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Yalo
     

Yalo

by Elias Khoury
 

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Yalo propels us into a skewed universe of brutal misunderstanding, of love and alienation, of self-discovery and luminous transcendence. At the center of the vortex stands Yalo, a young man drifting between worlds like a stray dog on the streets of Beirut during the Lebanese civil war. Living with his mother who "lost her face in the mirror," he falls in with a

Overview

Yalo propels us into a skewed universe of brutal misunderstanding, of love and alienation, of self-discovery and luminous transcendence. At the center of the vortex stands Yalo, a young man drifting between worlds like a stray dog on the streets of Beirut during the Lebanese civil war. Living with his mother who "lost her face in the mirror," he falls in with a dangerous circle whose violent escapades he treats as a game. The game becomes a horrifying reality, however, when Yalo is accused of rape and armed robbery, and is imprisoned. Tortured and interrogated at length, he is forced to confess to crimes of which he has little or no recollection. As he writes, and rewrites his testimony, he begins to grasp his family’s past, and the true Yalo begins to emerge. Ha’aretz calls Yalo "a heartbreaking book . . . hypnotic in beauty."

Editorial Reviews

Adam LeBor
There is initially more telling than showing, which makes for a sometimes confusing start, but when the book takes off, it acquires a fascinating, dervish-like spin. Yalo's memories merge with the reality he confronts in his prison cell, yielding not one truth but many—or many versions of one truth.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

After the acclaimed Gate of the Sun, Khoury returns with the spellbinding "confession" of Beirut criminal Daniel Jal'u, aka Yalo, who is picked up by the cops for rape, robbery and suspicion of arms smuggling. Under torture and the threat of more torture, Yalo writes numerous confessions, but seems unable to grasp the whole of his life, producing instead a series of conflicting sequences and inexplicable omissions. Brought up by his grandfather Ephraim, a half-mad Syriac priest, and his mother, Gaby, Yalo joins the army in 1979 and fights in the horrific Lebanese civil wars already under way. Deserting 10 years later, Yalo, after a series of adventures, ends up working as a guard for a rich lawyer whose villa is close to a wooded lovers lane; he progresses from voyeurism to robbing and, in some cases, rape. In so doing he meets Shirin, who will change his life-partially by turning him in. Khoury refuses to give the reader an easy position from which to judge Yalo-either as a poor soul or a serial rapist, criminal or victim of torture-or from which to judge Lebanon's tragic and violent fate. His novel is a dense and stunning work of art. (Feb.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Khoury (Middle Eastern & Islamic studies), author of the critically acclaimed Gate of the Sun , among other works, here constructs a dark tale centering on the interrogation and torture of the titular Yalo. A product of Lebanon's brutal civil war, Yalo is accused of robbery and rape and is suspected of having been involved in even more nefarious activities. Imprisoned and forced to confess to crimes he has no memory of committing, Yalo attempts to re-create his past, and the absorbing story of his mother and her own past emerges. While readers will generally sympathize with Yalo's confusion and pain, they may find it hard to have feelings for the accused rapist. Still, Khoury's glimpse of a country torn apart by war and politics is an essential read for those interested in Lebanese culture and community. Recommended for literary collections.-Alicia Korenman, Florida State Univ. Lib., Tallahassee

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The "confession" of an ingenuous, conflicted foot soldier in Lebanon's recent (1975-90) civil war forms the complex subject of this 2002 novel from that country's internationally acclaimed author (Gate of the Sun, 2006, etc.). The book is composed of multiple narratives which complement and contradict one another, as accused terrorist Daniel Jal'u (nicknamed "Yalo") writes successive versions of his life story, under orders from his captors. We gradually learn that Yalo, whose father abandoned his wife and child, grew up among Beirut's minority population in a house ruled by his "Black Grandfather," a choleric priest, and shared with Yalo's passive Lebanese mother Gaby, involved in a fruitless affair with a married tailor. Yalo gradually emerges as a slow-witted follower who drifts into the army and flees it when a duplicitous comrade persuades him to commit robbery and escape to Paris. He eludes prosecution when a wealthy attorney (and secret arms dealer) hires him as a guard at his lavish Beirut villa-then stumbles into the dreamlike commission of rape and robbery (to Yalo, these crimes seem romantic exploits) and is subjected to false allegations of his involvement in "planting explosives and killing innocent people." Khoury wrests real poignancy from Yalo's ignorance of the truth of his own experiences, subtly arranging this luckless character's acquaintances and relationships into a nagging pattern of infatuation and engagement, estrangement, rejection and guilt. Both innocent victim and violent oppressor, Yalo sorts through his roiling memories, testing one possible story against another, omitting incriminating details only to acknowledge their crucial relevance-eventually becomingestranged even from himself, in a surreal climax that follows the rejection of his very confession. Khoury's unsparing portrayal of a man without a country, a history or even an identity dominates this deceptively intricate novel.
From the Publisher

“Los Angeles has Joan Didion and Raymond Chandler, and Istanbul, Orhan Pamuk. The beautiful, resilient city of Beirut belongs to Khoury.” —Laila Lalami, Los Angeles Times

“In Lebanon, there is passion and there is blood. Elias Khoury's new novel, Yalo, heavy with both, is a dizzying journey into the extremes of human experience--into the intense sensuality and stomach-turning violence.” —Adam LeBor, The New York Times Book Review

“Memserizing . . . As bold a gambit as Nabokov's tale about Humbert Humbert in Lolita . . . A vortex of memory and self-deceit, which Khoury beautifully portrays.” —John Freeman, The Denver Post

“No Lebanese writer has been more successful than Elias Khoury in telling the story of Lebanon. . . . Khoury is one of the msot inventive novelists in the Arab world.” —Samir El-Youssef, The Washington Post Book World

Yalo is replete with vivid description. . . . Khoury builds a splintering narrative structure of imagination, memory, brutality, speculation, and delusion.” —Drake Stutesman, Bookforum

Yalo speaks to our universal humanity, to our profound longing for a realization of self and connection to others. That such a vision should, at this moment in history, come to the American reading public from a great Arab novelist makes this an extremely important publishing event.” —Robert Olen Butler

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781935744009
Publisher:
Steerforth Press
Publication date:
12/31/2007
Sold by:
Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
260
File size:
321 KB

Read an Excerpt

Yalodidnotunderstandwhatwashappening.
The young man stood before the interrogator and closed his eyes. He always closed his eyes when he faced danger, when he was alone, and when his mother . . . On that day too, the morning of Thursday, December 22, 1993, he closed his eyes involuntarily.
Yalo did not understand why everything was white.
He saw the white interrogator, sitting behind a white table, the sun refracting on the glass window behind him, and his face bathed in reflected light. All Yalo saw were halos of light and a woman walking through the city streets, tripping on her shadow.
Yalo closed his eyes for a moment, or so he thought.

Meet the Author

Elias Khoury, born in Beirut, is the author of thirteen novels, four volumes of literary criticism, and three plays. He was awarded the Palestine Prize for Gate of the Sun, which was named Best Book of the Year by Le Monde Diplomatique, The Christian Science Monitor, and The San Fransisco Chronicle, and a Notable Book by The New York Times. Khoury¢s As Though She Were Sleeping, White Masks, Little Mountain, The Journey of Little Gandhi, and City Gates are also available in English. Khoury is a Global Distinguished Professor of Middle Eastern and Arabic Studies at New York University. As Though She Were Sleeping received France¢s inaugural Arabic novel Prize. Peter Theroux is the translator of nine novels, including Abdelrahman Munif’s Cities of Salt, Naguib Mahfouz’s Children of the Alley, and Emile Habiby’s Saraya: The Ogre’s Daughter. He is the author of Translating L.A.: Tour of the Rainbow City. He has lived and traveled throughout the Middle East and currently lives in Washington, D.C.

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