In Yalo, the reader is propelled into a fantastic universe of skewed reality and violent abandon. We follow the path of a young man, Yalo, who is growing up like a stray dog on the streets of Beirut during the long years of the Lebanese Civil War. Living with his mother who “lost her face in the mirror,” he falls in with a dangerous gang whose violent escapades he treats as a game. The game becomes a frightening reality, however, when Yalo is accused of rape and imprisoned. He is forced to confess to crimes of which he has no recollection. As he writes and rewrites his confession, he begins to grasp his family’s past, recalling all that his psyche has buried, and the true Yalo begins to emerge.
Yalo may recount a Lebanon that is all too familiar for some readers - the deserted streets, uncertainty, paranoia and violence of a country at war with itself. Khoury's book reminds us that tortured humanity can give rise to the diabolical and, as here, great art.
— Laura Wilkinson, The Daily Star
Elias Khoury’s Yalo is a novel that transcends—as only art can—the deep divisiveness of ideology, both political and religious. Yalo speaks to our universal humanity, to our profound longing for a realization of self and a 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 extraordinarily important publishing event.
— Robert Olen Butler
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
Yalo establishes Khoury as the sort of novelist whose name is inseparable from a city. 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 Book Review
Great talent is rare and great realizations rarer. This novel has both...Yalo is a tremendous new book and I look forward to more Khoury/Theroux collaborations.
— Jeff Waxman, Three Percent