Elias Khoury at Words without Borders

Words Without Borders is featuring the new translation of Elias Khoury's "Yalo" in its Book Club page. The section includes an introduction to the book, with a good analysis of Khoury's style, and a discussion by translator Paul Theroux of the process of translating this work. There is also an open discussion forum, and more articles will be posted throughout the month. 

Khoury is probably best known for his novel "Bab El-Shems" (The Gate of the Sun), a large, dense work based to a great extent on oral interviews Khoury conducted with Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. I took a class with Khoury at NYU a few years back (he teaches there every Spring). Since he's not only a major novelist but a major intellectual figure in Lebanon, it was a great way to learn about Lebanese literary and political history. I admire his work, although sometimes it strikes me as stylized and ideologically (for lack of a better word) driven. He's definitely a post-modern writer; his work, which often involves repetitions and conflicting narratives, addresses the very problems of giving a coherent narrative of events. This strikes me as a theme that is particularly relevant to Lebanon, where it seems to me that arriving at a common, agreed-upon history has long been a challenge. I was also struck by what he told us of his writing process; he writes his stream-of-consciousness books in several drafts; he writes once, then starts over, without referring to the original, and re-writes the whole novel several times.

Ursula Lindsey

Ursula Lindsey is the managing editor of the Arabist blog. She writes about culture, education and politics in the Arab world. She lived in Cairo from 2002 to 2013 and got her start at the ground-breaking independent magazine Cairo Times. She was the culture editor of Cairo magazine in 2005-2006 and served as special projects editor at the independent news site Mada Masr in 2013-2014. She is the Chronicle of Higher Education's Middle East correspondent. She contributes to the BBC-PRI radio program The World, and has written for Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Yorker online, Bookforum and the blog of the London Review of Books.