Three stories by the legendary author Ghassan Kanafani constitute the pinnacle of his oeuvre and the essence of his literary school. They were introduced to readers in his latest novella.
Kanafani is known for the characteristic open endings in most of his novels. However, his last three stories are different; they do not have an open ending, they have no ending at all. The three stories were first published posthumously in 1981. Kanafani died in 1972.
“Al-Aasheq” (The Lover) is the name of the book, but it is not the only story. There are two other stories published in the anthology; “April Plums” and “The Deaf and The Blind”.
In the first story, “Al-Aasheq”, Kanafani tells the tale of a runaway man and he shows how small incidents shape people’s destiny. It highlights the ever-continuous opposition to occupation and injustice and the undying hope for freedom.
“April Plums” is the shortest of the three stories and is the one with the most ties to historic events of Palestine. In it, he draws similarities between the red flowers of blooming plums and the blooded shirt of a martyr, in the joy and sorrow that both represent, and in the sense that the opposition, like the plums, will always keep blooming and growing.
The final story in the book, “The Deaf and the Blind”, has more of a meditational theme; it attempts to understand the reason why things happen the way they do and how and why revelations are revealed. This story is the most favoured by Kanafani’s fans, and it is widely believed that, had it been completed, it would have been his true masterpiece.
The writing styles of the three stories are extremely similar. Kanafani does not wait for his readers to guess what the characters are thinking or how they feel. Instead, he has the characters tell their own tale and explain all their thoughts and feelings. However, the challenge remains for the readers to stay alert to keep track of who is saying what, because every paragraph is narrated by a different character, who together draw the bigger picture of the story.
Although open endings are not new to Kanafani’s books, there is still a hint of frustration when the page is turned to a blank sheet. One cannot help but linger at the final page of each story and wonder how it could be ended.
Kanafani is one of the most famous Palestinian writers, born in Acre, Palestine in 1963. He was killed, along with his niece, by a bomb planted in his car in Beirut, Lebanon in 1972. The assassination is said to be the work of the Israeli Mossad.
Kanafani left behind a rich legacy of Palestinian literature admired by all his readers and all enthusiasts of the Palestinian cause. In his stories, Palestine and all that is linked to it are the theme of his writings. He often describes the land itself with its plants and trees, with its horses and farm animals, and always of its people and their struggles. Kanafani has written and published a number of books, some of which are novels, while the rest are short stories.
Many of Kanafani’s readers view the open endings of these three stories as strong symbolism pointing to the open-endedness of the Palestinian struggle that is yet to find its proper ending.