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Elias Khoury

White Masks

Elias Khoury White Masks
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Biographical note:

Elias Khoury, born in Beirut, is the author of thirteen novels, four volumes of literary criticism, and three plays. He was awarded the Palestine Prize for Gate of the Sun, which was named Best Book of the Year by Le Monde Diplomatique, The Christian Science Monitor, and The San Fransisco Chronicle, and a Notable Book by The New York Times. Khoury¢s Yalo, As Though She Were Sleeping, Little Mountain, The Journey of Little Gandhi, and City Gates are also available in English. Khoury is a Global Distinguished Professor of Middle Eastern and Arabic Studies at New York University. As Though She Were Sleeping received France¢s inaugural Arabic novel Prize. Maia Tabet, born in Lebanon, is a literary translator and a professional cook. She translated Khoury’s first novel to be published in English, Little Mountain, and has translated a number of prose texts that have appeared in literary magazines including Banipal, Words Without Borders, and Fikran wa Fann. Currently, she lives in the United States.

Country of final manufacture:

US

Excerpt from book:

Oh, Lord, Lord, this is it, the final reckoning, the Day of Judgment, the day we always feared and expected . . . and now it has come. First, Ahmad died. He just slipped through our fingers. We thought life was over – life as we knew it had come to an end. But base as we human beings are, we got used to it. The boy went and we carried on! Before he died, I could never have imagined – and neither could my late husband, Khalil – that we’d be able to live on after him, not even for a minute. But he went, and we just carried on . . . oh Lord! . . . And now, dear God, how do you expect me to manage – me a poor widow, all alone? What will people say? . . . The devil take them! . . . Forgive me, God!
Just like everyone else, my father always said: "Dear Lord, let me not perish by fire or by drowning, nor destitute and wandering." And now, dear God, the country is on fire and the city is drowning in garbage and he died destitute and wandering the streets. They just left him there . . . dumped him naked in that empty lot after killing him. He died on the street, and then they brought him to the house, him and that smell . . . May the Good Lord forgive me . . .

Main description:

Why was the corpse of Khalil Ahmad Jaber found in a mound of garbage? Why had this civil servant disappeared weeks before his horrific death? Who was this man? A journalist begins to piece together an answer by speaking with his widow, a local engineer, a watchman, the garbage man who discovered him, the doctor who performed the autopsy, and a young militiaman. Their stories emerge, along with the horrors of Lebanon’s bloody civil war and its ravaging effects on the psyches of the survivors. With empathy and candor, Elias Khoury reveals the havoc the war wreaked on Beirut and its inhabitants, as well as the resilience of a people.

Review quote:

Khoury is 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. —The Los Angeles Times

No Lebanese writer has been more successful than Elias Khoury in telling the story of Lebanon . . . Khoury is one of the most innovative novelists in the Arab world. —Washington Post Book World

How to write Beirut? . . . with words and images that stumble with weariness, that collapse from the heat, from the stone which composes them only to crumble in turn? . . . This is why Khoury’s fiction is so powerful. The intent of the writing is to restore its soul. —Tahar Ben Jelloun

Elias Khoury is a pure storyteller. A writer who understands the hypnotic power of words, and who lets this power become the actual subject of his books. Of course, alongside the words, there is reality, palpable, sensual, atrocious. —Le Nouvel Observateur

Khoury [is] arguably the finest living Arab novelist. . . . White Masks represents a turning point in Khoury's work. . . . A compelling, thoughtful read. —World Literature Today


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