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The Illusion of Return by Samir El-Youssef
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's review
Jan 22, 2011

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Intimate and touching, El-Youseff's book is about a Palestinian emigre in London looking back on an intense period of his life in Lebanon where he grew up. A brief Heathrow rendez-vous with an old friend, now 'exiled' as a 'collaborator' in the USA, is the book's fulcrum as the narrator recounts how the events transpired leading up to a final night of four friends together for a last time before the dramatic circumstances of 1980s Lebanon catch up with them all.

As the story unfolds it becomes clear that the narrator has kept a family secret from the world all these years. The situation of the Palestinian refugees is the backdrop to an expose of the hypocrisy encountered behind 'the movement'-led resistance. The illusion of return in the title is the realisation the author comes to that there is no chance of any return but a symbolic one. For him, when a people has nothing to dream of or aspire to it will resort to a collective living in the past, as if that memory will succour them indefinitely. Sensitively written, this book is an interesting and original approach to the subject.

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