One great short story to read today: Ghassan Kanafani’s “Letter from Gaza”

Dan Sheehan

May 24, 2024, 10:30am

According to the powers that be (er, apparently according to Dan Wickett of the Emerging Writers Network), May is Short Story Month. To celebrate, for the second year in a row, the Literary Hub staff will be recommending a single short story, free* to read online, every (work) day of the month. Why not read along with us? Today, we recommend:

“Letter from Gaza” by Ghassan Kanafani

Kanafani was a Palestinian resistance writer and revolutionary politician who produced some of the Arab world’s most celebrated works of fiction before he was assassinated, alongside his beloved niece Lamees, by Mossad in 1972. “Letter from Gaza,” perhaps Kanafani’s most famous short story (though I would also highly recommend “The Crucified Sheep” and “The Land of Sad Oranges“), was written when the author was barely 20 years old. Tragically prophetic, it is told in the voice of a young Palestinian man who has returned to his destroyed neighborhood in Gaza. In a letter to a friend who is eagerly awaiting his arrival in Sacramento, the man recounts a trip to see his badly wounded niece, and explains his decision to “remain among the ugly debris” of his brutalized home place.

The story begins:

Dear Mustafa,

I have now received your letter, in which you tell me that you’ve done everything necessary to enable me to stay with you in Sacramento. I’ve also received news that I have been accepted in the department of Civil Engineering in the University of California. I must thank you for everything, my friend. But it’ll strike you as rather odd when I proclaim this news to you—and make no doubt about it, I feel no hesitation at all, in fact I am pretty well positive that I have never seen things so clearly as I do now. No, my friend, I have changed my mind. I won’t follow you to “the land where there is greenery, water and lovely faces” as you wrote. No, I’ll stay here, and I won’t ever leave.

Read it here.

*If you hit a paywall, we recommend trying with a different/private/incognito browser (but listen, you didn’t hear it from us).

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