Writing Libya

Sala Ciampi, Villa Blanc, 22/06/2023

22 June 2023, 18.30-20.00 CET

School of Government, Luiss Guido Carli, 

Villa Blanc, Via Nomentana, 216, Rome RM

How do Libya’s writers capture its realities, past and present? Join two of Libya’s most distinguished literary figures – poet Khaled Mattawa and novelist Mohammed Alnaas – for a conversation exploring how the country’s writers grapple with memory, contested narratives and censorship. Coming from different generations, the two speakers will examine the current state of Libyan literature and discuss how it may evolve in future.

Libya has produced several internationally renowned writers, including Pulitzer Prize winner Hisham Matar, yet its literary scene is still dealing with the legacy of Gaddafi’s 42 years in power. During the Gaddafi regime, novelists and poets were often targeted as subversives. Several were imprisoned or exiled. Since Gaddafi’s overthrow in 2011, a new generation has emerged. Often keen to push boundaries in their work, some of these younger writers have faced censure and intimidation as a result.

Conversations about Libya are too often reductive, with the complexities of the country and its people viewed through a narrow geopolitical or security lens. Libyan writers have long told their country’s stories through novels and poetry, offering a deeper perspective on its past, present and future. By bringing together two prominent Libyan writers, this event aims to encourage the beginning of a very different conversation about Libya.


Prof. Virginie Collombier, Scientific Coordinator – Mediterranean Platform, Luiss School of Government

Prof. Francesca Maria Corrao, Professor of Arab Language and Culture at the Department of Political Sciences, Luiss Guido Carli (online)


Mary Fitzgerald, Non-Resident Scholar at the Middle East Institute and Associate Researcher at the Mediterranean Platform, Luiss School of Government


Khaled Mattawa

Born and raised in Benghazi, Libya’s second city, poet Khaled Mattawa relocated to the United States as a teenager in 1979. His poetry frequently explores the intersection of culture, narrative, and memory. Mattawa’s most recent collection, Mare Nostrum, was inspired by migrants’ journeys from Libya to Europe. His work has been recognised by several honours including a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, the Alfred Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University, and a MacArthur fellowship. He is co-founder of the Arete Foundation which aims to promote arts and culture in Libya, particularly among the younger generation.

Mohammed Alnaas

Born in the Tripoli suburb of Tajoura in 1991, Alnaas won the 2022 IPAF, most prestigious literary prize in the Arab world, for his debut novel, Bread on Uncle Milad’s Table.  He is the first Libyan to win the IPAF and the youngest ever winner. His ground-breaking novel depicts the life of a husband who abandons traditional gender roles to stay at home and maintain the household while his wife is in paid employment. Alnaas is a regular contributor to Arab and international media outlets where he writes essays reflecting on post-Gaddafi Libya.