Short stories are so important to literary life in Palestine that contemporary Gazan writer Atef Abu Saif commented how “Gaza was an exporter of oranges and short stories”. Ghassan Kanafani, one of Palestine’s, and indeed the Arab world’s most renowned writers, wrote ‘The Land of Sad Oranges’, which has today become an enduring and powerful metaphor of the pain of Palestinian exile and Naqba. Written plainly and rendered through a memory of a child, the text is a living testimony to not only the affective power of the short story form, but also its ability to contain, despite (possibly because of) its constrained and breviloquent spaces, a great, mythical imagination. In Kanafani’s story, the imagination is that of an exiled family tied to their homeland through oranges, the groves of which “follow them along the road”.
First published as ard al-burtuqal al-hazin, 1963. Collected in English translation in Palestine’s Children: Returning to Haifa and Other Stories, Lynne Riener, 2000