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Revolt in the Novel: Muḥammad Muṣṭafā Ghandūr’s Thaʾr al-damm (Blood Revenge) and the 1936-1939 Rebellion in Palestine

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Contrary to the inveterate opinion of most scholars, a Palestinian author actually dealt with political issues before the Nakbah in the novel Thaʾr al-damm (Blood Revenge). Published in Damascus in 1939 by Muḥammad Muṣṭafā Ghandūr from Acre, this work of fiction remained in oblivion for decades because the French Mandate authorities confiscated most of its copies soon after publication. It narrates the story of a young physician who forms an armed band to avenge the rape of his younger sister by British soldiers during the 1936-1939 uprising in Palestine; the woman, disguised as a man, joins the rebels and eventually dies in a fight.Through the symbolism behind the retaliation for the maiden’s rape, Thaʾr al-damm provides a literary interpretation of the Palestinians’ shift to organized insurgency against the British Mandate in the late 1930s. By pivoting the plot around the tropes of injury and revenge, Ghandūr translated the feelings of humiliation and threat, and the consequent quest for revenge and liberation shared by many Palestinians into a novel. The action of this story takes place in the Palestinian countryside, in a village community portrayed as a spotless model of national solidarity and harmoniously merged with its environment. Ghandūr sketches a protagonist who exemplifies the theme of the political radicalization of modern-educated youth and argues for the leading role that they should assume in the struggle, while the only female character illustrates village women’s actual involvement in the revolt.

Affiliations: 1: University of Cape Town


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