Returning to Haifa, by Ghassan Kanafani

returnto haifaMy sister recommended three novellas by Ghassan Kanafani, and so I read all three. This was the last of them.

In this story, Said and his wife Safiyya are going back to their home town Haifa twenty years after they were forced out of their home by the Jews. They left everything behind, including their five month old son Khaldun, whom they were separated from. This novella is about their journey back to the home they owned, and what they find there. It’s about how things change, and about the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.

This was by far my favorite of the three novellas I read. It reminded me a lot of Mornings in Jenin, particularly in the way it addressed the conflict between the two sides of the war. No one was painted as purely evil – it wasn’t an anti-Jew or anti-Israeli story. The woman who has occupied Said and Safiyya’s house for the last twenty years, and who raised their son (now named Dov), is a good woman. She almost left Israel back in the 40s because she saw the way the Jews treated dead Arabs, and it both shamed and disgusted her. She welcomes the couple into her/their home and says she has been expecting them. Of course, she also loves her adopted son and has raised him in her faith. What I found most interesting about this book was the difference between mother and child. Dov is now in the Israeli military and is far more anti-Arab/anti-Muslim than his mother. Though he knows that he was adopted, he has no love for his biological parents when he meets them, and claims that he is not their son. Though he knows he’s biologically Arab, he is prejudiced against Arabs. He is dedicated to a cause, and in that cause, I saw the beginnings of the war that still goes on today. It was very sad to read about it, to see both sides diverging when they could have come together.

This was a fantastic novella. It was far easier to read than the other two, and less experimental in style (especially compared to All That’s Left to You). I got all three of these novellas from the library, but this is the one I want to acquire and own. It’s wonderful and an amazing look at the conflict without placing blame on either side. Or, more accurately, placing blame on both sides. It acknowledges that there’s no way to end this conflict without war, and that there’s no easy way out. I highly recommend it, if you find a copy.

About Amanda

Agender empty-nester filling my time with cats, books, fitness, and photography. She/they.
This entry was posted in 2010, Adult, Prose and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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