Ghassan Kanafani


Writer, novelist, critic; born in Acre,
Palestine. He attended primary school in Acre. The family fled to Syria when the Arab-Israeli war began, and he attended secondary school in Damascus. He studied Arabic literature at the University of Damascus. He was expelled for his involvement in the Arab Nationalist Movement, before receiving a degree. He moved to Kuwait where he worked as a teacher and journalist, and then to Beirut.

Kanafani was editor of the magazine “Filasteen” (Palestine), on the editorial board of al-Anwar from 1967-1969, editor-in-chief of “al Hadaf”. He was assassinated in Beirut by a car bomb planted by Israeli agents.

His first novel, Rijal min shams (Men under the Sun) was made into a film called al-Makhdu’un
(The Dupes).This is one of the first films to address the Palestinian predicament: set in Iraq in the 1950s, it is the story of three Palestinian refugees concealed in the steel tank of a truck, trying to make their way across the border into Kuwait, the "promised land” .


His second novel, Ma tabaqqa lakum, (All That's Left to You) was published in 1966. It is considered one of the earliest and most successful modernist experiments in Arabic fiction. Kanafani used multiple narrators - two of them, the clock and the desert, were inanimate. It is the story of Hamid, a young man who dreams of being reunited with his mother from whom he was separated in 1948. Hamid had fled to Gaza while his mother left for the West Bank. He tries to find her but becomes lost in the desert, where he encounters an Israeli soldier. Although he dies before locating his mother, in death he is reunited with his lost land.


The main themes in Kanafani’s writings are exile, uprootedness, and national struggle. He published novels, short stories, plays, literary criticism and also did some painting.

He was posthumously awarded the Lotus Prize for Literature by the Conference of Afro-Arian Writers.