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This collection of important stories by novelist, journalist, teacher, and Palestinian activist Ghassan Kanafani includes the stunning novella Men in the Sun (1962), the basis of the The Deceived. Also in the volume are "The Land of Sad Oranges" (1958), "'If You Were a Horse...'" (1961), "A Hand in the Grave" (1962), "The Falcon" (1961), "Letter from Gaza" (1956), and an e This collection of important stories by novelist, journalist, teacher, and Palestinian activist Ghassan Kanafani includes the stunning novella Men in the Sun (1962), the basis of the The Deceived. Also in the volume are "The Land of Sad Oranges" (1958), "'If You Were a Horse...'" (1961), "A Hand in the Grave" (1962), "The Falcon" (1961), "Letter from Gaza" (1956), and an excerpt from Umm Saad (1969). In the unsparing clarity of his writing, Kanafani offers the reader a gritty look at the agonized world of Palestine and the adjoining Middle East. Born in Acre (northern Palestine) in 1936, Ghassan Kanafani was a major spokesman for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and founding editor of its weekly magazin Al-Hadaf. His novels, short stories, and plays have been published in sixteen languages. He was killed in a car-bomb explosion in Beirut in 1972.


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This collection of important stories by novelist, journalist, teacher, and Palestinian activist Ghassan Kanafani includes the stunning novella Men in the Sun (1962), the basis of the The Deceived. Also in the volume are "The Land of Sad Oranges" (1958), "'If You Were a Horse...'" (1961), "A Hand in the Grave" (1962), "The Falcon" (1961), "Letter from Gaza" (1956), and an e This collection of important stories by novelist, journalist, teacher, and Palestinian activist Ghassan Kanafani includes the stunning novella Men in the Sun (1962), the basis of the The Deceived. Also in the volume are "The Land of Sad Oranges" (1958), "'If You Were a Horse...'" (1961), "A Hand in the Grave" (1962), "The Falcon" (1961), "Letter from Gaza" (1956), and an excerpt from Umm Saad (1969). In the unsparing clarity of his writing, Kanafani offers the reader a gritty look at the agonized world of Palestine and the adjoining Middle East. Born in Acre (northern Palestine) in 1936, Ghassan Kanafani was a major spokesman for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and founding editor of its weekly magazin Al-Hadaf. His novels, short stories, and plays have been published in sixteen languages. He was killed in a car-bomb explosion in Beirut in 1972.

30 review for Men in the Sun and Other Palestinian Stories

  1. 5 out of 5

    Abeer Abdullah

    What an incredible, exhausting and excruciating book. It's so short but I had to take breaks because it is devastating to see so clearly and transparently, how painful a person's life can be, an entire people's lives can be. I've been reading some very important books and it begins to feel that writing things as trivial as Goodreads responses to things as monumentally important as these stories is a huge responsibility that I want to avoid. In light of this massive refugee crisis, please do read What an incredible, exhausting and excruciating book. It's so short but I had to take breaks because it is devastating to see so clearly and transparently, how painful a person's life can be, an entire people's lives can be. I've been reading some very important books and it begins to feel that writing things as trivial as Goodreads responses to things as monumentally important as these stories is a huge responsibility that I want to avoid. In light of this massive refugee crisis, please do read Kanafani's novel or some of his writings, to try and understand, even if slightly, a massive pain and humiliation reduced to headlines.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Suad Shamma

    I've had this page open all day, and I still don't know how to start. I don't know what to say about this book that hasn't already been said. I don't how to describe this book in ways different than the ways it's already been described. This book is personal to me, so very personal, because I am a Palestinian, born and raised in the United Arab Emirates. I am a Palestinian, who only stepped foot in Palestine only once in my life - a year ago. I am a Palestinian, who was born to Palestinian paren I've had this page open all day, and I still don't know how to start. I don't know what to say about this book that hasn't already been said. I don't how to describe this book in ways different than the ways it's already been described. This book is personal to me, so very personal, because I am a Palestinian, born and raised in the United Arab Emirates. I am a Palestinian, who only stepped foot in Palestine only once in my life - a year ago. I am a Palestinian, who was born to Palestinian parents, who have never been to Palestine. I am a Palestinian, whose grandparents fled Palestine in 1948 - the year of the Nakba. In fact, my mother's family lived and grew up in Kuwait. So, Men in the Sun, specifically, was a story that touched me deeply. It was a story that broke my heart, because I may have found a home away from home, but many others haven't. Men in the Sun clearly and bluntly describes that horrible journey that many people have taken or attempted to take in their efforts to try and find a better life for them and their families. This was my first Ghassan Kanafani read, and I was told that it would hurt to read this, and it did. The brilliance of Kanafani's work is that it never points a finger at one particular villain. It's implied, but it's never spoken plainly. Instead, he shows you different aspects of the struggle that Palestinians go through. Struggles that they've experienced, and still experience, in the Arab world. He shows you - probably from his own personal experience - how other Arabs treat Palestinians. Of all the stories, Men in the Sun hurt the most. The ending was brutal and it hits you so hard. You know things aren't going to end well, but it still jolts you to see HOW and WHY things end the way they do. The silliness of the entire situation, the absolute ridiculousness of men, their conversations, their play at authority and power. The irony of how one man's literal emasculation is actually the reason that a delay occurs at the border crossing, which becomes the reason for the demise of three men. You cannot be sure how to feel about this man, whether to blame him or not, as he seems genuinely saddened, but at the same time, his only concern is money and does not shy away from stealing their possessions after their deaths. The last paragraph in which he asks a question that we all thought to ask was probably the most powerful, "The thought slipped from his mind and ran onto his tongue: "Why didn't they knock on the sides of the tank?" He turned right round once, but he was afraid he would fall, so he climbed into his seat and leaned his head on the wheel. "Why didn't you knock on the sides of the tank? Why didn't you say anything? Why? - The desert suddenly began to send back the echo: "Why didn't you knock on the sides of the tank? Why didn't you knock on the sides of the tank? Why? Why? Why?" The other stories are just as powerful, and talk about refugees who have already left Palestine and how that has impacted them. The last story is the only one different from the rest. While all stories talk about Palestinians leaving Palestine, A Letter From Gaza tells the story of a young man who returns to Gaza to visit his family, but then decides to stay there and not go back to Kuwait where he has a job that could lead him to California, the land of freedom and opportunity. It is written in the form of a letter to a friend, as he tells him that he has decided not to meet him in Sacramento after all. That he has decided to remain in Gaza with his family, that his true place is there, at home. Beautifully written, beautiful story-telling, this book is a must-read and a reminder to all Palestinians that we should not stop knocking on the sides of the tank. That we should continue to make noise. To not forget.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bayan Haddad

    I first read Men in the Sun when I was in the sixth grade and couldn't comprehend the story without the help of the teacher. I felt I was reading something important but couldn't tell how and why. Now that I've read it again, things have become clearer. Feelings of disappointment, anger, resistance, and tragedy spring up while reading. It's not merely a story of three men die while their smuggler gets trapped in a silly chat with a border officer. It's an embodiment of the Palestinian situation I first read Men in the Sun when I was in the sixth grade and couldn't comprehend the story without the help of the teacher. I felt I was reading something important but couldn't tell how and why. Now that I've read it again, things have become clearer. Feelings of disappointment, anger, resistance, and tragedy spring up while reading. It's not merely a story of three men die while their smuggler gets trapped in a silly chat with a border officer. It's an embodiment of the Palestinian situation after the 1948 catastrophe. The refugee problem, lethargy on the part of Palestinians and lack of resistance and awareness among Arabs and their share of complicity, absence of hope and love, bureaucracy, the existence of borders in the Arab world .. a combination of these is found in this novella and can still be found nowadays. Unfortunately. I often wonder what Ghassan Kanafani's stance would be was he alive. Would he still go for armend resistance? I don't know but what I know is that Ghassan had a great vision and he visualized it in his masterpieces. Ghassan trusted his reader's wits & conscience. He was about to be a spokesman of a collective vision but then his enemies felt the threat and assassinated him & his niece. I think we still should bang the walls of the tank,make noise and let the world hear our voice in every possible way. Ghassan's message got received! His short stories are no less great! "The Land of Sand Oranges" is about reliving the Nakbah and its immediate aftermath while 'If You Were a Horse' and "A Hand in the Grave" talk about myths, superstitions, and self-made conceptions and the way we interact with them and sometimes let them destroy our lives. "The Falcon" is so beautifully written and is about a Bedouin who's likened to a falcon. "Letter from Gaza" is my favorite- the sense of responsibility and initiative to build our country and live in it for better or worse is presented in a touching way. All in all, read the book please!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Palestinian literature has emerged as an unlikely star of world literature. It is likely the most widely read and critically acclaimed and studied literature of the so-called Arab world, and is also marked by a fascinating and unique claim to universal, worldwide status. Palestinian literature is often not written in Palestine and not even set there, an inevitable consequence of the state of Palestinian national identity, which exists everywhere from the desolate refugee camps of the Arab world Palestinian literature has emerged as an unlikely star of world literature. It is likely the most widely read and critically acclaimed and studied literature of the so-called Arab world, and is also marked by a fascinating and unique claim to universal, worldwide status. Palestinian literature is often not written in Palestine and not even set there, an inevitable consequence of the state of Palestinian national identity, which exists everywhere from the desolate refugee camps of the Arab world to the relative comfort of Arab-Israeli cities to the affluent elite of Santiago, Chile. Palestinian literature has been written in Arabic, Spanish, English, even Hebrew, and translated into dozens of languages. Its chief mark is, first of all, a sort of pitch-black ironic sensibility only approximated in other national literatures, a deep existential uncertainty and anguish, a real doubt about the validity of the underpinnings of being Palestinian, being part of a nation freely called imaginary by major political figures (imagine calling African-American consciousness an imaginary one, for instance). Palestinian and Arab-Israeli film, also almost surprisingly well-regarded and widely acknowledged, frequently asks the chief question of Palestinian identity: whether to accept it or not, and what the consequences might be. The question of what it is to be Palestinian is contingent. The most important question in the Palestinian consciousness is a question about a question. When presenting a collage of representations of the Palestinian, Elia Suleiman titled the documentary film "An Introduction to the End of an Argument." The beginning is inaccessible. Palestinians have no way of beginning the argument. The common misconceptions about Palestinian identity are too numerous to mention, but the chief misconception is that Palestinian identity is something that is prized by Palestinians, that they are invariably an endlessly proud, resilient people who define everything by their patriotism. This misconception is even more extreme than that uniquely American sentiment that criticizing Israel amounts to anti-semitism, a claim Israel's left-wing half appears consistently bewildered by. Ghassan Kanafani, killed when his car was bombed in 1972, was a vehement activist, journalist, writer, and critic, and a spokesman for the radical Marxist-Leninist group the People's Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which did not seek a simple overthrow of Israel or establishment of a Palestinian state, and did not focus its blame merely on Israel, endorsed a revolutionary social upheaval of the entire region's political system and makeup as the only solution to its woes. The group's views are now an eerie premonition of the Arab Spring, though that movement's ameliorative power is still suspect. Another misconception about Palestine is that it is a proudly religious nation in the same sense as, say, Egypt; Hamas was a fringe movement started by foreigners and initially funded by Israel that gained support mainly through its philanthropic and charitable acts in Gaza and, to a lesser extent, the West Bank. Before the last decade or so, Palestine was defined by a leftist, Marxist notion of power struggle, and the major political groups of the nation were all to varying degrees leftist, progressive ones. Even now, Hamas and Islamic resistance groups cannot be said to represent in any true way the Palestinian consciousness, which is in turns founded by Christianity and Islam to some extent and also deeply suspicious of them, a suspicion that emerges in tragedy and rarely disappears. Men in the Sun neatly ties all these interesting threads, together with others, into a seamless whole in one of the most powerful, brilliant novellas I've ever encountered, a work so formally assured and brilliantly uncompromising that it reveals more truth than a thousand news reports. And it is no gung-ho nationalist piece. The novella explores the horrific mistreatment of Palestinians by the Arabs both metaphorically and literally, with the culmination of the novella sadly still relevant to the state of Palestinians in the Arab world today. The novella also stands as a terrific treatment of the differences between Palestinians and Arabs. Palestinians speak Arabic, but share little commonality with Arabs. The Arab environment, the desert, is the alien villain in the piece, not the Jews, who are mentioned exactly twice; they only disrupt and displace. The desert, on the other hand, consumes our men in the sun, shredding anything and everything about their existence. The text openly questions the notion of Arabs as hospitable, in a passage detailing the horrific treatment of Palestinians by them. The text also repeatedly questions blind patriotism, material opportunism, superstition (attached to religion), and Palestinian habits like swearing by one's honour. One, especially if ignorant of the Palestinian consciousness, might imagine that Kanafani was viewed with outrage by Palestinians, that his work is an outlier in a conservative society that holds patriotism, religion, and tradition dear. The truth is that Kanafani is considered one of the great Palestinians, named "the voice of Palestine," and considered an immortal symbol of Palestinian culture. What little outrage existed at the time of the publication, largely founded in the end of the novella, which I will not spoil, has faded over time, as the shock faded and the importance of the symbolism emerged more clearly. This is a perfect distillation of the unique sort of desperation, self-deprecation, irony, existential anguish and uncertainty, and sense of injustice that comprises the Palestinian consciousness. And it does this by focusing not on politics, but on people and their realities. The vicious attack on Arabs and Arab countries is an inevitable consequence of the state of Palestinians in the region. The novella is no less relevant today than it was when initially published, and fully deserves its status as a classic. I by no means wish to suggest that the novella's qualities are limited to a reading of it as representative of a national consciousness. It is a formal masterpiece, blending and balancing the consciousnesses of several characters, juggling dozens of thematic concerns and existential (and practical) questions and concerns, all in a short piece of stark fiction with barely a plot to serve it. It is a masterclass in short fiction, and while this translation makes the text more dry than it needs to be (or really is) at times, it is competent enough for the English-language reader to grasp its brilliance.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    In my first exposure to Ghassan Kanafani, I read both Men In The Sun and Palestine’s Children back to back, and this review covers both. The introductory essays in these works emphasized the non-deterministic outlook of Kanafani that was so important to his political vision. Such an outlook arguably goes against a culture that is heavily influenced by the idea of a pre-determined destiny lifted from a particular interpretation of the God described in the Qur’an. Kanafani (and I) would argue that In my first exposure to Ghassan Kanafani, I read both Men In The Sun and Palestine’s Children back to back, and this review covers both. The introductory essays in these works emphasized the non-deterministic outlook of Kanafani that was so important to his political vision. Such an outlook arguably goes against a culture that is heavily influenced by the idea of a pre-determined destiny lifted from a particular interpretation of the God described in the Qur’an. Kanafani (and I) would argue that any sort of divine knowledge of destiny needs to be set aside for the truth that we still have free will, responsibility, and a choice at every step. There is a natural law that permeates existence – a law of justice – that requires action to fully implement. Kanafani’s perspective comes from that of the Marxist revolutionary, but no matter the perspective, the underlying essence of the law is universally the same. The freedom to choose does however carry with it a form of destiny in the sense that we choose particular unknown consequences with every decision. Some of these consequences will be known, for example in the choice between choosing to become a revolutionary and leave a family versus choosing to focus on daily subsistence – an idea that takes shape in Men in the Sun. Other consequences will only be known over time, and this idea is articulated most fully in Returning to Haifa, in the transformation of Khaldun from Arab to Jew. We can see a familiar progression in Kanafani’s writing and political awareness from the large scale cause in Men in the Sun to the experienced exile in Returning to Haifa. Through the transformation of Khaldun in the latter, Kanafani looks at some of the most basic questions of what it means to be human and how we choose our sense of belonging. What is a human? Is it simply a “cause” and culturally conditioned identity as Khaldun and Said would seem to allude? Or is there something transcendent that is identifiable via the soul or the heart over and above any mental or physical form of identification? Certainly there are universal human traits that we all share, and it was in Mariam’s recognition of the dead Arab child tossed onto the truck “like a piece of wood” that most powerfully articulated this idea. Mariam, a Jew, saw her brother being killed by the Nazis in this dead Arab child, and Kanafani’s choice of “moderate” Jews in Mariam and Iphrat furthered this universal human ideal. We all suffer, and Kanafani’s evolved political awareness in 1969 was able to convey this through the brilliant choice of characters in Returning to Haifa. These two books should be read together to fully appreciate the evolution of Kanafani’s political consciousness. Kanafani saw politics and the novel as united: “In my novels I express reality, as I understand it, without analysis”.

  6. 4 out of 5

    J.M. Hushour

    Kanafani was a promising Palestinian novelist who did that ultimate no-no (especially in the Middle East!) and got mixed up in politics. Thus, he and his teen aged niece got blown up when he started his car, courtesy of the Mossad. It's never easy nor even desirable to separate one's politics from one's writings. Indeed, if you're a Palestinian or Israeli, it's probably virtually impossible (Meir Shalev a notable exception), but you can read Kanafani without knowing any of that crap. "Men in the S Kanafani was a promising Palestinian novelist who did that ultimate no-no (especially in the Middle East!) and got mixed up in politics. Thus, he and his teen aged niece got blown up when he started his car, courtesy of the Mossad. It's never easy nor even desirable to separate one's politics from one's writings. Indeed, if you're a Palestinian or Israeli, it's probably virtually impossible (Meir Shalev a notable exception), but you can read Kanafani without knowing any of that crap. "Men in the Sun" was quite famous in Arab literature, still is, I suppose. Three Palestinian dudes hide in a truck to get themselves smuggled into Kuwait for work and money for their families. I'll leave it at that. It's harrowing. In fact, part of Kanafani's gift was to make banal the background of his characters and steep them in more immediate hells. He also has quite the knack for shifting between persons, so that characters melt into each other so much that you realize half a page down that you're actually reading about someone else. Various shorter works make up the rest of the collection. Good stuff, and a bit off the beaten path of the usual Arab writers.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dania

    I cried at the last story. It was very easy to relate to at the current point in my life where I am decided what, if anything, I owe this country. And I am trying to measure that up with the desire for an easier safer life with its own set of difficulties, most of which will be spiritual and not physical. Overall it was a cohesive collection that breathed life into different lives, forcing the reader to feel and understand what is already difficult to communicate. Nobody wants to have to explain I cried at the last story. It was very easy to relate to at the current point in my life where I am decided what, if anything, I owe this country. And I am trying to measure that up with the desire for an easier safer life with its own set of difficulties, most of which will be spiritual and not physical. Overall it was a cohesive collection that breathed life into different lives, forcing the reader to feel and understand what is already difficult to communicate. Nobody wants to have to explain their trauma, but this Kanafani did a great job explaining the immense hopelessness. This remind me of an article (attached below) I read that PTSD is a western concept. It said “We describe our psychological experience in terms that we hope to be understood in the West, so we talk a lot about PTSD,” she says. “But I see patients with PTSD after a car accident. Not after imprisonment, not after bombardment or being labeled as a person against the law and having a relationship with prison like revolving door. The effect is more profound. It changes the personality, it changes the belief system, and it doesn’t look like PTSD.” https://qz.com/1521806/palestines-hea...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tsung

    This is a slim collection of a novella and six short stories which are brilliantly written. Rather than being politically charged, it instead concentrates on more general issues surrounding life and living. Common themes which appear in the stories are life and on the flipside, death. Also commonly featured are people who are trapped in their circumstances with limited options. There were those trapped by physical injuries and handicaps. There was symbolism and imagery in stories like “The Land o This is a slim collection of a novella and six short stories which are brilliantly written. Rather than being politically charged, it instead concentrates on more general issues surrounding life and living. Common themes which appear in the stories are life and on the flipside, death. Also commonly featured are people who are trapped in their circumstances with limited options. There were those trapped by physical injuries and handicaps. There was symbolism and imagery in stories like “The Land of Sad Oranges”, “The Falcon” and “If You were a Horse…”. In “Men in the Sun”, three men with different backgrounds separately look for someone who can smuggle them across the border into Kuwait. These were desperate men, struggling to survive or to find some way to support their families. They see no way out except through the promise of work in Kuwait. The smuggler himself is also a man stuck in a life situation because of a traumatic past. “If You were a Horse…” was not just about superstition, but about the perpetuation of false beliefs. The father was also in a quandary when one beloved caused harm to another of his beloved. “A Hand in the Grave” was a tragicomical story, in which two medical students turned to robbing a grave just to get a skeleton for their studies. Overall, the stories convey a sense of longing and despair. It is remarkable how Kanafani is able to convey depth within such short stories.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Zahraa

    I don’t know what to say : https://youtu.be/Q6IPtRIDzoA I don’t know what to say : https://youtu.be/Q6IPtRIDzoA

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rania

    My first real encounter with Ghassan Kanafany, and definitely not the last. In this distinguished book, Kanafany displays his skill, using a very lively and expressive kind of language, in depicting the everlasting misery of Palestinians who were coerced to leave their homeland and search for some other place, not to live, but to simply survive. However, they discover that they are just escaping death in order to embrace death. Through Kanafani, we are able to enter the three escapees' minds and My first real encounter with Ghassan Kanafany, and definitely not the last. In this distinguished book, Kanafany displays his skill, using a very lively and expressive kind of language, in depicting the everlasting misery of Palestinians who were coerced to leave their homeland and search for some other place, not to live, but to simply survive. However, they discover that they are just escaping death in order to embrace death. Through Kanafani, we are able to enter the three escapees' minds and feel their internal misery. Each of them has a story. Each of them has dreams and aspiration that all revolve about survival and leading a decent life. Not being in full control of their own destiny, they find themselves obliged to completely trust a stranger who promises them, upon his honor, to help them escape to Kuwait and not leave them amidst the desert. They have a very long and tiring trip "in the sun", and they are never able to guess what to expect next. They are nearly ruined by their thoughts, fears and the sun in which they seem to melt.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Zoulfa Katouh

    This book is just amazing. I dont know how to describe it without jumping up and down and bursting into tears. This book hit home. It really did. The whole book is a metaphor. Everything is something. It brought tears to my eyes and my heart bleed. It is rare to find a gem in a book of what was it? 96 pages only? For someone to be able to move the reader in just 96 pages is truly a genius thing to do. This book will haunt me till the day I die.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ghada Arafat

    I read this book years ago but I still remember how it made me feel specially that I read it while I was in Gaza during the Intifada. The only thing that made me put it down was when bombing started.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ruba

    This novel is one of the most wonderful and touching stories, that talks about the palestinian suffering in on of remarkable novels EVER

  14. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Hübner

    http://www.mytwostotinki.com/?p=1458 That people are leaving their home countries because they want to find a better life somewhere else is a phenomenon that is probably as old as mankind itself. But to me it seems that the extent and speed of this migration has increased a lot in the 20th and 21st centuries beyond anything experienced before. Apart from the increase of the number of migrants, there is something else that puzzles me about this development: the cynicism and application of double st http://www.mytwostotinki.com/?p=1458 That people are leaving their home countries because they want to find a better life somewhere else is a phenomenon that is probably as old as mankind itself. But to me it seems that the extent and speed of this migration has increased a lot in the 20th and 21st centuries beyond anything experienced before. Apart from the increase of the number of migrants, there is something else that puzzles me about this development: the cynicism and application of double standards towards migrants. While those of "us" westerners who work for some time or permanently abroad (like the writer of these lines) are usually labeled "expatriates", the words that are used to characterize someone who for good reasons is looking for work in a wealthy country of the West are "economic migrant", "poverty migrant", "illegal immigrant", "asylum shopper" - and these are still the more friendly terms. When during the existence of the Iron Curtain migration from Eastern Europe was extremely limited, and those who tried to flee were leaving their countries in very dangerous circumstances, these migrants were branded as heroes and freedom fighters who wanted to leave behind a terrible communist dictatorship; now when the same people leave their places for the same reason - an unbearable situation for themselves and their families - they are usually downgraded linguistically a lot. And those who flee by boat via the Mediterranean to Europe, or to Australia via the Indian Ocean: they all could be saved, but better let them drown so that less of "them" cause "us" any trouble...Welcome to the world of hypocrisy! - the same world that doesn't give a damn about the civilians and children that fall victim to the drone assassinations of the "West" and starts a discussion about the moral implications of this extra-legal killings on a large scale only in that moment when some of the victims happen by chance to be one of "us" (i.e. Christians from Western countries). Forced migration, ethnic cleansing, the attempt to cross borders in search for a better life, and the situation of exile in general are important topics of the literature of the last decades. The story Men in the Sun by the Palestinian author Ghassan Kanafani is a classic in this respect. Three Palestinian men that lost their homes in Palestine during the events of 1947/48 (the Naqba, or catastrophe, as it is called by the victims) are in the center of the story. They lead a rather miserable life without any perspective in the huge refugee camps in Jordan, Iraq and other Arab countries. (As an aside: also the Arab countries apply double standards; while "the Palestinians" are usually considered the victims of Zionism/Imperialism, most of the real Palestinians are less welcome by these countries and still live in refugee camps, decades after their eviction. Only Jordan granted the majority of them citizen rights.) Kuwait, in the early 1960s developing its oil industry, was in this moment for many of these men a kind of Promised Land. Once you made it there (illegally), you had - with a little bit of luck, connections and backshish - a chance to get an employment based on a temporary contract. A unique opportunity to support your beloved one's in the refugee camps, pay for a decent education for your siblings, or prepare to get married. Basra in Iraq was at that time the place from which many small groups left to make their way past the border guards through the desert. Smuggling refugees was (and is) a very profitable business, and so we witness our three main characters looking for an affordable and reliable guide. Kanafani made a very good decision to introduce each of the three men, their background and their way of thinking, their different character and outlook on life in a separate chapter. There is Abu Quais, the oldest of the group. A farmer by profession, who is missing his olive trees in Palestine and who hopes to make enough money in Kuwait to be able to buy saplings for a new olive grove somewhere. In his fatalistic, a bit stubborn way he seems very characteristic for the Palestinian peasant, or the peasant in general. Then there is young Marwan, who stands up to the financial demands of a particular unpleasant businessmen who insists on a high advance payment and no guarantee for success for the undertaking. Marwan quickly emerges as the unofficial leader of the small group, and we can almost be sure that with his energy and optimism, he can be very successful in Kuwait - if he gets there at all of course. And then there is the good-hearted, naive Assad. After his brother stopped to send money from Kuwait (he got married and supports his own small family now), he had to stop his studies and tries to get now also to Kuwait. And there is of course the guide, Abul Khiazuran, who promises to smuggle them in the water tank of his truck through the border checkpoints. If only it wouldn't be so terribly hot in the empty water tank - but it will be ok, if they don't have to wait very long at the checkpoints. Otherwise... For the reader it is not a surprise that this journey ends in a disaster. When the driver pulls out the bodies of the three men after the border crossing, he - like the reader - is asking himself a startling question: "The thought slipped from his mind and ran onto his tongue: "Why didn't they knock on the sides of the tank?" He turned right round once, but he was afraid he would fall, so he climbed into his seat and leaned his head on the wheel. "Why didn't you knock on the sides of the tank? Why didn't you say anything? Why? - The desert suddenly began to send back the echo: "Why didn't you knock on the sides of the tank? Why didn't you knock on the sides of the tank? Why? Why? Why?" What struck me also about this story was the deep symbolism of the fact that the bodies are deposed at a garbage dump; this is how much a refugee's life is worth. And also the fact that the driver lost his manhood literally as a result of his fight with the Israelis, and is now interested in only one thing: money is of course also charged with a symbolic meaning. One more thing: there are no antisemitic slurs in any of Kanafani's stories of this collection of stories. Sure, the Jews/Israelis are the enemies of these people; those who are responsible for the loss of their homes, their miserable lives in the refugee camps, and the loss of many lives too. But the enemy is not a demon, just someone who took away the land and existence of people who have lived in Palestine for hundreds of years. The other stories in this collection are also very good; I was particular impressed by The Land of Sad Oranges, a short story about a family who is forced to flee their home and escape to Lebanon. The few oranges that they can take with them make them cry; a memory of what they lost and will probably never see again. Ghassan Kanafani (born 1936) was one of the most talented Arabic prose writers. Born in Palestine, he had to leave his home at the age of 12 and shared many experiences of the people in his stories. He became also a political activist and joined the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine of George Habash. Fortunately, his work is not that of a political propagandist; it shows the suffering of the people of Palestine, and asks for empathy from its readers, not for agreement with a political program. Kanafani was killed by a car-bomb explosion in 1972 in Beirut, together with his niece. Nowadays the assassination would have been executed by a drone. I suppose some people may call that "progress".

  15. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Chalhoub

    I read this book knowing how it's gonna end, because we learned about the film adaptation in uni. I'm glad i knew, cause that ending is brutal. This story is about 3 Palestinians trying to get smuggled into Kuwait, as it's known as the land of money. We learn about their reasons first and then follow them on their journey. History keeps repeating itself, and books like this one will always be relevent. Hundrends are dying in the Mediterranean sea, and people are nitpicking about the legality of s I read this book knowing how it's gonna end, because we learned about the film adaptation in uni. I'm glad i knew, cause that ending is brutal. This story is about 3 Palestinians trying to get smuggled into Kuwait, as it's known as the land of money. We learn about their reasons first and then follow them on their journey. History keeps repeating itself, and books like this one will always be relevent. Hundrends are dying in the Mediterranean sea, and people are nitpicking about the legality of such immigrations, but no one stops to think about why these people are leaving, gambling with their lives, instead of staying in their countries . Here's an excerpt, from the book, i have translated, which pretty much says it all: "_The road is long, and i'm an old man, i can't walk the way you did... i might die. [...] _You might die? Hah, who said that's not better than how you live now." ***Changed my 5/5 rating to a 4, cause I've been reading other Kanafani books, and they're even better. As they can't be rated 6/5, I'll be lowering this one.

  16. 4 out of 5

    DubaiReader

    This is a difficult book to review because I'm not sure if the confusion I felt while reading this was due to the author's writing, or translator errors. There were several times where I wasn't sure which character was being referred to and even a re-read didn't always clarify the question. Considering the blurb above says "In the unsparing clarity of his writing", I suspect this was caused by the translation. Ignoring the issues I had, this was an interesting read, very close to the bone at time This is a difficult book to review because I'm not sure if the confusion I felt while reading this was due to the author's writing, or translator errors. There were several times where I wasn't sure which character was being referred to and even a re-read didn't always clarify the question. Considering the blurb above says "In the unsparing clarity of his writing", I suspect this was caused by the translation. Ignoring the issues I had, this was an interesting read, very close to the bone at times. Life was cheap, yet each of these characters is close to our hearts and we're not ready to part with them. The 'Men in the Sun' are unfortunate Palestinians, forced from their country and without means to help their families. They take the ultimate risk and join the floods of immigrants to Kuwait, where they believe that work and riches await them. The journey is treacherous and they must put their lives in the hands of strangers. Three such men travelling on the roof of a tanker give rise to the title. 'Men in the Sun' is the main story, but there are some shorter stories towards the end, along a similar vein. Books like these are important for raising awareness; no-one should have to suffer such deprivations because another people has taken that which was not theirs. I wish I could give four stars but sadly, the confusion marred an otherwise fascinating read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ira Therebel

    This is a collection of a novella "Men in the son" and several short stories written by Palestinian activist and journalist Ghassan Kanafani who is considered to be a very influential Palestinian writer. It is very well written. All those stories talk about Palestinian situation shortly after Jewish occupation and yet are written in a very universal way so that they are a good read for people from different backgrounds who don't know the situation too well Those stories are presenting a lot of tr This is a collection of a novella "Men in the son" and several short stories written by Palestinian activist and journalist Ghassan Kanafani who is considered to be a very influential Palestinian writer. It is very well written. All those stories talk about Palestinian situation shortly after Jewish occupation and yet are written in a very universal way so that they are a good read for people from different backgrounds who don't know the situation too well Those stories are presenting a lot of tragedy and isolation and are full of symbolism. I must say I had to reread Men in the Sun because it was going through lives of all four men, both their past and present, and I was getting a bit confused. It did all make sense at the end, but I would still recommend to reread it, so that one doesn't lose much of the story. A common thing in all those stories is that every ending made you sit and rethink the story you just read. I would sure recommend to read it to anyone.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Asim Qureshi

    When I posted online that I was about to read 'Men in the Sun' by Ghassan's Kanafani, a friend remarked that it was, "unbearably sad." As someone who works with trauma survivors, I am often confronted with the unbearably sad, but I simply was not prepared for the different ways in which this book would affect me. Kanafani's prose are remarkably stunning, for the literary aesthete this would be enough, but it is the heart that his writing cuts away at. As a non-Palestinian, he takes us through la When I posted online that I was about to read 'Men in the Sun' by Ghassan's Kanafani, a friend remarked that it was, "unbearably sad." As someone who works with trauma survivors, I am often confronted with the unbearably sad, but I simply was not prepared for the different ways in which this book would affect me. Kanafani's prose are remarkably stunning, for the literary aesthete this would be enough, but it is the heart that his writing cuts away at. As a non-Palestinian, he takes us through layers of pain, as he brings realisation that pain for Palestinians is everything from suffering the indignity of being forcefully removed from their lands, to watching an orange shrivel away before them. There is no single formulation of trauma, it surrounds and is imbued in everything that they do since even before the Nakbah. The translator, Hilary Kirkpatrick, provides an excerpt from a letter written by Kanafani to his son, where he recounts the moment of his son's recognition of his identity, "I heard you in the other room asking your mother: "Mama, am I a Palestinian?" When she answered "Yes" a heavy silence fell on the whole house. It was as if something hanging over our heads had fallen, it's noise exploding, then - silence. Afterwards... I heard you crying. I could not move. There was something bigger than my awareness being born in the other room through your bewildered sobbing. It was as if a blessed scalpel was cutting up your chest and putting there the heart that belongs to you...I was unable to move to see what was happening in the other room. I knew, however, that a distant homeland was being born again; hills, plains, olive groves, dead people, torn banners and folded ones, all cutting their way into a future of flesh and blood and being born in the heart of another child...Do not believe that man grows. No; he is born suddenly - a word, in a moment, penetrates his heart to a new throb. One scene can hurl him down from the ceiling of childhood on to the ruggedness of the road." There is an inter-generational trauma that binds every single instance of pain to subsequent generations of Palestinians. This pain is encumbered though by the sense of betrayal that pervades almost every page of the book. The betrayal of the British, of their Jewish neighbours, of the surrounding Arab countries, of other Palestinians, and even the landscape of the world outside of their homeland, a hostile territory that becomes a prison refuge. As Abu Qais states, "...the last ten years you have done nothing but wait. You have needed ten big hungry years to be convinced that you have lost your trees, your house, your youth, and your whole village. People have been making their own way during these long years, while you have been squatting like an old dog in a miserable hut. What do you think you were waiting for? Wealth to come through the roof of your house? Your house? It is not your house. A generous man said to you: “Live here!” That is all. And a year later he said to you: “Give me half the room,” so you put up patched sacks between yourself and the new neighbors. You stayed squatting till Saad came and started to shake you as milk is churned to make butter." There is a sense of humiliation that is attached to the predicament the Palestinian refugees find themselves in. They are no longer able to feel proud of their own achievements, but rather constantly find themselves at the mercy of others. The narrative in places reminds me of Primo Levy's 'If This Is Man', where the abused, downtrodden and tortured do everything they can to survive, including harming their own. This consistent sense of betrayal became exacerbated for me when reference is made by one of the Palestinians that he would prefer to be in al-Jafr prison in Jordan, than having to migrate across the desert to Kuwait. Betrayal seems to run in the lifeblood of al-Jafr, as it came to be used as a CIA black site as part of the US-led War on Terror. Muslim detainees would be sent there from around the world to be tortured by their own ‘brothers’. Without giving the plot away, it is the interconnectedness of trauma from those who fought for the return of Palestine and lost a great deal, to those who seek refuge and opportunity in perilous circumstances that brings home how difficult the lives of displaced Palestinians became. One act of torture against Abu Khaizuran in Palestine, resulting in the deaths of Palestinians elsewhere. While some of the themes in the story 'Men in the Sun' are more overt in terms of the difficulties faced, it is stories such as 'The Land of Sad Oranges' that convey the depth of the Nakbah's impact. As the young girl who narrates the story says, "The tragedy had begun to eat into our very souls." There is an overwhelming quality to the entire experience that Kanafani so successfully describes. Men, who wish to be men, become emasculated to the point of suicide, as the realisation dawned that Arab armies who were supposed to come to their aid, were no better than their usurpers, "A diabolical thought had implanted itself in his brain, and he jumped up like a man who has found a satisfactory conclusion. Overwhelmed by his awareness that he was able to put an end to his difficulties, and by the dread of someone who is about to undertake a momentous action, he began to mutter to himself as he turned round and round, looking for something we could not see. Then he pounced on a chest that had accompanied us from Acre and started to scatter its contents with terrible nervous movements. Your mother had understood everything in an instant and, caught up in the agitation that mothers feel when their children are exposed to danger, she set about pushing us out of the room and telling us to run away to the mountain. But we stayed by the window. We plastered our little ears to its shutters, and heard your fathers voice: “I want to kill them. I want to kill myself. I want to be done with ... I want...”Your father fell silent. When we looked into the room again, through the cracks in the door, we saw him lying on the ground, gasping for breath and grinding his teeth as he wept, while your mother sat at one side watching him anxiously." The journey that the short stories take us through from start to end is one where the layers of what it means to be a Palestinian after the Nakbah are ever so slightly exposed. The collection ends with a letter written from Gaza, and in a way acts as the perfect ending to the story, as it develops from the one who leaves to the one who returns. Kanafani's last story in the collection brings us in a full circle, so that we understand that what was lost for Palestinians is still there, and yet unreachable. Furthermore, the visceral quality of the displaced Palestinian returning to Palestine, reminds us that there are many theatres of resistance, but those who stayed, remain on the front lines. It is the returnee who has sought his place in the world, but only understands where that place is on his return to the place he left.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Aya H

    In love with Ghassan’s writing. The story is very good and extremely sad, but no where near عائد الى حيفا 3.5/5 stars for this one

  20. 5 out of 5

    Hind

    Oh man, so powerful. Maybe even more so now than back then, considering all the horror stories about refugees lately.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    This is an incredibly good small collection of short stories. The title story, Men in the Sun, is haunting but in a horrifying way. It's the story of four men, three of whom have paid the fourth to smuggle them into Kuwait where they hoped to find work to support their families at home. The smuggler is not a bad person, he seems to want to help them achieve their goal at the same time, he wants to make a bit of money on the side by taking them there. The journey and the end of the journey will s This is an incredibly good small collection of short stories. The title story, Men in the Sun, is haunting but in a horrifying way. It's the story of four men, three of whom have paid the fourth to smuggle them into Kuwait where they hoped to find work to support their families at home. The smuggler is not a bad person, he seems to want to help them achieve their goal at the same time, he wants to make a bit of money on the side by taking them there. The journey and the end of the journey will stay with me. The stories are a mix of regret, sadness, and horror but the language is exquisite and the tone gentle. The Land of Sad Oranges is a story of diaspora, of the effect of leaving Palestine on a young child and his family. If You Were a Horse tells the story of a young boy who is raised by a father who is afraid of him because of the father's belief in superstitions. A Hand in the Grave is pure horror in an Arab setting. Umm Saad is about a mother's love for her son who has decided to leave the refugee camp to join the fedayeen. The Falcon, well, that one is complicated, a short story about men who live in a secure camp, the bedouin watchmen and the engineers, perhaps about pride and self-worth. The final story is a letter which threw me off because letters seem real and I don't know if it is or not. Letter from Gaza is about a man who has the opportunity to leave Gaza to go to a better life in California but decides that staying is what he believes is right. The letter is to his friend who did go to California and encourages him to return. If I had a list of the 5 best Arabic books to recommend you read before you die, this would be on that list. I found if amazing.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tinea

    A short novella about Palestinian refugees struggling to make ends meet and deciding to try and smuggle themselves to Kuwait for work, and some other stories. Good. Even better was the story of how I came upon this book: A few years ago I spent a little time in the West bank with a guy named Ghassan who was named after poet and author Ghassan Kanafani, the "voice of Palestine." I promised to look him up and never really did. Last week I was checking out used bookstores in Philly, which I was real A short novella about Palestinian refugees struggling to make ends meet and deciding to try and smuggle themselves to Kuwait for work, and some other stories. Good. Even better was the story of how I came upon this book: A few years ago I spent a little time in the West bank with a guy named Ghassan who was named after poet and author Ghassan Kanafani, the "voice of Palestine." I promised to look him up and never really did. Last week I was checking out used bookstores in Philly, which I was really pumped about after reading some Aaron Cometbus zine in which he reviewed hole-in-the-wall bookstores in New York, and found this gem in the bargain bin outside. This, of course, drew me into the store to make my $2 purchase, where I saw a whole wall of college texts the bookseller was gettin ready to stock, and pointed out some really good ones I'd read. We got talking about college, and my Third World Studies major, which led to talking about my current job, working on coal issues, which led to me giving my big long spiel about the environmental justice issues in SE Ohio, which led to some girl coming down the stairs to shout: "Are you talking about __County??" which I was, and lo and behold I made aquiantaince with one of the few other activists to have devoted any amount of timne to the issue and area. How fuckin random, right?

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jumana

    Although the ending was heartbreaking, 'Men in the Sun' is a truly extraordinary book. I know as a fact that there was the war between Palestine and Israel and that there were illegal immigrants. I am Palestinian but usually don't like to know the pain my beautiful country goes through. There's too much love for Palestine for me to even hear about the catastrophes. However, I have decided to read this book because I thought that I need to know more about how strong Palestine is. I needed to know Although the ending was heartbreaking, 'Men in the Sun' is a truly extraordinary book. I know as a fact that there was the war between Palestine and Israel and that there were illegal immigrants. I am Palestinian but usually don't like to know the pain my beautiful country goes through. There's too much love for Palestine for me to even hear about the catastrophes. However, I have decided to read this book because I thought that I need to know more about how strong Palestine is. I needed to know more than just from the stories my grandfather shared with me of his illegal walking trip, through the desert, from Palestine to Kuwait in hopes of finding a new beginning. I felt even more connected to my grandfather once I read this book and even felt this great connection with Palestine that I never knew it didn't exist despite my origins being from there. It was probably due to the fact that I've never been there (war) and this book has finally made me feel a part of the people of Palestine and a part of Palestine itself. It's quite an exquisite book and would just like to thank Ghassan for this masterpiece

  24. 4 out of 5

    Fatima zahra

    "Men in the Sun" ... what an agonizing devastating story for 3 men who have lost their country, their homes and with it every hope in persuing a fair life. their only hope was to get to Kuweit to get a job that wuld enable them to look after their poor families. While embarking on this journey, they couldn't get over the fear they felt, fear of dying anonymously, fear of what is hidden in that faraway country, fear that their dreams might not come true BUT they had no choice. That was their only "Men in the Sun" ... what an agonizing devastating story for 3 men who have lost their country, their homes and with it every hope in persuing a fair life. their only hope was to get to Kuweit to get a job that wuld enable them to look after their poor families. While embarking on this journey, they couldn't get over the fear they felt, fear of dying anonymously, fear of what is hidden in that faraway country, fear that their dreams might not come true BUT they had no choice. That was their only way, their destiny and they had to fulfil it. And they did, they succeeded, they overcome all the obstacles and got to kuweit but ONLY AS FROZEN CORPSES. This story proves that for some people life does suck, life is tragic and sometimes even if you are ready to take the challenge and be strong that strenght doesn't pay you any good. It just leads you to your death. A death which makes any empty isolated desert yur eternal graveyard. A death where you don't get to be mourned, cried upon and buried like normal men do. ALL YOU GET IS TO LIVE AND DIE UNDER THE SUN.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    First time reading Kanafani and I was not one bit disappointed. He proved to be a major stylist and story-teller before everything, and a patriot and a strong advocate of his people at the same time. The story is powerful and moving and will make a strong mark even on those who are not particularly interested in the Palestinian-Isreal conflict.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Omnia

    You know this feeling you get when you're sitting down and watching people, and you think each one of them has a story of their own? and you're enveloped in the idea that you'll never know these stories? well, this tale solves that. It takes you and throws you into the story of mere normal people and shows you their adventure. it is heart-wrenching and illuminating.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dana Suaifan

    That was the saddest thing ever! Why? I only started understanding the story when I was half way through the book because I am weak Arabic reader. My aim is to read more Arabic because I am crap at it even tho it supposed to be first language.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Pep Bonet

    Short and nice book which doesn't leave the reader indifferent. The book is composed of a short novella and very short stories. Most stories turn around the loss of the country, living abroad, but all share a sad feeling, sad situations, which reflect the sad destiny of a community.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Martin Peel

    I feel the ned to read about Palestine: there is a substantial literature out there. I asked here at King's and was recommended Ghassan Kanafani as a starting point. Kanafani was a teacher, journalist and activist for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He died in a car bomb explosion in Beirut in 1972. These stories are intense. The politics of the Palestinian situation suffuse everything. Kanafani writes in such a way that point of view and the time of events in his stories is fl I feel the ned to read about Palestine: there is a substantial literature out there. I asked here at King's and was recommended Ghassan Kanafani as a starting point. Kanafani was a teacher, journalist and activist for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He died in a car bomb explosion in Beirut in 1972. These stories are intense. The politics of the Palestinian situation suffuse everything. Kanafani writes in such a way that point of view and the time of events in his stories is fluid. There are occassions when you are not sure whose voice is appearing in the story and there are points when you are not sure if you are in the present or the past. What seems to matter is the collective. Individuals are not independent creatures but their fate is tied to their situations and communities. These stories are about leaving a land you love knowing that you will probably never be coming back and what that does to you. Leaving in a car loaded with your family munching oranges from the land you are leaving, heading to the new Shangri La hoping for work and riches; living on that dream of a new future. Animals feature prominently in the stories but these are not cute and cuddly animals. Horses are premonitions of death, Falcons do not kill as you expect them to do. Things are not as they should be. There are medical students forced to become grave robbers, young girls turned into amputees. Kanafani writes with such intensity it is confronting in lots of ways. In Men in the Sun there are a number of Palestinian men who want to flee to Kuwait. The prospect of jobs, money and a new start motivates them all to risk their own money; their wider families' savings; the dreams of their relatives; the threat of prison as well as the ever present and imminent threat of death. The refugees are reliant on people who ultimately are untrustworthy. In the story our would be migrants seek to cross the border inside an empty water tanker. The driver of the van promises them a fair price and a guaranteed route to their dreamlands. Capitalism is stacked against the weak, who seem to be powerless to control their fate. This whole situation is metaphorical of the wider politics of the region. The economic migrants are forced into a situation not of their own making. In order to make the best for themselves and their families they have to make themselves dangerously vulnerable. All they need is the right help and support but crossing a border in a harsh landscape without the resources you need is a perilous thing to do. Kanafani asks many uncomfortable questions. What should a self respecting Palestinian do ? Should they fight the army occupying their land or is there another way ? Should the mother feel pride or sorrow when their sons sign up to fight ? At what point does the fight become personal enough for a young man to enlist ? Characters in these stories are constantly faced with these questions oftentimes lying beneath the surface of the story. Why flee Palestine when you can stay and fight is the question that hovers above all of Kanafani's stories, it is expressed through character, narrative, metaphor and sometimes through rhetoric. It is a constant presence. The whole political situation is cast in a black and white way. Men are the protagonists and victims, women antagonize and are left to pick up the pieces of their emotions. The politics of the situation are stark and as a reader there is little room for misinterpretation. Kanafani was the voice of his people in the early 70s is he still so ? There is no wriggle room in his prose and politics. Do read these stories, I would not say that I enjoyed them but I am glad I have read them.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nahed Elrayes

    I don't think I've ever read any book - novella or a full-length novel - that fucked me up the way these 52 pages did. It brings a feeling at once uniquely horrific, and familiar: the confusion, the powerlessness, the alienation, the omnipresent sense of betrayal, and above all, the guilt; all of the pathologies and irresolutions that linger in the blood of the diaspora. Kanafani, who realized in 1962 that the tragic was already the banal in Palestine, deliberately avoids any reference to real po I don't think I've ever read any book - novella or a full-length novel - that fucked me up the way these 52 pages did. It brings a feeling at once uniquely horrific, and familiar: the confusion, the powerlessness, the alienation, the omnipresent sense of betrayal, and above all, the guilt; all of the pathologies and irresolutions that linger in the blood of the diaspora. Kanafani, who realized in 1962 that the tragic was already the banal in Palestine, deliberately avoids any reference to real political events in his work. Instead, he establishes the novella in the Iraqi desert, with no clear villain, and with a plot which, in its historical context, would be considered very banal. But the story is not the point. Kanafani cuts between the political and personal with the kind of effortless economy of style that suggests his subconscious dictated the entire text. Characters like Abul Khaizuran could have been presented as clear symbols, as in Naguib Mahfouz's best work. Instead, they are real. Their essential forms line up exactly with the larger concepts they conjure in the reader's mind. After the last page, there is no pause in the calculation between what you would feel for the characters, what you feel for their political situation, and what you feel for the human condition. They are one and the same emotion. Although the writing is more cinematic, Kanafani's young obsession with Russian literature shines through; the streams of consciousness could belong to Tolstoy's Ivan Ilyich, and the play of existential harshness against naivety (see: Abu Qais thinking he hears the Earth's heartbeat as he embraces it, but only hearing his own) is beautifully Dostoyevskian. This is more than a good "Palestinian story". It's a modernist masterpiece, written by a guy in his 20s and rivalling the best of wartime fiction. I can't help wondering what more Kanafani would have produced, if he wasn't assassinated at 36.

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