Return: A Palestinian Memoir (Paperback)
An extraordinary memoir of exile and the impossibility of finding home, from the author of In Search of Fatima
“The journey filled me with bitterness and grief. I remember looking down on a nighttime Tel Aviv from the windows of a place taking me back to London and thinking hopelessly, ‘flotsam and jetsam, that’s what we’ve become, scattered and divided. There’s no room for us or our memories here. And it won’t be reversed.’”
Having grown up in Britain following her family’s exile from Palestine, doctor, author and academic Ghada Karmi leaves her adoptive home in a quest to return to her homeland. She starts work with the Palestinian Authority and gets a firsthand understanding of its bizarre bureaucracy under Israel’s occupation.
In her quest, she takes the reader on a fascinating journey into the heart of one of the world’s most intractable conflict zones and one of the major issues of our time. Visiting places she has not seen since childhood, her unique insights reveal a militarised and barely recognisable homeland, and her home in Jerusalem, like much of the West Bank, occupied by strangers. Her encounters with politicians, fellow Palestinians, and Israeli soldiers cause her to question what role exiles like her have in the future of their country and whether return is truly possible.
About the Author
Ghada Karmi was born in Jerusalem and trained as a doctor of medicine at Bristol University. She established the first British-Palestinian medical charity in 1972 and was an Associate Fellow at the Royal Institute for International Affairs. Her previous books include Jerusalem Today: What Future for the Peace Process?, The Palestinian Exodus 1948-1998 (with Eugene Cotran), Married to Another Man: Israel's Dilemma in Palestine, and the best-selling In Search of Fatima. She writes frequently for the Guardian and the Nation.
“A hauntingly written, remorselessly honest, and surely long lasting account of Palestinian loss and struggle.”
—Donald MacIntyre, Independent
“Eloquent and moving.”
—David Shulman, New York Review of Books
“This moving memoir takes us to the heart of a conflict that must be resolved if we are to have a peaceful and viable world; Karmi gives us a valuable insight into the impasse in which the Palestinian people find themselves and enables us to experience the anomaly of their situation.”
—Karen Armstrong, author of Fields of Blood
“Personal, warm and accessible, Return describes a life trajectory that captures the story of modern Palestine in a most unique and sensitive way. Beautifully written, it brings to the fore the human being behind the colonized, occupied and fragmented realities of present-day Israel and Palestine. It is an individual journey into the heart of the occupation’s darkness, where people, and not abstract ideas, are struggling with the impossibility of leading a normal life, or any life at all.”
—Ilan Pappe, author of The Idea of Israel
“Ghada Karmi is versatile, cosmopolitan and highly intelligent, and comes across as both self-absorbed and deeply committed to the struggle for Palestinian rights. In Search of Fatima was a beautifully written and moving narrative of her displacement from Jerusalem in 1948 set against the backdrop of the major political events that shaped the course of modern Palestinian history. Return is both a sequel and a stand-alone memoir. On display is the same fluent writing style, the psychological insight and the outstanding skill for mixing the personal with the political.”
—Avi Shlaim, Guardian
“A haunting account of a Palestinian’s sense of loss.”
“Karmi’s strength is to focus on her personal story. Some of the best chapters in her book relate to her visit to Amman to see her centenarian father … She describes astutely how the Palestinians in Jordan have distanced themselves psychically from their brethren under Israeli occupation, as if their depredations had made Jordan’s Palestinians decide ‘they wanted no part of that misery’ … The sheer bloody-mindedness of Israeli bureaucracy, honed over the decades into a machine to humiliate and intimidate, runs like a thread through the book.”
“Not just life writing but writing that is alive. With perfectly attuned fidelity to the experiences it narrates, it offers a deeply engaged and engaging meditation on what it means to stay together as a people. Revolving this question in ways both existentially Palestinian and universally human, it is a literary memoir to be placed alongside those of Mourid Barghouti and Mahmoud Darwish.”
—Caroline Rooney, Professor of African and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Kent
“[In Ghada Karmi’s Return], the reality of Palestinian life begins to come into focus. It is the reality of exile.”
—Yasmine El Rashidi, Bookforum