Book review: Yalo

Published Aug 12, 2010



by Elias Khoury (Maclehouse Press, R 124.95)

Daniel is a Lebanese man born in Beirut, who is also known as Yalo.

He's been arrested and charged with crimes ranging from rape and theft to terrorism and murder.

A series of events led Yalo to stalking lovers and robbing them. The novel begins with Yalo sitting in an interrogation room with one of his victims, Shireen, accusing him of rape.

While awaiting trial in jail, Yalo is forced to reflect on his life.

This is where Khoury's writing comes into its element. Yalo's thoughts and actions are those of a mentally unstable person. Then he speaks of his family and one gets the idea that he was surrounded by people who had a few screws loose. When looking at his relationship with Shireen, his actions verge on obsession. As the story progresses, one sees that Yalo's obsession may have been enforced by her actions and charm.

At one point, his grandfather, the priest, seems excessive in his principles and behaviour. At another point, Yalo is able to link his grandfather's compulsiveness to a range of philosophies that had no way of making sense to him before he endured the torturous experiences he went through.

Subsequently, the lessons that destroyed Yalo will be the same lessons that build him up.

One can get an idea of the kind of writing that has to go into telling a story of this nature.

One may not relate to Yalo's actions, but will connect with his feelings on an authentic level.

The only aspect that is tedious is the way in which the story is told, which deals with too many repetitions of specific situations. With that said, the exclusion of these repetitions would probably take away from the weight of the experience.

Yalo is a novel that holds so much meaning that it can induce a number of epiphanies. - Tshepo Tshabalala

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