Month in Siena
Hisham Matar

Book cover image

Narrated By: Hisham Matar

Duration: 3 hours and 24 minutes

What to expect

Brought to you by Penguin.

Shortly after completing his searing work of non-fiction, The Return, Hisham Matar set off for Siena, a city he had never visited before. His plan was to see the paintings of the Sienese school, to immerse himself in the work of artists he admired perhaps above all others.

This month in Siena would be an extraordinary period in the life of this writer: an immersion in art, a consideration of grief and violence, an intimate encounter with the city and its inhabitants. Hisham Matar's short book is the story of how art can console and disturb in equal measure. It is a profoundly moving contemplation of the relationship between art and the human condition.

Genre

Memoirs, History of art, Travel writing

Listen to a sample

What a jewel this is, driven by desire, grief, yearning loss, illuminated by hope, the kindness of strangers continually making tribute to the delicacy and grace of the Arab home the author lost so many years ago

Peter Carey, The Australian, Books of the Year

Mingles insightful and often moving art history with frank personal recollection in a way that reminds us of the communality we share not only with our contemporaries, but with all historical epochs. I can think of no better expression of the humane than this economical, modest, yet altogether breathtaking book

New Statesman

A Month in Siena bears all the hallmarks of Matar's writing: it is exquisitely constructed and the use of language is precise and delicately nuanced without pretension. And there is a deceptive simplicity to his endeavour: to look at art. What emerges is an altogether more complex philosophical exploration of death, love, art, relationships and time

Financial Times

Everybody should get to spend a month with Mr. Matar, looking at paintings

Zadie Smith

A dazzling exploration of art's impact on his life and writing, and a moving contemplation of grief

Financial Times

A thing of beauty and wisdom

Monocle

An intensely moving book, at once an affirmation of life's quiet dignities in the face of loss and a portrait of a city that comes to stand for all cities

The Economist

This slim, beautifully produced book, sparkles with brilliant observations on art and architecture, friendship and loss. Matar's prose is exquisitely measured and precise - not unlike one of the paintings from the Sienese school that he has admired for so many years

PD Smith, Guardian

What interests him in this art is the human knowledge the painter is trying to convey. The description is exact and graceful, as Matar's prose tends to be

New York Times, 11 New Books We Recommend This Week

A deeply moving, engrossing book. Written in elegant, concise prose, it is a remarkable mediation on life, loss, mourning, exile, friendship and the power of art

Wall Street Journal

An exquisite, deeply affecting book

Evening Standard

Hisham Matar has the quality all historians - of the world and the self - most need: he knows how to stand back and let the past speak

Hilary Mantel

A fluid series of meditations on the big questions of life, on love, faith, time and on the nature and purpose of art, the influence of architecture and, most important of all to this author, grief, mourning and memory

Spectator

This book tells us much about the extraordinary power of art to inspire

Literary Review

Hisham Matar is a brilliant narrative architect and prose stylist, his pared-down approach and measured pace a striking complement to the emotional tumult of his material

Wall Street Journal

Bewitching . . . Meditating on art, history and the relationship between them, this is both a portrait of a city and an affirmation of life's quiet dignities in the face of loss