Looking like Yaffa in ’48…
As Though She Were Sleeping, By Elias Khoury
Reviewed by Guy Mannes-Abbott
Tuesday, 9 August 2011
Journeying towards Mount Ararat, the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam wrote of cultivating a sixth sense, “the sense of attraction to a mountain”. Writing about food, American novelist James Salter quoted Brillat-Savarin approvingly on his notion of a sixth sense, “physical desire”. The other five senses, he wrote, are optimised only in “sexual union”.
The Lebanese writer Elias Khoury belongs in such exalted company in literary terms. His new novel also pivots on mountains – in Lebanon – and appreciations of sexual union. Indeed, it was one of many books banned by the Mubarak regime for its explicitness. Khoury writes about the scent of words, which take on such immaterial qualities that writing itself works like a sixth sense in his fiction.