Award-winning author Elias Khoury's latest novel, Yalo, is a searing look at truth and memory, love and trancendence, told through the contradictory confessions of a young Lebanese prisoner. During the Lebanese civil war in the 1980s, a young man is arrested and charged with rape. Repeatedly interrogated and tortured, Yalo is forced—like Scheherazade—to tell a different story each day to stay alive. As he battles to understand his past and the forces that have shaped him, he comes to discover his own voice and the true Yalo begins to emerge.
"No Lebanese writer has been more successful than Elias Khoury in telling the story of Lebanon. . . . Khoury is one of the most inventive novelists in the Arab world."—Samir El-Youssef, The Washington Post Book World“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"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."—Adam LeBor, The New York Times"Los Angeles has Joan Didion and Raymond Carver, and Istanbul, Orhan Pamuk. The beautiful, resilient city of Beirut belongs to Khoury."—Laila Lalami, Los Angeles Times"Mesmerizing . . . 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"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"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. 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 becoming estranged 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."—Kirkus Reviews"Khoury, 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 communities."—Alicia Korenman, Florida State University Library, Tallahassee, Library Journal"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."—Publishers Weekly
Elias Khoury is the author of twelve novels including Gate of the Sun, The Journey of Little Gandhi, and The Kingdom of Strangers. He is a professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies at New York University, and editor in chief of the literary supplement of Beirut’s daily newspaper, An-Nahar.