THE CYCLIST by Viken Berberian


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The thoughts of a nameless, bicycle-borne, Beiruti bomber reel off in the days leading to the destruction of a packed hotel.

First-novelist Berberian, a New Yorker, has somehow—the somehow is actually highly skilled writing—managed to create a believable world in the mind of a young man about to end the lives of hundreds of innocents in what can no longer be called an unbelievable act. Berberian’s anonymous narrator is a young half-Druse (remember them from the Lebanese catastrophe?) lying in a hospital in Beirut, recovering from injuries sustained when his bicycle met a Mercedes. He had been on the road putting in training miles for a dual mission. In love with cycling since his youth, he will enter the upcoming race that drops participants from the heights of the Lebanese to the Beirut seafront. But he is not to finish. The plan under which he will be cycling, a plot dreamed up by terrorists who call themselves The Attorneys, calls for him to drop back and eventually drop out of the race, steering up to the Summerland, a big resort hotel, where he will deliver “the baby” for detonation to a fuse-equipped coconspirator in the hotel kitchen. But first he has to recover from his ghastly and paralyzing head injuries. The recovery is complicated and speeded by the visits of relatives and friends who ply him with some of the many foods that distinguish the book, poking figs into his mouth and slipping purées into his tubes. There are also therapeutic visits from his girlfriend Ghaemi, whom he has known from childhood and who lived through, and was radicalized by, the same terrorist act that set the cyclist on his present course.

Deeply creepy and funny and perfectly timed.

Pub Date: March 6th, 2002
ISBN: 0-7432-2283-0
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2002