A Book Review: “Men In The Sun”, Ghassan Kanafani

About The Author:

Ghassan Kanafani born in Akka, Palestine, April 9, 1936. Assassinated by a car bomb in Beirut, Lebanon,  by the Mossad, July 8, 1972. Ghassan was a writer and an active leading member of The Popular Front Of The Liberation Of Palestine. So besides being a writer he was a politician.

About The Book:

Published in 1963, It’s a reflection of actual reality of struggle of a lot of Palestinians to survive, to live or die, to face humiliation and face the cruelty of the world outside, which they didn’t know before 1948. Of course the story doesn’t only draw a picture of some people’s lives at that time, but it also symbolizes the dimensions of the tragedy and the disaster of a certain period of time in the Palestinian history, showing us part of the struggle and the aftermath of some deeds and decisions.

Kanafani in his narration in this book depended a lot on flashbacks and characters’ memories, the reader might feel confused at the beginning, he kept coming back and forth in time, and mixed stories, hopes, dreams, fears, tragedies, incidents and feelings together. I can say that, once the reader realizes that it’s based on flashbacks, they will enjoy it and find it very easy to read. Besides it’s very well-put and short enough that it won’t bore the reader. 

The Review:

In a 100 pages Kanafani tells a story of three Palestinian men who were seeking the future by trying separately & desperately to reach Kuwait through smugglers, but later they end up trying together, to run a way from Iraq, where they couldn’t find jobs and had no official papers to prove their residency, which ends up in a total failure and the death of the three of them.

Kanafani himself at some point of his life went through such an experience, when he had to remain hidden at home for some months because he had no official papers. So his story “Men In The Sun” is a reflection of reality showing the political, social and financial hardships Palestinians struggled with at that period of time. 

The story is made of 6 chapters and 4 main characters. The first chapter exposes the first character to the reader “Abu Qais” an old Palestinian man, From Jaffa,  who’s married and has a kid, living in Iraq, after he got exiled from Palestine, 1948,  in a small tiny room, that was offered to him by someone out of pity, he’s jobless and got no money, depressed and helpless.

The second chapter talks about “Asa’ad” a young man who ended up smuggled in Iraq after his exile from Ramleh in Palestine to Amman in Jordan. He tried his best to get to Kuwait but he failed once, and still insisted to try again. The money he had was what his uncle gave him, trying to help him in any way, to start his life and marry his daughter, whom he didn’t want to marry, but accepted the money for his own good.

The third chapter shows us another character “Marwan”, another young man who is forced to leave school to start working by trying to escape to Kuwait from Iraq as well, since his eldest brother disappeared and stopped sending money to the family, the family on the other hand is torn apart and no one is there to financially support them, he feels obliged and responsible to help them.

The three Palestinian men at random times meet the same fat smuggler who offers them his service cruelly for 15 Dinar, and everyone thought it was too much money, and they were afraid of trusting him, because they heard how some other Palestinians were abandoned in the desert, after they paid, and how they were lost there and dehydrated to death.

In the third chapter another character is introduced “Abu Khaizaran”, a Palestinian man, who’s got a stable job in Iraq as a water-tanker driver, who works for a rich man, but wants to make more money, since he couldn’t have another purpose for life. Before he moved to Iraq he was a victim of some explosion in Palestine and lost his manhood.

In chapter four, “Abu Khaizaran” offers the three men his idea of smuggling them through the borders of Iraq and Kuwait using the water-tanker, and explains his plan, the guys agree to hide in the empty water tank twice, once before the Iraqi check point, and Once before the Kuwaiti, and pay him 15 Dinar each upon arrival, assuring them that mission won’t take a lot of time since everyone knew him on the borders, and taking in consideration the deadly summer heat. The first check point was passed smoothly, while the next one took “Abu Khaizaran” time as the security men and those who worked in the office wanted to chat and catch up with his adventures. 

He drives fast inside the desert to be out of sight, and as he wanted to let the guys out of the tank, he finds them all dead. He throws them away on the side of the road, takes their money and someone’s watch, and gets angry and confused, wondering why they never screamed, shouted or banged the walls of the tank to ask for help, that’s in the last chapter.

Katia

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