Reading and Discussing Kanafani

by Mark Chmiel

Last week in our second meeting of Arab Writers in Translation Reading Circle, Amal, Fatima, Becca, Hala, Sharifa, and I discussed Ghassan Kanfani’s Men in the Sun, and Other Palestinian Stories. Sharifa provided this helpful guide.

Arab Writers in Translation
Wednesday 25 April 2012
Tonight’s Book: Ghassan Kanafani, Men in the Sun and Other Stories

Paired Discussion:
With a partner, please discuss any of the following questions:
What did you know about Ghassan Kanafani before reading this collection?
Which was your favorite story? Why?
What do you think of the collection as a whole?
Which themes/issues stood out the most for you?
Loss
Family
Waiting
Tragedy
Hope
Despair
Other

Which character(s) did you find most interesting? Why?
Abu Qais
Assad
Marwan
Abul Khaizuran
Narrator or Father in “The Land of Sad Oranges”
Umm Saad
Narrator in “Letter from Gaza”
Nadia
Other

Which passages did you find most compelling or inspiring?
Can you relate to any of the characters or their experiences?

Group Sharing:
What do you think the ending of Men in the Sun represents?
Discuss how the narrator in “The Land of Sad Oranges” gradually loses his childhood innocence.
Why does the narrator in “Letter from Gaza” suddenly see Gaza in a different light?
What can we learn about the Palestinian experience and diaspora from these stories?

Passages of Note
“I knew, however, that a distant homeland was being born again; hills, plains, olive groves, dead people, torn banners and folded ones, all cutting into a future of flesh and blood and being born in the heart of another child…Do not believe that a 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.” –Kanafani in a letter to his son

“I loved Nadia from habit, the same habit that made me love all that generation which had been so brought up on defeat and displacement that it had come to think that a happy life was a kind of social deviation.” – “Letter from Gaza,” p. 114

“This Gaza in which we had lived and with whose good people we had spent seven years of defeat was something new. It seemed to me just a beginning….Everything in this Gaza throbbed with sadness, which was not confined to weeping. It was a challenge; more than that, it was something like the reclamation of the amputated leg! …This obscure feeling that you had as you left Gaza, this small feeling must grow into a giant deep within you. It must expand, you must seek it in order to find yourself, here among the ugly debris of defeat.” –“Letter from Gaza,” p. 115

Follow-up Reading:
Ghassan Kanafani: Palestine’s Children: Returning to Haifa and Other Stories
Edward Said: After the Last Sky: Palestinian Lives
Joe Sacco: Palestine and Footnotes in Gaza

In June, we explore Lebanese writer Hanan al-Shaykh’s The Story of Zahra
Potluck & Discussion
Wednesday 27 June
6:00-8:00 p.m
Center for Survivors of Torture & War Trauma
1077 South Newstead
Forest Park Southeast

Men in the Sun

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