White Masks

Author: Elias Khoury

Publishing House: Archipelago Books

Publication Year: 2010

Genre: Novel

Number of Pages: 303

Elias Khoury‘s “White Masks” is a gripping narrative that delves into the enigmatic and tragic death of Khalil Ahmad Jaber. Whose body is discovered in a heap of garbage. This haunting question forms the crux of the novel “How did this ordinary civil servant meet such a gruesome end after disappearing for weeks?” The story unfolds through the accounts of various individuals who crossed paths with Khalil. Each adding pieces to the puzzle of his life and untimely demise.

A determined journalist embarks on a quest to unravel the truth. Interviewing key figures connected to Khalil. These include his widow, a local engineer, a watchman, the garbage man who stumbled upon his body. The doctor who conducted the autopsy, and a young militiaman. As their narratives converge, a vivid picture of Lebanon’s brutal civil war emerges. Highlighting its devastating impact on the citizens of Beirut and the scars it left on their collective psyche. Khoury, with remarkable empathy and honesty. Paints a portrait of a city and its people torn apart by conflict. Demonstrating an extraordinary resilience in the face of adversity.

Khoury’s prowess as a storyteller is evident in “White Masks.” He is a writer who understands the hypnotic power of words. Also, he allows this power to shape the substance of his writing. As noted by Le Nouvel Observateur, alongside the compelling narrative. There is a tangible, sensuous, and at times harrowing reality depicted in his work. Tahar Ben Jelloun eloquently captures the essence of Khoury’s fiction, emphasizing the writer’s intent to “restore the soul” through his storytelling.

Furthermore, the novel intricately weaves together the experiences and perspectives of its diverse characters. Much like the Rashomon effect, offering a rich tapestry of daily life amidst the backdrop of Beirut’s protracted and bitter civil wars. Khoury masterfully captures the complex reality, unbelievable anecdotes, and the deep-rooted survival instincts of a people shaped by their tumultuous history. “White Masks” is not just a story about a death; it is a profound exploration of the human condition in times of extreme crisis. Reflecting the resilience and the enduring spirit of a community navigating through the remnants of war.

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