Remembering Ghassan Kanafani, or How a Nation was Born of Storytelling
This essay on Ghassan Kanafani—militant, political writer and essayist, literary innovator, and preeminent Palestinian novelist—is another in what JPS hopes will become an ongoing, if occasional, series foregrounding individuals (some known, others unknown to the outside world or forgotten) who embody some dimension of the Palestinian Resistance in the early years of its existence. Several such pieces have appeared in recent issues of JPS, notably “Two Portraits in Resistance,” commemorating two remarkable figures who left other lives to serve the movement, published in JPS 164, and the landmark 1996 interview with Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, published in JPS 165.
Though less of a household name than the slightly younger Darwish, Kanafani, assassinated in 1972 at age thirty-six by a Mossad bomb planted in his automobile, was known during his lifetime in almost equal measure for his political work and writings and for the novels and short stories that today constitute his enduring legacy. In this evocative remembrance of Kanafani written on the fortieth anniversary of his death, Lebanese novelist Elias Khoury treats the two strands, literary and revolutionary, as inextricably intertwined, two sides of the same coin. The piece was originally published in Arabic in JPS’s sister publication, Majallat al-Dirasat al-Filastiniyya, no. 92, autumn 2012, and translated for JPS by Maia Tabet.
Elias Khoury is a Lebanese writer, critic, and public intellectual, whose novels include The Little Mountain, The Journey of Little Ghandhi, and Gate of the Sun. He currently teaches literature at New York University and is co-editor of JPS’s sister publication Majallat al-Dirasat al-Filastiniyya.