Wednesday, 27 June 2007

De Niro’s Game, Rawi Hage and Perpetual War

One has to steal oneself to read the news out of Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon these mornings. The breakfast news program will feature, most likely, the sounds of battle and the words of politicians trying without success to further their causes. The spiral of violence seems without end.

It is against this background that I’ve been reading De Niro’s Game by Rawi Hage. Told in the voice of Bassam, a young Christian man during the Lebanese civil war of the 1980s, the novel chronicles the toll war takes on the souls and bodies of those in its path. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, unfortunately.

Hage, who grew up in Beirut during this period and came to Canada in 1992, has written a brilliant, gut-wrenching, beautiful book. It was short listed for Canada’s major literary prizes last year—the Scotiabank Giller, the Writer’s Trust and the Govenor General’s prizes for literature—and won the Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for fiction and the McAuslan First Book Prize. Definitely worth reading in these troubled times.

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