The Symbolism of the Sun in Ghassan Kanafani's Fiction: A Political Critique

Shadi S. Neimneh


This article explores the symbolism of the sun in Ghassan Kanafani's fiction, in particular his novella Men in the Sun (originally written and published in Arabic under the title Rijal fi al-Shams). The article argues that the sun is a naturalistic emblem standing for the harsh realities encountered by Palestinian refugees. Hence, it is employed as a political metaphor representing the "hellish" life of exiled Palestinians. In this light, the metaphorical employment of the motif of the sun serves the protest message of Kanafani's postcolonial literature of resistance. It is part of a larger project of employing gritty, harsh realism to depict a wretched world of agony, loneliness, despair, and helplessness. In Kanafani’s fiction, the sun directly figures pain, alienation and suffering, rather than hope, light, and renewal as commonly viewed in literary and mythical depictions. Instead of embodying light and birth, the sun figures loss and death in Kanafani’s fictional world. Therefore, it gives Kanafani’s fiction a mythical dimension when this fiction is viewed in its entirety. At the individual level of singular pieces, the sun underscores the realistic weight of such pieces, adding to their ideological, political and historical value. In Men in the Sun, the sun as a dominant symbol functions contra abstract metaphorical language by making the brutal realities of exile and suffering more concrete, more immediate, and more perceptible for the reader. Thus, it is a pessimistic symbol for Kanafani used to create realistic portraits of Palestinian life rather than an optimistic one as traditionally viewed.                                                                                                                             


Symbolism, Resistance Literature, Palestinian Literature, Ecocriticism

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