Book Review: 'The Mehlis Report'

Alan Cheuse reviews a thriller The Mehlis Report a novel by Rabee Jaber that was recently translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Audie Cornish.

Our book reviewer Alan Cheuse is excited to introduce the work of Rabee Jaber. He lives in Lebanon, and his novel "The Mehlis Report" takes place there. In Beirut, the characters await the real Mehlis report, which analyzed the watershed moment in Lebanon, the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: First of all, this novel is a bittersweet love song to Beirut. The main character, Saman Yarid, is an architect with a heart problem and a yearning for an end to the political and military agonies of his home city. Yarid meanders here and there and everywhere, from the newest office building to the oldest parks and alleys, and everything in between, soaking up the atmosphere of his beloved home, spending time with girlfriends, smoking in cafes.

Like most of the inhabitants of this wounded city, he's waiting for the Mehlis report to come out and assign blame in the Hariri murder. Along the way, Saman begins to get mysterious telephone calls, which we learn come from his late sister Josephine, who disappeared in a kidnapping at the Green Line during the civil war. Still covered in blood from the beating that killed her, at one point, Josephine describes the moment when she meets her grandfather in the land of the dead and realizes that she, too, belongs there.

I opened my eyes and saw the place was growing darker, she says. The moon was gone, but a handful of stars had appeared in the sky. Stars and clouds and fog. The fog was seething like milk on fire. I saw it rise and swallow the stars one after the other. We were moving. My grandfather was carrying me in his arms. And by this time, this novel, this elegy for a lost Beirut, past and future, this novel was carrying me to a place I had never been before.

CORNISH: The novel is "The Mehlis Report" by Rabee Jaber. It was translated into English by Kareem James Abu-Zeid. Our reviewer is Alan Cheuse.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.