De Niros Game plunges readers into the timely story of two young men caught in Lebanons civil war. Bassam and George, best friends in childhood, have grown to adulthood in war-torn Beirut. Now they must choose their futures: to stay in the city and consolidate power through crime, or to go into exile abroad, alienated from the only existence they have known. Told in a distinctive, captivating voice that fuses vivid cinematic imagery and page-turning plot with the measured strength and beauty of Arabic poetry, De Niros Game is an explosive portrait of life in a war zone, and a powerful meditation on what comes after.
DeNiro's Game won the 2008 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award - the largest and most international prize of its kind. It involves libraries from all corners of the globe, and is open to books written in any language. It is administered by Dublin City Public Libraries.
A viciously intense, poetically raw story, interspersed with moments of dark humor, about two young men - Bassam, the narrator, and his friend since childhood, George - known as De Niro, for his habit of playing Russian roulette like Robert De Niro's character in The Deer Hunter. Beirut is their playground and their prison, violence a fact of life. Some of their friends and family are dead; some have joined the fighting; some have fled the country altogether; others, like George and Bassam roam the street as thugs - "aimless, beggars and thieves, horny Arabs with curly hair and open shirts and Marlboro packs rolled in our sleeves, dropouts, ruthless nihilists with guns, bad breath and long American jeans" - looking for ways to make money through whatever means necessary - because money, and the luck to stay alive long enough to spend it on either getting ahead or getting out, are all that matter. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
The Boston Globe
Hage, himself a Lebanese refugee now living in Canada, brings a fierce poetic originality to a tragically familiar story, evoking Bassam's psychological disintegration in a downpour of hallucinatory imagery: Hollywood noir meets opium dreams in a blasted landscape of war-wasted young lives.
The Charlotte Observer
Rawi Hage's debut novel burns with a white-hot brilliance.... With rhythms and imagery reminiscent of epic Arabic poetry, Hage lays bare the chaos that war unleashes in the souls of those who must live in its maelstrom.
Given its level of artistry and portrayal of the complexities of Lebanon's civil war, this book is recommended for academic libraries.
Sad and discouraging for anyone holding out hope for that part of the world.
Starred Review. Hage's energetic prose matches the brutality depicted in the novel without overstating the narrative's tragic arc—an impressive first outing for Hage.
Starred Review. Both terse and lyrical, Hage's narrative is a wonder, alternately referencing modern American action heroes and ancient Arabic imagery. The blend of the two is as startling as it is beautiful.
The Guardian (UK)
Hage brilliantly condenses these short, incendiary lives: while the setting is relatively contemporary, the conflict and language are centuries old.
The Financial Times (UK) De Niro’s Game is the most subtly nuanced, psychologically compelling book about the corrosive effects of war to have been written for a long time.
Recent Reader Reviews
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The area now known as Lebanon (map)
was settled by the seafaring Phoenicians
(also known as Caananites) around 3,500
BCE. They established city states
such as Beirut, Tyre and Sidon. Over the
next five millennia the area would come
under the control of numerous empires
including the Persian, Greek, Roman,
Byzantine, Arab, Crusader and Ottoman
Empires. Throughout this period the
area, like much of the Middle East, was
not a defined country.
Following World War I and the collapse
of the Ottoman Empire, the Allied
nations carved up the Middle East,
redrawing the political map of the Arab
world into mandated territories which
they then reorganized into states.
France had the mandate for the area
known as Greater Syria, and in 1920
formed the State of Greater Lebanon...
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