Written by Elias Khoury

Review written by Calum MacLeod

Calum MacLeod is a reporter for the Inverness Courier and had been writing for SHOTS since its early days. In 2009 the Highland and Islands Media Awards' judging panel awarded him “Highly Commended Feature Writer of the Year”.

MacLehose Press
RRP: £7.99
Released: 27th May 2010

If not “Yalo’s” publishers, then most likely its author would be surprised and perhaps a bit miffed to see this novel reviewed on this site and in such company.

A self-consciously literary effort, possibly with a capital L, in its title character it features the very epitome of an unreliable and unsympathetic narrator, a self-confessed rapist and robber.

Forced into writing a confession by the repeated beatings from his Lebanese police interrogators, the former militia man instead uses each draft of his testimony to delve deeper into his own past and personality as Khoury uses Yalo’s story to meditate on issues of individual and ethnic identity, self-deception  and a host of other topics that take his fancy.

Yalo is an Assyrian, a cultural and religious minority in that part of the world where these things seem to matter most, the Middle East, part of a Christian community originally from Iraq and now re-located to the Lebanon. Through his undependable memoirs we encounter war, prejudice, religious and sexual obsession, coprophagia and Yalo’s fractured mindset.

It’s all rather heavy going, demanding hard work from the reader to keep pace with what is going on in Yalo’s confused brain for all the quality of the writing. Thus it should be removed forthwith from the crime shelves of the bookshop to the literary section where it can keep company with all those other books it is easier to admire than enjoy or love.


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