Ghareeb Asqalani, a Founder of Gazan Literature, Dies at 74

Ghareeb Asqalani, a Palestinian novelist and short-story writer who Atef Abu Saif called a representative of “the generation that founded the short story in Gaza in the 1970s and 1980s,” died in Gaza on Tuesday.

Abu Saif included one of Asqalani’s short stories, “A White Flower for David,” in the anthology Book of Gaza, published by Comma Press.

Asqalani, whose given name was Ibrahim al-Zand, was born in the village al-Majdal Ashkelon in the south of Palestine in the spring of 1948; his family was forced to leave for a refugee camp in Gaza while he was still an infant.

Throughout his life, he published nine novels, six short-story collections, and three collections of essays, as well as work online. His literary work was primarily interested in layers of oppression and alienation.

Like many Palestinians of his generation, Asqalani did his advanced studies in Egypt, earning a degree in agricultural economics in Alexandria and Islamic Studies in Cairo, and he worked in a number of different roles: agricultural engineer, teacher, director at the Ministry of Culture, and spokesperson for the Palestinian International Book Fair.

In a statement published by ArabNews, Atef Abu Saif said Asqalani wrote about the country’s “aches and the struggles of its people.”

Abu Saif also wrote in the introduction to The Book of Gaza that Asqalani’s message, in that story, seems to be that: “Humans cannot forsake their humanity.”

Since 2010, Asqalani was Deputy Secretary General to the Palestinian Writers’ Union and Chairman of the Gaza branch. He was the winner of the short story prize from New Bethlehem University in 1976, and from the Palestinian Writers’ Union in 1991, and was honored with the Order of Culture, Sciences, and the Arts in 2016.