Arrested and imprisoned for robbery and rape, Yalo is subjected to savage interrogation and torture in a Beirut prison. Faced with the interrogator’s implacable demands for answers, Yalo, a young Assyrian Christian, writes and rewrites the story of his life, eventually achieving a transition from helpless victim to driven inquisitor of his own history. Elias Khoury’s insistence on viewing reality through Yalo’s imagination reveals a painful but beautiful world of innocence trapped within violence, of a boy trapped within a family, and of a city and a country trapped within history.
Yalo was banned in Jordan and the gulf, ostensibly for its treatment of sex and religion, though probably for depicting Arab torture techniques, which Khoury researched. Khoury is quoted as saying that books are rarely banned in the Lebanon: “if they don’t like what you write, they don’t ban, they kill”.
Elias Khoury is the author of twelve novels, four published volumes of literary criticism, and three plays. Khoury was the editor-in-chief of the cultural supplement of Beirut’s daily newspaper, An-Nahar, and is a Global Distinguished professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University. In 1998 he was awarded the Palestinian Prize for his Gate of the Sun.
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