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Yalo: A Novel

3.39 of 5 stars 3.39  ·  rating details  ·  251 ratings  ·  53 reviews
Award-winning author Elias Khoury's latest novel 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 eac
Paperback, 368 pages
Published February 3rd 2009 by Picador (first published 2002)
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قال مره العظيم
غسان كنفاني
بكتابه فارس فارس
وهو مجموعه مقالات نقديه
مسليه ومفيده وأنصح به بشده
قرأته ثلاث مرات ودائما ما
أعود إليه كمرجع
أن هناك كتب يجب أن تقتنيها وتقتني معها عصا
لماذا ؟
لمعاقبه نفسك وضربها بعد قراءه الكتاب
جزاءا ً وفاقا ً لما فعلته بنفسك
وهذه الروايه من الروايات التي
يجب أن أضرب نفسي بعدها
عقابا ً لما جنته يداي
مش مهضوم ومش مفهوم ومش عارف ليش بيكتب روايه ؟
Finishing this book, in which torture plays a prominent role, at the same time as the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the use of torture by the CIA seemed serendipitous—at least to the extent of compelling me to write a review. It goes without saying that if you are at all squeamish, if depictions of a cat clawing apart a man’s genitals or a broken bottle being shoved up said man’s rectum make your stomach churn, then you might prefer to read something else.

Still, those s
Rida Hariri

قال لشيرين إنّه يحبها لأنّه رأى النجوم. هذا الشعور بالنجوم التي تتفتّح مثل العيون في جسد اللّيل, لم يشعر به من جديد إلّا مع شيرين, هناك في بيته الصغير أسفل الفيلا, أمّا مع الأخريات, نساء الحرج أو المدام أو بنات الحرب, فلا.
"أحبّك من أجل النجوم", قال لها في المطعم, لكنها لم تفهم شيئًا.”
"إنه الحب يا سيدنا" أراد يالو أن يقول للمحقق.
"الحب بذل يا سيدنا" أراد أن يقول.
"الحب مثل الصليب يا سيدنا", أراد أن يقول.
نعم يا سيدي، لقد بدأ يالو حياته عندما اكتشف الحب لكن هذا الحب أيضا
كان س
This is beautifully written - poetic and nuanced, I can't help but be impressed by the style and the obvious skill of the translator.

I am often wooed by a book on the strength of the language alone. Not here though - I found the story to be tedious and it left me with very little sense of the protagonist (or other characters). I'm sure this is intentional, as it plays to the overt theme of 'versions of truth' and to the deep chaos that defines Yalo. But it didn't work for me.

I was also hoping t
Ibrahim Jabarin إبراهيم جبارين

ثلاثة أرباع هذهِ الرواية جنسيّة
تثير الشهوة بشكل أو بآخر، -طبعاً أكيد إشي بيخزي الواحد يكون بيبحث عن المعرفة أو شيء جديد في رواية ويخيب أمله وظنّه ويجد الرواية جنسية-
يعني شخص مريض نفسيّاً، عانى ما عاناه، لاقى ما لاقاه، ماذا سيصدر عنه سوى تصرفات مريضة؟

والحق يقال: هذه الرواية فيها مجهود كبير من الأستاذ إلياس خوري، مجهود اللغة المتماسكة القويّة، والتوصيفات والإستعارات المعبّرة، فيها من بساطة اللغة الكثير، بعض الكلمات في الرواية تجعلنا نتوقّف لحظة عندها، ونفكّر
والحق يقال أيضاً، هناك الكثير مما قيل عن
An edited version of this article was first published as Book Review: Yalo by Elias Khoury on

A serial rapist meets a torturing interrogator in wartime Lebanon. Yet he soon realizes that the ultimate source of pain is his own head, which can cause a much greater suffering than the devices that his prisoners used to inflict pain on him. This is a novel that is heavy on passion, blood, and violence. Definitely not for the squeamish reader.

At the outset, we are introduced to Daniel,
Arda Aghazarian
The first part of this book was a bit annoying: Here is our main character Yalo being interrogated, and he tells the interrogator what he is thinking. Then he tells us that he doesn't in fact tell the interrogator what he was thinking. Then he tells us "I said those things," and then says "I didn't actually say those things." This on-again off-again was starting to get on my nerves.

Moreover, a big chunk of the book is sexual in all kinds of ways: Yalo is aroused by the lovers who park their cars
Daniel, nicknamed Yalo, is accused of rape, robbery and just about anything else you can think of. He is tortured until confession and is then ordered to write down his life story. He revisits several moments of his life, dealing with subjects such love, adultery, pedophilia, rape, treason, abandonment, heritage and just about anything else you can think of. It is dark, depressing, sad, and a total waste of time.

The characters in the book are simplistic, excpet for Yalo himself, who is so comp
Yalo tells the story of a young man who has been arrested for a series of criminal activities, including rape, robbery and illegal smuggling. While under guard (and the threat of torture), Yalo is ordered to write a confession detailing his criminal activity and instead makes several attempts to write the story of his life.

This stands as an absolutely extraordinary book and Yalo is an incredible character. His inability to adequately recall and write the story of his life serves as an excellent
Chambllion Zores
في رواية يالو يعكس الياس خوري صورة عن التحول الاجتماعي الذي حدث في لبنان عقب الحرب الاهلية ، وفي ظاهر هذه الرواية يسرد الكاتب قصة يالو الشاب السرياني الذي ترك المدرسة في صباه ورمى بنفسه في مطحنة الحر ب الاهلية التي يقول عنها الكاتب ان الحرب عمل حيواني، وتدور الرواية في عام 1993 حيث يتم القبض على يالو ويتم رميه في السجن الذي لقى فيه اشد أنواع التعذيب، وفي السجن يطلب منه المحقق ان يكتب قصة حياته على الورق، فيبدأ يالو في كتابة قصته عن اهله وعن الحرب وعن الجرائم التي ارتكبها وعن الحب الذي فشل فيه فك ...more
Olga Kowalska (WielkiBuk)
What a painful and extremely emotional read! And in a good way. It's about war, PTSD and confusion. Yalo does not know who he is anymore. He's in pain. He does not understand what wrong he had done. The story leaves the reader in kind of disdain for the protagonist, however with a kind of compassion also. A great and very demanding book.
Reading this book is like trying to get out of a maze, you get a bit further each time, but keep ending up back at the beginning. The story mostly takes place from Yalo/Daniel's prison cell and the telling of his life story while being interrogated or writing it down. We got different version of the story with more details, although sometimes contradictory statements. I was hoping reading this would give some feeling for the history and culture of Lebanon/ Beirut, but the story was too focused a ...more
A story from Beirut’s civil war, more-or-less on-going since the 1980’s. The book focuses on one young man who represents the diversity of the country: he’s of Arab ancestry but a Maronite Christian whose grandfather was a Kurd. He fights in one of the wars, migrates to Paris and then returns and gets a job as a night watchman over a large estate. The estate includes a lover’s lane where he robs men and rapes women who visit the isolated area. Eventually arrested and tortured, he is forced to re ...more
In mid-2012 I read and reviewed the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award shortlisted “Limassol” by Yishai Sarid (translated from the Hebrew), the story of an Israeli secret service agent who is a hard-nosed violent interrogator who lacks emotion and wants to see the streets cleared of suicide bombers. Although not lingering in my mind for too long, it was one of my first exposures to the literature of that region, upon reflection I should have looked at Elias Khoury instead (not because I want to specifi ...more
Aug 28, 2014 Du rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: fiction
This was a very difficult book to read. It was difficult on a few levels. The text is translated to Engish, for one. The topic is difficult as it involves a prisoner who is tortured because he may have raped someone.

Overall, though it was difficult to put down and I read it in one sitting. I should say, that I read it straight through because the language is so intelligent and thoughtful. While the subject isn't easy to read, I enjoyed the complexity of the writing, and by the style.
This book is written in shadows pierced by a flashlight beam, dancing with illuminated colors. The text clogs your nostrils with the stench of pine sap, and incense, and blood and excrement. The words coat your tongue with the tastes of cuttlefish ink and sanctified wine clotted with blood and fills your throat until you choke.

This book is written in shadows pierced by a flashlight beam, but the flashlight is taken away and the hood is draped over your head and tightened around your neck. It str
أن الضحك يعيش الى جانب البكاء، و أن التمييز بينهما مسألة بالغة الصعوبة ، لأنهما اختلطا منذ بداية الخليقة . كلاهما مفاجيء و مفارق ، و كلاهما يأتي كي يملأ الفراغ الذي تشعر به الروح .
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This volume made me wish I could read Arabic, so that I could have read it in its original form rather than in translation. Alas, I am nowhere near being able to decipher Arabic, so I read this in English.

The entire book is a torturous interrogation in a Lebanese prison, during which Yalo/Daniel recalls the circumstances of his life that lead to his detention. The third-person narration (eventually devolving into a combination of first and third person, through Yalo's repeated written confession
"A heartbreaking book and sometimes hypnotic in beauty. . . . With both gentle and cruel images, Khoury wrote a lamentation for the generation that was corrupted and lost its children, and for the children themselves."-Haaretz

I wanted to read this because I've never read a book translated from Arabic. I've never read a writing style quite like Khoury--this might have to do with the translation--but the sentences, and the thoughts bounce back and forth, repeating in odd structures that I didn't d
This book is set in Beirut during the war. Or rather, one of the recent wars. So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised at the insanity of the (unreliable) narrator. However, I just couldn't stomach the torture scenes. They disturbed me so much that I had to stop reading. Even such an interesting setting, and excellent literary skills, doesn't trump nightmares. Plus, it made me wonder if some sicko would read this book, and get new ideas for torture. A chilling thought.
هيدا الكتاب صعب. أول ما بلشت فيه طبعاً حسيت بالفرق بينه وبين "باب الشمس". الكتابين بينحكوا من وجهة نظر الشخصية الأساسية بس الأولى بتحكي قصة شعب من عينين شخص والتانية بتحكي قصة شخص من عينيه.
المهم بالأول ما حسيت هيدي الرواية بمستوى اللي بتذكره من "باب الشمس"، وبمرحلة معينة استفزني التبرير الشخصاني لظاهرة الإغتصاب مثلاً (متل ما كان عم يستفزني بعدد من الكتب اللي قريتها مؤ خراً، Memoires of My Melancholy Whores، Love in the Time of Cholera) بس هيدا حديث طويل ما بيقتصر على الياس خوري ولا رواية يالو ب
This is another book that is about torture (what is my problem lately?). It is told through the fractured narrative of Daniel (Yalo), and the story changes constantly as he goes to and from his torture sessions. I am not convinced of what the truth is - which I'm sure is the point. Perhaps by the end the truth will emerge, but I am so far left with the impression of a life shattered by violence.
And it ends heartbreakingly with his torture having all been for naught - for "fun", as it were. The w
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
إنها المرة الأولى التي أقرأ فيها لإلياس الخوري لذلك أقول أن الكتاب بشكل عام جميل تجد وسط قصة يالو ومغامراته العاطفية وحفلات تعذيبه شذرات من قصة السريان الذين شاركوا في الحرب اللبنانية مأخوذين بوعود التجنيس في استمرار لمأساتهم من جيل الأجداد إلى جيل الأحفاد. يعيب الكتاب الاستطالة في بعض المواضع وكذلك النفحة الفلسفية التي من الصعب أن تظهر من شخص بخلفية يالو.
Alexander McNabb
Friends were disappointed in this outing from M. Khoury, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.

It's a book you'll need to have a little patience with, the narrative keeps wandering back to the central events in the story, wandering away and then recounting the same scene again and again. The narrator is obviously either simple or extremely clever, but he meanders around a lifetime, coming back always to the events of a particular night and his behaviour towards lovers in cars parked up in the mountain.

The storyline is disturbing (most takes place within Yalo's prison cell), but powerful. The story is how a confused young Lebanese man finds himself through reflection during imprisonment, tortue, and isolation. Again, not cheery, but like Schindler's List, a powerful story. Khoury's writing style was hard to follow at times (though it was obviously intential in order to convey the confusion of his character) which lessened my enjoyment of a book. A let down after Gate of the Sun, but the images ...more
i think it helped to hear the author's voice on the radio right after i had finished yalo. he was speaking about the prisoners israel had just released to lebanon.
which is where yalo's story takes place. yalo's life is sad and split apart by civil war, he becomes a stalker of women at a make-out/lover's area on the outskirts of town. he is not someone you would like if you met him. the author tries to show that yalo himself is a victim of ethnic genocide and violence, he does a good job. you wi
Heart-wrenching and terribly intoxicating, Yalo's fragmented mind and tortured notions of love sucked me in; the shattered poetry of his thoughts (especially early in the book, at its most fragmented) pulled me apart even as it helped Yalo (sort of) pull his story together, into one cohesive (again, sort of) narrative. Though the plot is hardly a strength, that's not the point of this novel: it's the feeling, the brokenness that surges through the words, both written and left un-written. If you ...more
Leyla El
من اجمل ما قرأت..هذا الكتاب وضعته جنب قلبي . يرافقني حيث ما كنت، يالو شخصية تهزك وترغمك ان تتابعها. بنية الرواية من احلى ما يكون.
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Elias Khoury (Arabic: إلياس خوري) is a Lebanese novelist, playwright and critic. He has published ten novels, which have been translated into several foreign languages, as well as several works of literary criticism. He has also written three plays.
He currently serves as editor of Al-Mulhaq, the weekly cultural supplement of the Lebanese daily newspaper Al-Nahar, and is a prominent public intelle
More about Elias Khoury...
Gate of the Sun White Masks Little Mountain كأنها نائمة City Gates

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“قالت انكسر صوتي هنيك بالبلونة، منشان هيك ما بقدر حبك مزبوط، فلم يفهم معنى هذا الكلام. تخيّل آنية فخّارية تسقط على الأرض وتنكسر. لكنه لم يفهم أنه حين صوت المرأة ينكسر، فهذا يعني أن قلبها أصيب ببحّة عميقة لا دواء لها. والقلب المبحوح لا يتسطيع أن يحب” 12 likes
“يالو يا سيدي لا يوافق معي أن الحياة لا معنى لها. كأنه اكتشف معنى آخر للحياة لا يريد أن يقوله لأحد. حتى أنا لا أعرف. أدنو منه وأقرأ له، يلتفت إليّ لحظة، ثم يشيح وجهه عني، ويعود إلى عالمه الخاص الذي يأخذه إلى حيث لا يدري. يالو يا سيدي اكتشف أن الإنسان لا يكون إلا حين يصير في أسفل السافلين. هناك في الأسفل، لا يعود أحد أداة أحد. هناك يصبح خروفاً ذبج بدل الجميع،فطارت روحه فوق العالم لأنها صارت حرّة” 3 likes
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