Re-Contextualizing Western Modes of Representation in Elias Khoury's Gates of the City

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    This article argues that Elias Khoury painstakingly has integrated Western narrative constructs in the text of Gates of the City, his phenomenal and controversial novel about the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990), in order to deal with a world where fact and fiction converge and where traditional boundaries of narration have lost their demarcation. Rejecting conventional concepts of the novel as a mimetic portrayal of reality, Khoury advocates a paradigmatic mode of narration as dynamic medium suitable for his fragmented narrative and reflective of the complex realities of war. In his state-of-the art delineation of war, Khoury synchronizes avant-garde modes of representation by abandoning realistic narrative trajectories, deeply rooted in Arabic fictional heritage, replacing them with an alternative narrative paradigm adapted from postmodern Western literature. Khoury's portrayal of the Lebanese Civil War as a fundamental disruptive experience and his awareness of its pervasive presence made it impossible for him to write a traditional anti-war novel, because he did not want to fall into the trap of mimesis advocated by other war novelists. Realizing the absurdity of attempting to impose a rational structure on an irrational reality, he conceived of war as the ultimate irrationality that breaks down human impulses of life. In this context, the article points out that war, in Gates of the City, becomes an all-encompassing metaphor partaking of life itself and, with the impact of war on everyday reality, realism is turned into surrealism.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)355-373
    Number of pages19
    JournalMiddle East Critique
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2 2015


    • Elias Khoury
    • Lebanon Civil War
    • Mahmoud Darwish
    • narrative
    • postmodern
    • representation

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Cultural Studies
    • History
    • Political Science and International Relations


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