Written in the opening phases of the Lebanese Civil War (19751990), Little Mountain is told from the perspectives of three characters: a Joint Forces fighter; a distressed civil servant; and an amorphous figure, part fighter, part intellectual. Elias Khoury's language is poetic and piercing as he tells the story of Beirut, civil war, and fractured identity.
This first English translation of a contemporary Lebanese writer's adumbrated vision of violent political strife and urgent nationalism makes for intriguing, highly rigorous, if not ultimately satisfying, reading. Horrors are intoned in a lyrical, repetitious chant; point of view is transient; events are ambiguous and distorted. Self-consciously formless, irreverent, ironic, disoriented and existential, the novel is a singular blueprint of a fractured, cursed homeland and Khoury's own picaresque life. Variously a novelist, journalist, translator, literary critic and book editor, Khoury recounts here his early years in the ``Little Mountain,'' or Christian East Beirut, and expulsion precipitated by his collaboration with Muslim and Palestinian nationalists; his military engagements in downtown Beirut and the eastern mountains of Lebanon during 1975, the first year of the civil war; loves (the revolutionary refers to women misogynistically) and losses; and exile in Paris. Suffused with political polemics and rhetoric, a foreword by Columbia University English professor Said places the postmodern Little Mountain in the context of the Arabic novel. (June)