The Cyclist: A Novel

The Cyclist: A Novel

by Viken Berberian
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The Cyclist: A Novel by Viken Berberian

The controversial novel about food, love, and terrorism.
Somewhere in the Middle East, an aspiring terrorist has been entrusted with a mission that will reverberate around the world: to deliver a bomb to a hotel in Beirut, where the detonation will destroy hundreds of innocent lives. If he remains true to his cause, he will bring about his own death. Yet life holds such tantalizing delights: food (his secret vice), the heady pleasures of bicycle racing, the joys of unexpected love. As the days count down to the final, chilling moment of reckoning, this angst-ridden gourmand ponders his existential quandary — with horrifying and hilarious results.
A slyly subversive black comedy about a food-fixated terrorist who dreams of liberation through a world of eroticism and sensuality, The Cyclist combines absurdist humor and edgy lyricism to tell a provocative, page-turning tale of individual freedom and political violence.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743249393
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 06/01/2003
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Viken Berberian is a novelist and author of The Cyclist. He has written for The New York Times, the Financial Times and the Los Angeles Times. For the past five years he has lived and worked in Manhattan, Paris and Marseille.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

You should always wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. The helmet should fit snugly. The chin strap should hold firmly against the throat. The buckle should be fastened securely. Consider this: last year there were 11 bike accidents in Iceland, 371 in France and 97 in England. I have no statistics from Holland, but surely, if I had been riding my bicycle on its flat land, I would have been spared my tragedy.

The same cannot be said about my place of origin. Nothing could have prepared me for it. Not even the helmet I took on my impossible tour from Mount Barouk to Beirut: a 71-kilometer calamitous road with a stretch of cedar trees on one side and flustered sheep on the other. There are few bicycles here. The main medium of movement remains the Mercedes 240D, with the runty Fiat coming in a close second. The cars cruise past the woolly sheep, with speeds in excess of an armored Hummer, their wheels rolling over steely lizards grilled in the heat of summer. No matter. I wanted this trip to be a trying hadj. In the West, you call it a pilgrimage.

I'll spare you the grisly details of my surgery, except to say that the butcher who sent me into my torpid sleep sliced a section of my gray matter like a knife-wielding chef about to serve a cold-cut platter. I now spend my days in a bed. My head is shaved. My limbs are sore and my face, which in normal times has a chocolate hue, is bludgeoned blue. My mouth smells like fermented lentil stew. My portly build has turned pita thin, the round bread I ate as a tubby kid. My diet is more severe than any I ever went on. I'm fed twenty-four hours a day, intravenously. In the morning, the nurse checks the tracheotomy. By noontime, the spectators flock in: sweet and sour faces from around the world; more friends, more family. A cauldron of compassion. It's the most unappetizing part of the day because they have no idea that in the hard prison of my head I can actually see them and hear everything they say. Little do they know that my typically lucid thoughts still race through my head with unparalleled speed, shifting into a lull only when I fall asleep. On the outside, I'm cool and composed: unable to swivel my neck or tongue, or, for that matter, any other part of my body. Not even my fiercely autonomous pinky. Yet every afternoon, when Ghaemi Basmati crawls into my room, my heart beats faster. Even before our calculated crime, our fates were intertwined like grapevines.

Copyright © 2002 by Viken Berberian

What People are Saying About This

Tirdad Derakhshani

Viken Berberian's debut novel is an engrossing, absurdist tragi-comedy about food, love, bicycle racing - and terrorism... One of the most original American novels of the year. Berberian is a brash stylist whose lyrical, fragmented writing makes the book an electric read.

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Cyclist 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
flaubertandfiction More than 1 year ago
Delicious read. Tells the story of a would-be suicide bomber with a penchant for eating. The writing is beautiful and disconcerting.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Not as impressive as I thought it was going to be.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful read and the language is high;y original. Out of the fragments comes an unforgettable, disturbing and humane story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read a novel a month on average and this is the second best I've read in the last two years. It's a great read. Unexpected ending until the last few lines of the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
if you want to get inside the mind of a terrorist, read this book. if you're interested in the tragedies of civil war and international politics, read this book. if you're into suspense and action, read this book.