The Story of the Palestinian Novel


By Gautam Bhatia

“In the last analysis, a man is a cause.” So says Said S.’s estranged son to his father, in Ghassan Kanafani’s 1969 novella, Returning to Haifa. In this, one of the most famous pieces of Palestinian literature, Said S. and his wife Safiya are returning to visit their home in Haifa 20 years after the nakba placed it within Israel’s borders, and find it occupied by a Jewish-Israeli immigrant family. At the end of the novella, Said S. tells its new owners, “You two may remain in our house temporarily. It will take a war to settle that.”

Three decades later, in Elias Khoury’s fractured, wounded elegy to the Palestinian revolution, Gate of the Sun, its ineffectual narrator, Dr. Khaleel, wonders aloud: “… how sad it is when revolutions come to an end. The end of a revolution is the ugliest thing there is. A revolution is like a person. It gets senile and rambles and wets itself.”

What changed between 1969 and 1998? What explains the transformation from a tone of defeat coupled with the will to resist, to a weary resignation, a sense of almost-futility? That is the question that Bashir Abu-Manneh sets out to answer in The Palestinian Novel: From 1948 to the Present. Read more

Source: The Wire

 

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