Published February 2008
Length 160 pages
The Illusion of Return
Meeting a friend after many years’ separation, the narrator wonders whether the events they both lived through in Lebanon really took place. Time and distance give a sense of unreality but when the narrator and Ali meet at Heathrow Airport, after seventeen years, the past slowly begins to unfold.
Like so many other Palestinians who were born in the Lebanon, they had to leave in the mid-1980s, when it became a battlefield for different militias and armies – Lebanese, Palestinian, Israeli and Syrian. Ali leaves for America and, two years later, the narrator leaves for London.
Their memories are concentrated on one fatal night when they and two other friends are together for the last time, before tragedy strikes. But for the narrator, a personal tragedy had struck much earlier, one which he would never forget and could not share.
About Samir El-Youssef
Samir El-Youssef, a Palestinian, was born in Rashidia, a refugee camp in Lebanon and has lived in London since 1990. His collection of stories, Gaza Blues, co-authored with the Israeli writer Etgar Keret, received wide acclaim and has been translated into several languages. The Illusion of Return is his first novel in English.
His essays and reviews have appeared in various publications including Guardian, Al-Hayat, New Statesman, Nizwa, Jewish Quarterly and The Washington Post, amongst others. Samir El-Youssef is also a peace campaigner and in 2005 won the Tucholsky Award for promoting the cause of peace and freedom of speech in the Middle East.