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Beirut Hellfire Society

by Rawi Hage

Beirut Hellfire Society by Rawi Hage X
Beirut Hellfire Society by Rawi Hage
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  • Published Jul 2019
    288 pages
    Genre: Literary Fiction

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There are currently 26 member reviews
for Beirut Hellfire Society
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  • Sue D. (Hudsonville, MI)
    Chaos Reigns
    This is my first Rawi Hage, but not my last. The absurdity and chaos of trying to live in a city in the midst of war is brilliantly conveyed through a writing style that is frenetic, poetic, often energetic, and insane. Pavlov is a relatable, somewhat unreliable, sometimes lovable, main character. I highly recommend this disturbing, important novel.
  • Ann W. (New York, NY) know nothing
    Beirut Hellfire Society is a profound, beautiful and discomforting. Pavlov, the undertaker's son learned well. Pavlov's harrowing tale haunts, compels the reader. Conditioned by culture, religion, folktales, we travel with him and those he meets in war-torn Beirut and environs.

    He breaks bread with the living and dead. His crematorium burns the bodies of all, infidels, non-believers, family, foe, dreamers, the deceived. Each is treated with respect. His father's legacy, his observations of those around him during the years Lebanese Civil War educated him. Pavlov, his faithful dogs haunt the war-torn, ravished landscape. Privilege, personal memory, war, death respect no one. There is dancing, joy and life goes on.

    Hage's novel encompasses many traditions, the burial rites, ancient histories, the French, Maronite Christians, ancient Greek and Syrian philosophies. Choices made meaningless in the face of war, anarchy. Each person's account is altered. Generations come, go and return. The truth is blurry. The book begins with a dusty, smokey funeral pyre in a hidden cave. It ends with the smoke and ash of a woman's cigarette.
  • Eileen C. (New York, NY)
    The absurdity of life during a senseless war
    A riotous, profane, sensual, philosophical examination of the absurdity of life during a senseless war. This examination of violence and how people respond to death—by either turning towards life or trying to protect themselves against it—contains a great deal of pathos and dark humor. The main character, Pavlov, is driven by a sense of obligation to care for those who in the face of great disapproval and danger continue to live their lives as they choose. It is a marvelous ride, and Hage's writing hits hard, but it isn't for anyone who is easily offended or upset by casual violence and sex.
  • Rebecca R. (Western USA)
    Cormac McCarthy Meets Orhan Pamuk in Modern Civil War
    This gritty novel forces the reader to ponder the futility of mankind's never-ending history of wars.The absence of quotation marks propels the reader into the midst of war-torn lives in which morals, modesty, and motives are in a constant state of flux and are often absent. How sensible are wars when undertakers for different sides can exchange bodies but leaders can not exchange sensible plans to bring peace? The book can be shocking at times and confusing in a few places (is a scene a dream, a delusion, or real), but ultimately this book is a sad reflection on war narrated in the first-person by a mortician's adult son. I probably would not have selected this book in a book store, and I am glad I had the opportunity to read this as a member of BookBrowse.
  • Naomi Benaron (author of Running the Rift)
    A Dance of Life, Death, and War
    In Beirut Hellfire Society, Rawi Hage creates a dance that is savage, devastating, tender, mournful, and darkly, wickedly humorous. The novel is loosely a modern-day version of Antigone, set during one year of the Lebanese civil war. Rather than a sister intent on burying her brother, the protagonist, Pavlov, lover of Greek mythology and culture, is the son of an undertaker following in his father's footsteps in his pledge to lay to rest those who have been denied a traditional burial. The story interweaves vignettes of an outrageous cast of characters, complete with talking dogs and ghosts, vicious gangsters, cross-dressing hedonists, and a niece who howls like a hyena, with Pavlov's journey to survive and wrest meaning from an existence in which war continuously tears apart the fabric of life, order, and meaning.

    Hage writes with the incendiary passion of someone whose early years were shaped by the war that tore Lebanon apart between 1975 and 1990. In this work, life cannot be taken for granted from one minute to the next; streets are a chaos of rubble and destroyed buildings; the falling bombs are as omnipresent as the rain. Since childhood, Pavlov has watched the "parade of caskets" that winds toward the cemetery beneath his window. Death and life form a continuous dance that, his father teaches him, is forged in fire. With sparse, urgent, and wounding prose Hage lays bare the nature of war and its human consequences. The book is, as he states in the acknowledgements, "a book of mourning," but it is also a book of hope. Beneath the despair, Hage shows us that hope and life always burn beneath the surface, waiting to be kindled.
  • Rosemary C. (Golden, CO)
    Dramatically Displays the Horror of War
    This is a hard book to describe, but I found it profound, touching, visceral, honest and full of dark humor. Hage writes beautifully, lyrically, angrily and starkly about living in a city consumed by war and death. The main character, a young man who is the son of an undertaker, and all the strange and haunting people with whom he interacts, all paint a vivid picture. I think this book would be a good one for a book group. There are many metaphors, references to classical literature, and some mysticism that could be explored. Hage has written a fine book that kept me engrossed.
  • Shirley T. (Comfort, TX)
    Beirut Hellfire Society
    Set in a war torn Beirut, a multi-cultural, multi-religious city, the story of Pavlov is both tragic and brave. The Hellfire Society, into which Pavlov is initiated by his father exists to deal with the final wishes of both the unconventional and irreligious after death.

    Although this book is not for the faint hearted, the many characters that Pavlov encounters are exquisitely developed, they are obscene, violent and pathetic in this civil war of the 1970s. The tender dog theme throughout serves to lighten the human tragedy.

    It is an unusual and ironic tale by a master of language. and is well written
    Recommended for readers interested in the continual strife of the Middle East.


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