Palestine's Children: Returning to Haifa and Other Stories

Ghassan Kanafani, Author, Barbara Harlow, Translator, Karen E. Riley, Translator
Ghassan Kanafani, Author, Barbara Harlow, Translator, Karen E. Riley, Translator Lynne Rienner Publishers $25 (160p) ISBN 978-0-89410-865-5
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
Paperback - 142 pages - 978-0-89410-431-2
Hardcover - 145 pages - 978-0-89410-432-9
Paperback - 199 pages - 978-0-89410-890-7
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Ghassan Kanafani's meteoric literary and political career ended abruptly one morning in July 1972, when his booby-trapped car exploded, killing him and his niece. At the time, Kanafani was the spokesperson for the most militant wing of the Palestinian fedayeen. That militancy is reflected in these 14 stories. Beginning with a narrative disconcertingly entitled ""The Child Borrows His Uncle's Gun and Goes East to Safad,"" Kanafani plunges into the 1948 conflict between the Jews and Palestinians, following a 17-year-old, Mansur, whose actions mirror the author's own experiences. In a series of stories, the reader follows Mansur as he carries his old Turkish gun into the thick of sharpshooting contests with ""Zionists"" (as Israelis are identified in this strongly pro-Arab text) in old Palestinian town centers. Later, Mansur's uncle, Abu Al-Hassan, uses the gun on the British forces. These stories end, inevitably, with the consequences of defeat for the Palestinians: ""The Child Goes to the Camp,"" in which the narrator--a different child than Mansur--must survive the hunger sweeping through the refugee camps. He does so with a talisman, a five-pound note he finds in the street. In the novella for which Kanafani became famous, ""Returning to Haifa,"" the year is 1967, but the events are prefigured by the Palestinian population's uprooting from Haifa in 1948. Said S. and his wife, Safiyya, return to Haifa to the apartment they were forced to abandon and the memories of their infant son, Khaldun, inadvertently left behind in the mass panic. Miraculously, the Jewish couple who took over the apartment found and adopted the child, who is now an Israeli soldier. This story, which ends with a renunciation of even blood ties in the sacred cause of revenge, foretells the terrible violence of the '70s. (Sept.)
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