 most recent work, A Month in Siena, is an intimate exploration of grief, art and human intimacy, written in the time after finishing The Return but before its release. Published in late 2019, it has garnered widespread critical acclaim, and was named a book of the year by numerous publications, including The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, the New Statesman and the Financial Times.
Matar’s work has been translated into thirty languages. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and Professor in English, Comparative Literature, and Asia & Middle East Cultures departments at Barnard College, Columbia University.