“You know these feelings, Mustafa, becasue you’ve really experienced them. What is this ill-defined tie we had with Gaza that blunted our enthusiasm for flight? Why didn’t we analyze the matter in such a way as to give it a clear meaning? Why didn’t we leave this defeat with its wounds behind us and move on to a brighter future that would give us deeper consolation! Why? We didn’t exactly know.”
Ghassan Kanafani’s short stories Men in the Sun & Other Palestinian Stories is based on many autobiographical events in Kanafani’s life. He was born in 1936 in Acre, Palestine. In 1948, he and his family fled to Damascus where he began work as a journalist. He was also a major spokesman for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He has written five novels, two plays, and two studies of Palestinian literature. The ironic part is that he died in 1972 with his niece in the explosion of his booby-trapped car, but his written work is still as powerful now as it was in his lifetime.
The stories in this collection share the common elements of isolation, disorientation and tragedy. When the Jewish community moved into Israel and Palestine after WWII, it was the Palestinians that became displaced and geographically orphaned. These stories emphasis their desire to be home and their struggles, and ultimate failure, to survive. The longest of the stories is Men in the Sun. I read that story for my Middle Eastern Studies class and I remember crying for a good half hour after putting the book down. It follows the tale of four men trying to escape into Kuwait with the help of an military man, hiding them in his lorry. Kanafani gives us four individual lives, stories and strengths brought together, united to escape the terror in Palestine and build a new life for themselves.
It is odd reading this so soon after reading a moving memoir about the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Humanity is strange the way it engulfs, embraces and dislocates each other. My sympathies go to both sides of this constant waging battle. Kanafani’s prophetic words, although written more than twenty years earlier, ring true with the situation in the Middle East today. It is harder to ignore injustice, when there are names, faces and stories involved. The only question though, is who is the injustice against, not only in Palestine/Israel, but all over the world.