GHASSAN KANAFANI AND WILLIAM FAULKNER: KANAFANI'S ACHIEVEMENT IN ALL THAT'S LEFT TO YOU
Even though Ghassan Kanafani (1936-1972) published his novella Md Tabaqqd Lakum (1966) (All That',s Left to You) more than thirty years ago, the extent of Kanafani's artistic achievement in writing that novella has not been resolved. The advent of All That's Left on the literary scene coincided with the dispute between the supporters of iltizâm (commitment) (i.e., to Arab nationalism) and their opponents who insisted upon the autonomy of artistic expression. The publication of All That's Left during that dispute had a direct impact on the assessment of Kanafani's achievement in the novella. Inasmuch as the supporters of committed literature favored the conventions of literary realism as the ideal devices for the depiction of socio-political concerns, Kanafani's eschewing of those conventions in All That's Left in favor of the stream-of-consciousness of multiple narrators resulted in a controversial recep- tion : one group of readers applauded Kanafani's artistic innovations, while the supporters of committed literature considered the novella a subversive text that sacrificed content, that is, a commitment to socio-political causes, for fictional virtuosity or literary accomplishment. Given the political and cultural factors that influenced the reception of All That's Left, the present study will examine Kanafani's achievement in the novella through two avenues: first, it will explore the rise of the concept of committed literature in the Arab world to evaluate its impact on literary cre- ativity in general and on the reception of All That's Lef in particular. This part will trace the development of the concept of committed literature and the rise of its opponents, and examine the kinds of criticism that All That's Left received. Second, the supporters of committed literature rejected All That's Left on the grounds that the devices of stream-of-consciousness and multiple narrators are inappropriate for the depiction of national causes. In challenging this perception, this study will examine the poetics of Western
' Ghassan Kanafani, Md Tabaqqd Lakum, 4th ed. (Beirut: Mu'assasat al-Abhath al- 'Arabiyyah, 1986). All subsequent references are to its English translation in Ghassan Kanafani, All That's Left to You: A Novella and Other Stories, trans. Jeremy Reed and May Jayussi, intro. Roger Allen (Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 1992) pp. 1-50; hereafter referred to as Kanafani, All That's Left. 148 literary modernism and its origins in modern science, philosophy, psychol- ogy, and Avant-Garde painting. This exposition aims at revealing why Kanafani employs the modern fictional devices of William Faulkner (1897-1962), Kanafani's mentor for All That :s Left,2 in The Sound and the Fury ( 1931).3 It argues that through his knowledge of the poetics of modernism, Faulkner, like numerous other modern writers, abstracts his socio-political fictional concerns in such a way that he appears to adhere to the Aesthetician's concept of "art for art's sake," while, in fact, he never detaches his narrative from the praxis of life. This study, therefore, compares Kanafani's application of the modern narrative devices in All That's Left to The Sound to evaluate whether or not he sacrifices his socio-political concerns to achieve artistic ends. The scholarship on All That's Left has already established Kanafani's indebted- ness to Faulkner's The Sound both in form and content.' The present study aims at taking the already established influence of Faulkner on Kanafani as its starting point to explore the literary effects that Kanafani achieves through his use and development of Faulkner's narrative techniques.
I. Kanafani and the Issue of Commitment in Literatur-e (iltizam)
Even though the concept of a commitment in Arabic literature did not fully develop until 1953, Arab writers since the 1940s had already been depic- ting the problems and the aspirations of the masses throughout the Arab world. Where prose fiction is concerned, M. M. Badawi explains that already in the 1940s the Arab world had witnessed a stream of heavily documented novels of angry protest.5 Those novels focused on such issues as the evils of colonization, the need to fight for freedom and independence, the con- demnation of backwardness in Arab societies, and the call for the emanci- 6 pation of women.6 The 1950s was a decade of new challenges that evolved from the Pales-
Z Kanafaniexplains Faulkner's influence by saying: "I admire [Faulkner's] novel The Sound and the Fury. Many critics observe that my novella All That's Left to You is a manifest expression of admiration, and I agree. Faulkner's novel has influenced me greatly. Neverthe- less, All That'.r Left to You is not an exact replica of Faulkner's devices, but an attempt at benefitting from those artistic devices and from Faulkner's achievement in developing Western literature." See: "Ghassan Kanafani fi Akhir Liqa' Idhä'i," Al-Hadaf (September 15, 1973) p. 18; hereafter referred to as Kanafani, "Interview." 3 William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury, intro. Richard Hughes (London: Penguin Books, 1975); hereafter referred to as Faulkner, The Sound. 4 For a discussion of Faulkner's influence on Kanafani's work, see among others Enas Swaiss, William Faulkner and Some Arab Novelists: Influences and Analogies, unpublished M. A. thesis (Amman: The University of Jordan, 1987). 5 M. M. Badawi, Modern Arabic Literature and the West (London: Ithaca Press, 1985) p. 10; hereafter referred to as Badawi. 6 Ibid., p. 10.