Cockroach: Book summary and reviews of Cockroach by Rawi Hage

Cockroach

A Novel

By Rawi Hage

Cockroach
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  • Published in USA  Oct 2009,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

One of the most highly anticipated novels of the year, Cockroach is as urgent, unsettling, and brilliant as Rawi Hage’s critically acclaimed first book, De Niro’s Game. The novel takes place during one month of a bitterly cold winter in Montreal’s restless immigrant community, where a self-described “thief” has just tried but failed to commit suicide by hanging himself from a tree in a local park. Rescued against his will, the narrator is obliged to attend sessions with a well-intentioned but naïve therapist. This sets the story in motion, leading us back to the narrator’s violent childhood in a war-torn country, forward into his current life in the smoky émigré cafés where everyone has a tale, and out into the frozen nighttime streets of Montreal, where the thief survives on the edge, imagining himself to be a cockroach invading the lives of the privileged, but willfully blind, citizens who surround him.

Cockroach combines an uncompromising vision of humanity with razor-sharp portraits of society's outsiders, and a startling, poetic sensibility with bracing jolts of dark humor. .

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. The novel's gritty back-alley world gives rise to a host of glorious rogues, each swindling the others at every opportunity, and yet each is capable of great empathy under just the right circumstances." -Publishers Weekly

"Although Hage leaves much unexplained, readers will be fascinated both by the inner lives of the troubled characters and by the textured portrait of Montreal’s immigrant community." - Booklist

"Messy but sophisticated, odd and decidedly interesting." - Kirkus Reviews

“[A] dark and uncompromising vision [which] offers a version of an émigré underground which is original, raw and brave." - Colm Toibin

"A dark Dostoevskian fable, which lowers the reader into the sewers of immigrant Montreal to confront an underground world teeming with sex, crime and greedy insectoid life." - Hari Kunzru

"Searing, affecting, misanthropic." - Mohsin Hamid

"Most fiction writers are primarily either stylists or plotters, but Hage is clearly both. There’s a slight jolting sensation as the narrative shifts gear from poetic to cinematic, with guns and knives and elaborately contrived set-ups replacing the earlier evocations of drains and flesh and wintry streets, but it’s all managed with great brio and expertise." - The Guardian

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Author Information

Rawi Hage Author Biography

Rawi Hage was born in Beirut and lived through nine years of the Lebanese civil war before emigrating to New York. In 1992, he emigrated to Montreal, Canada, where he has lived ever since. He is a writer, a visual artist, and a curator. His writings have appeared in Fuse, Mizna, Jouvert, The Toronto Review, Montreal Serai, and Al-Jadid. His visual works have been shown in galleries and museums around the world. His novel De Niro's Game was a finalist for many prestigious national and international awards, and won the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. His second novel Cockroach won the Quebec Writers' Federation Award and was shortlisted for numerous awards including the Scotia Bank Giller Prize, the Governor General's Award, The Writers' Trust Award, and the Prix des libraires du Québec.

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