Rawi Hage was born in Beirut and lived through nine years of the Lebanese civil war. He is a writer, a visual artist, and a curator, and he resides in Montreal. First published in Canada, De Niro's Game was a finalist for that nation's top literary prizes--the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Governor General's Literary Award, the Writers' Trust Award, and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize--and won the McAuslan First Book Prize and the Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction.
This aggressive, prize-winning Canadian import debut recounts the fate of two childhood friends in war-ravaged Beirut. Narrator Bassam dreams of leaving Beirut, where there is "not enough [money] for cigarettes, a nagging mother, and food," and escaping to Rome, where even the pigeons "look happy and well fed." To fund his escape, he enters into a scheme with his best friend, George, to skim funds from the poker arcade where George works. But George is soon coerced into joining the militia and rises to its top ranks, allowing the friends to indulge in freewheeling lawlessness. Their days of riding the streets of West Beirut "with guns under our bellies, and stolen gas in our tanks, and no particular place to go" gives way to betrayal and violence more ferocious than either self-styled thug had bargained for. Though Bassam does eventually leave, he finds he cannot entirely escape Beirut; only in Paris, where the story plays out its third and final act, does he discover the extent of his friend's treachery. Hage's energetic prose matches the brutality depicted in the novel without overstating the narrative's tragic arc-an impressive first outing for Hage. (Aug.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Beirut-born Hage, who lived through the nine-year civil war in Lebanon before emigrating to Canada in 1992, here mixes fantasy with descriptions of murder, mayhem, and betrayal in war-torn East Beirut. Sprinkled with Arabic terms and phantasmagoric interludes, the gyrating story may be somewhat demanding for the casual reader. At its heart is narrator Bassam, who explores his relationship with boyhood friend George, nicknamed De Niro on the street. As George is drawn inexorably into the militia, Bassam maintains his independence, finally escaping to France. There he uncovers a web of deception and discovers the true nature of De Niro's role in the civil war. The novel examines the real value of friendship in a wartime East Beirut ruled by Christian militia factions while using its original style to convey the ugly reality of retaliatory violence that led to the massacres of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in 1982. Given its level of artistry and portrayal of the complexities of Lebanon's civil war, this book is recommended for academic libraries.-Henry Bankhead, Santa Clara Cty. Lib., Los Gatos, CA Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
"...an impressive first outing for Hage."--Publishers
Weekly (starred review)
"East meets West in this stunning first novel yielding a totally fresh perspective on war-torn Beirut."--Booklist (starred review)
"...a hallucinatory vision of how war corrupts even friendship. Written in English and calling upon Arabic poetry and French philosophy, De Niro's Game forms an intriguing trilingual hybrid that should cement its appeal worldwide."--Washington Post
"...Hollywood noir meets opium dreams in a blasted landscape of war-wasted young lives."--Boston Globe
"...the language, restless, enervated, slides from blunt and colorless to the candenced, figuring [the protagonist's] world's endless cycle of revolution and despair...Remarkable."--Los Angeles Times