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Yalo: A Novel Paperback – February 3, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"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

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (February 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312428685
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312428686
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,134,941 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By El on April 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Khoury's character, Yalo/Daniel in the novel Yalo is reminiscent of the young man, Meursault, in Camus' The Stranger. Is what Yalo telling us reality or his reality? What's real and what isn't? Yalo does not begin as a "crazed person" as described by one reviewer. He, like Meursault, is isolated and spiritually lost. A second reviewer claims Yalo is punished for crimes he had not committed "like planting bombs." Nowhere does Khoury state that Yalo committed this crime or did not commit this crime. Yalo's experience in the hands of his torturers/interrogators is terrifying - recall the horrors of Orwell's Room 101. His life story (before his descent into the world of rape, robbery, and bombs) is confusing and heartbreaking as are most people's lives. The novel Yalo is a challenge to read on many levels, but worth the effort.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Francis Reynolds on July 31, 2009
Format: Paperback
A couple of years ago I picked up Elias Khoury's Gate of the Sun without knowing much about it, and was quickly engrossed in the incredibly inventive and compelling story of two generations of Palestinians in Lebanon. Where Gate of the Sun is an expansive work that stretches beyond the small confines of a refugee hospital in Beirut to take in villages and fields long out of reach, Yalo, Khoury's latest novel to be translated into English, in many ways contracts into the claustrophobic space of a dark prison basement.

Yalo is a former sectarian soldier arrested for theft, assault, and rape in the aftermath of Lebanon's brutal civil war. As torturers attack his body and mind to elicit a confession, he creates a series of new narratives, a stream of explanations that simultaneously reinforce and undermine each other by their very number. He justifies, he apologizes, he admits, he denies, and the picture we have of the events recounted becomes more and more distorted and fractured. Yet all this disorientation serves a purpose: the Guardian quotes Khoury as saying that when he started writing, he didn't know what "postmodern" was. "I was trying to express the fragmentation of society," Khoury said. "Beirut's past is not of stability, but of violent change. Everything is open, uncertain. In my fiction, you're not sure if things really happened, only that they're narrated. What's important is the story, not the history."
-From Guernica web magazine.
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Format: Hardcover
Like all of us, Yalo is a man with guilt over what he has done. Like many of us, he is also a man with reasons for what he has done. Like few of us, Yalo is a man who does not demand pity, who does not see himself as a victim. Instead, he turns a horrible situation into one fraught with questions: who is he? what is he? what was he? how did he change? how do the traditions of his family and people affect him?

Yalo makes me question the idea of free will in ways that I hadn't before.

This is not a book for the faint of heart: it is a brutal book, both physically and morally. Its questions are not easily answered.
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