REVIEW: “The Association” by Samir El-Youssef

Review of Samir El-Youssef, Raph Cormack (trans.), “The Association”, in Basma Ghalayini, ed., Palestine+100, (Comma Press, 2019): 143-151 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

The premise of this story is both utterly unexpected and delightfully apt:

Since the 2028 Agreement, the people of the country … had decided that forgetting was the best way to live in peace. The study of the past was forbidden (p. 144),

meaning, among other things, that suddenly, the occupation of “historian” no longer existed.

But, as shouldn’t be surprising, forbidding the study of history doesn’t prevent people from studying history, and plenty of covert historians still exist, including Professor Omar Hijazi, age 68, who is found dead in his apartment one night. The police rule it an accident, a byproduct of a theft gone bad, but petty journalist Zaid at the Daily Diwan disagrees. He sets off to find the truth, and what he discovers is way bigger, and way more oppressive, than he imagined.

It feels weird to say it about such a dystopian story, but this was really a fun read.