A Book Review: The Other Thing “Who Killed Layla Al Hayek”, Ghassan Kanafani

To Mera, 

The girl who suddenly fill in love with Ghassan Kanafani, and has always been in love with Palestine.

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.

kanafani 5

The Book:

The Other Thing “Who Killed Layla Al Hayek”, is a novel that was published the first time in the weekly magazine”Al Hawadeth” in Beirut, in a format of nine episodes, starting in June 1966. Ghassan Kanafani never publish it separately, maybe as assumed, dude to political reasons; The 1967 War.

The Review:

Many critiques saw the book as a negative thing in Kanafani’s works, relating that to the difference in theme and style of his writing, since usually he referred all his books and fictional books to the political situation in his motherland, Palestine.

After reading the book, which is of a fiction/Detective genre, full of suspense and analyzing of the circumstances that made the main character “Saleh” the murderer of “Layla Al Hayek”, I still didn’t see why was it considered different. The whole story, if quickly read without any further analyzing, or without being given a further thought, looks like many other fictional books, I agree. But looking deeply into the story and the idea behind it, Ghassan Knafani shouldn’t had been criticized.

If we re-read the book once more, and viewed “Layla Al Hayek” as “Palestine”, everything will change in our eyes. Ghassan Kanafani is a symbolic writer, and a good writer/Author, he wouldn’t, as many good authors, teach us how to read him, he simply wrote and we simply read and still reading. “Layla” if taken as “Palestine”, would make complete since, the case of all Arabs and Palestinians, murdering their own land by “Accident” or “Ignorance” or “Personal Interests”, pointing fingers on the most logical “Person” or “Party”, who is “Saleh” in the story, and the “Arabs” in real, being in the right place and time under the perfect circumstances.

“Saleh’s” silence in the story, is one thing that doesn’t really make sense to the reader; why would anyone not defend themselves in court, in front of a death sentence? To me at least, Ghassan did want us to see how “Saleh”, as “Arabs”, knew there was nothing much he could do to change his destiny, as everything around him was totally against him, and much stronger than him. Which can also be related to what “Arabs” had to go through back then, although at that time, they did try to change things, either with their resistance, silence, their blood being shed, sacrifices or else how.

But there is also the mutual feeling “Saleh” and “Arabs” have/had, which is hope. “Saleh” had hopes for something magical, some miracle maybe, to happen to get him out of the curse he was under, to be taken to another world, where he isn’t standing in a court accused for a murder of a woman he barely knew, but desired to feed his ego as a man, he wished for his past peaceful life back, but he didn’t fight for it, he was sentenced to death and all he did was writing a letter to his wife, which can be the new life and the next generations of the Palestinians and all the Arabs, asking her to believe that he didn’t kill “Layla”, and that he loved her, his wife, genuinely.

There is one more mutual feeling between “Saleh” and “Arabs” in the story, which is “Shame”; shame of allowing something stupid like that to happen, by not assuming he was walking towards a trap set by life and circumstance. He didn’t defend himself, because he was ashamed to admit out loud that he was having an affair with a married woman, who’s his wife’s friend. He was ashamed of being seen as a filthy lawyer, and an unfaithful man to his own family, he was also afraid to ruin the reputation of “Layla” too, and that’s what “Palestinians” did later on when they flee and immigrated and left their lands behind them, they felt ashamed not knowing how to justify their act and behavior.

In the story “Saleh” admits in his letter that he, at some point, wished “Layla” dead, because this is the only way he could keep her love in his heart, without problems, besides the love he had to his wife. And this is also what happened to “Palestinians”, who lost their lands; they deep inside them will always love what they were forced to lose.

He at the end shared his will with his wife, to use the letter for future reference for herself and others around her to start a new life, to turn a new page and keep going, not to give herself a chance to look back, reminding her that time is a healer. He even shared his fears with her, he hoped with terror that he can keep his silence in front of the hanging rope and face death quietly, and this is every “Palestinian’s”, inside “Palestine”, attitude, the full surrender to death for the sake of the sacrifice.

This whole thing might show something here, maybe the disappointment Ghassan Kanafani might have had felt back then at some point while writing his episodes for the magazine, the tiny bit of political surrender he might have had had in his heart at a certain stage of his life, of the sadness towards his love to his country.

Ghassan didn’t point out his attachment to the land directly in this book, nor showed it to us in fictional understood rhythms,and that to me , certainly, makes it a very successful piece of art. Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe the critiques were right, thinking Ghassan did write something different that had nothing to do with the case of Palestinians, all Arabs and Muslims. But literature is an art, and you go figure 🙂

Katia

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The Kingdom of All Kingdoms, The Immortal Child “Episode 12″

The Kingdom of All Kingdoms
The Kingdom of All Kingdoms

I promised before to tell you how Zoya, the Queen, turned from a mortal “citizen” into an immortal Queen, and so here is the charming story.

Long time ago, when knowledge wasn’t accessible to everyone, either because there was no path to it, or it was too important that it was kept hidden away from the common, Zoya was born and brought into this world, to a family that was, of course, just a common.

As soon as she started talking, which she did very early, her parents knew that she was different, special and enlightened in a way they couldn’t understand. She told her mother for how she remembers very well watching her when she was still in her belly, and how she also felt her mother’s love and tried her best not to cause her any difficulties during her pregnancy.

Bit by bit as Zoya started growing she started writing poems, although no one taught her to write or read, and she started painting too. She in her arts referred to things no one around her knew before her. Not only that though, she was also being able to tell the history of a person just by looking into their eyes, she knew everyone’s life, sorrow, happiness and secrets. “Citizens” from all around the “Remote Kingdoms” came to meet this girl and see this prodigy, to listen to her poems, to gaze at her paintings and got lost in them, and to test her abilities of narrating their pasts. Zoya got a bit older, and discovered her love to music and singing, she composed her own, and played on different available instruments, music that spoke to everyone’s soul.

Her parents understood her powers, and that she was unique in every aspect, but they didn’t know what to do with that child. She, as they heard, was the one and only with such maddening talents. They were happy and blessed to have such a child, however they were worried and didn’t know how to protect her. Nevertheless, Zoya didn’t need any protection, she knew and sensed where danger laid and avoided it.

Zoya grew into a smart, fearless, wise yet vivid and vigorous adult. She, everywhere she went, shined like a star. “Citizens” spotted her unintentionally, she was like a magnet. Those who didn’t know anything about her, didn’t actually understand their indiscriminate attraction to her. The moment their eyes met with hers they couldn’t stop staring, they felt they were looking for something like an answer, a clue, or an infinite treasure that was going to change their lives. Only she could stop those eyes from devouring hers, by one single blink, all that magnetic attraction would vanish.

Although Zoya lived for a while the life that she wanted, she wasn’t later satisfied. She wanted to know more and to learn more. She wanted to be wiser, calmer and more tranquil. She wanted the world to be a better place, she wanted to make it a happy place, but she didn’t know how, for it was full of troubles, poverty, wars and tragedies. Despite this she decided to travel around the “Remote Kingdoms” and find the answers to her questions. She traveled for a long time, sometimes she even lost the sense of time. She saw lots of new things and met many “citizens”, she expanded her horizons and decided her favorite places. She worked in random places for random “citizens” to earn some pennies to keep herself alive and sheltered. She served in a barn that belonged to a rich “citizen”, who owned mansions and huge farms. Since then she knew her love to horses can never die. She took care of a horse, that she felt was reflecting her personality and thinking, even though this animal didn’t talk, it could read her mind as clearly as she could read its. The owner noticed her attachment to the horse and as she wanted to travel further, he gave her that horse as a gift for her dedication and hard work. She continued her journey, knowing she still didn’t accomplish her mission, not knowing exactly what her mission was. She wanted to see and know everything. She knew later that knowledge was infinite.

One night she woke up thrilled by the terrified neighing of her horse, she didn’t get the chance to calm it down when she saw a shadow of a man riding another horse. That figure of his was bigger than any other “citizen”, and the shadow of the horse was huge too. Fear took over her and she couldn’t think nor react, she suddenly froze, and that ice inside her soul became rapidly contagious, everything froze; the horse, the breeze, the greens and every living soul. Time stopped along with her heart. Zoya was still being able to see and hear, and she knew she wasn’t dead yet. As soon as the man put his hand on hers, In a single second, she saw her whole life passing by in front of her eyes, she had seen it all, but the end wasn’t given to her. Then suddenly an enormous feeling of explosion happened inside her and inside everything, around her and around everything, but it was mute, so mute that no one can understand it, it was like an explosion of rocks caused by the powerful pressure of water trying to furiously climb into the surface, but the only difference was the silence it held in it. Life returned to her as soon as she respired and her horse stomped with one of his legs against the ground.

That man is King David, who back then was “The Prince of The Kingdom of All Kingdoms”. Nobody knew there was such a Kingdom, because no one saw it or heard about it. It was beyond their reach, too far, too big and too serene to be spotted. The Prince spoke to her without saying words, and told her how everyone in “The Kingdom of All Kingdoms” longed to meet her even before she was born. He told her that they had to wait for the right time to meet her, and how they watched her every day and night, protected her and provided her with everything she needed to be ready and to be as wise as she should have been. Zoya seemed very confused, she couldn’t understand what exactly she had to conclude, but since he read her mind, he knew he had to explain.

She could hear his voice, although he was silent,”Dear Zoya, you are not to stay here, you don’t belong to this place. You are one of a kind. Everyone in “The Kingdom of All Kingdoms” has been waiting for you, including myself. Your time is not now, not here.”, she didn’t understand and questioned it in her mind, “Then where, and why if I was born here, on this earth?”, He was going to explain further, looking deeply in her eyes, when he suddenly felt a burning sensation inside him, he never felt that way, and didn’t realize it as quickly as he should have, his thoughts and ideas vanished, she realized immediately what happened and fast enough she blinked to relief him for the magnetic attraction that everyone else couldn’t explain or handle. He felt suddenly released, and wondered demanding himself for an answer but he couldn’t find it, and decided to continue explaining to her who she was and where she was supposed to be. “Your royalty, you are an “Indigo Child”. All the other indigo children are not to be here yet, and they are all still reserved for when the time is right. I know you don’t know what an indigo child is. You do sense and realize how different you are from everyone else, don’t you?”, she nodded agreeing, “You are the child of the future, you’re a different kind; the one the world will need later, when life is harder and faster, and quickly developed and changed. Your kind will bring enlightenment to the world you know. But to keep you here means to lose you, you are mortal, “The Kingdom of All Kingdoms” can’t let this happen. Your life matters to everyone out there, We found only one indigo child, which is you”.

Zoya then unwillingly stared in his eyes, as deep as thoughtful as it was possible for her then, not realizing what this man was saying, not being able to relate. And he fell again a victim of that burning sensation. When it happened the second time she managed to stop it too, but a bit slower than the first, he knew that was not a feeling that anyone in “The Kingdom of All Kingdoms” was supposed to feel, he knew they were not supposed to feel anything, but he and for the first time felt, felt something he didn’t know, until later.

She had to suffer for a short while to lose her mortal heart and soul and hold ones that are immortal. It was painful, it was cruel, yet it happened too fast. The Prince knew that he had to remove all her feelings too, because feelings don’t matter in the “Upper World”, but no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t get them out of her, she suffered even more, the harder he tried the worse it was for her. He soon knew that he was going to lose that battle, and as soon as he realized it he screamed with agony, he felt pain, something he never felt before. He let go of her feelings, he felt he was going to commit a horrible crime that is unforgivable to him if he just destroyed her feelings. Zoya since then became immortal, an undying indigo child that is supposed to do something to the “Under-world” later on. He turned her horse into an immortal huge horse, explaining to her “That it is actually an indigo animal, the one and only found as well. We have to take it with us, it will be always yours, your royalty, you are a princess now, and you should have a noble horse like this one.”.

They had to travel to the “Upper world”, and on the way there he told her about the burning sensation, and how he didn’t know what it was. “Have you never loved anyone in your life?” She was surprised by her own question. “Loved? No, we don’t love” he explained, “But what you felt was love!”, He kept his thoughts to himself, not willing to even think about feelings, but then he remembered the agony he felt, and asked her about it too, “I felt I was a demon when I was in the processes of making you immortal, I felt I couldn’t look at you between my arms while you were suffering. What was that, is that love too?”, he hoped for a no, “That is love too, but this is more of regret and self torturing feeling, that is when one feels they can’t forgive themselves for something bad they’ve done. That’s your good side feeling sorry for others who are suffering.”

The Prince then knew that he not only found the one and only indigo child, but also knew that he fell in love for the first and the last time, with someone who’s emotions were supposed to be erased, with someone whom he was supposed to free from emotions, instead this someone has given him treasures, feelings he can only feel while he’s with her. She changed his life for good.

Click here to Listen To The Indigo Children’s Song