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Beirut Hellfire Society

A Novel

by Rawi Hage

Beirut Hellfire Society by Rawi Hage X
Beirut Hellfire Society by Rawi Hage
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  • Publishes in USA 
    Jul 16, 2019
    288 pages
    Genre: Novels

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There are currently 19 member reviews
for Beirut Hellfire Society
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  • 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)


    Beirut herllfire Society: 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.
  • Borderlass (Belmont, MA)


    Wildly Good, Crazy Accurate, and Perhaps a Dance....?
    Rawi Hage, our author, through uncensored images of war and use of spare language simultaneously elegant and profane, provides us with one of the best novels about war anyone possibly could imagine... Using magical realism, he exactly captures the randomness of life and loss and the dark humor one finds in such circumstances... The symmetry and rhythm of his prose engage his readers in a dance from beginning to end - inviting you to join his characters who dance when words and religion by themselves fall short .. Not for the violence-averse, repressed or prissy set, this book would appeal to serious readers looking for an excellent read from a superbly talented writer... This book would appeal to those whose worlds were rocked by Margaret Atwood's "The Blind Assassin."
  • Julia A. (New York, NY)


    Unexpectedly Captivating
    I've read a few other books about the period of the Civil War in Beirut, but this one was very different from the rest. Without giving anything away, I will say that the central character, Pavlov the undertaker's son, who is himself an undertaker, has enough quirky traits to capture a reader like me. He loves the Greek classics; loves dogs more than people; and collects unusual friends, to say nothing of his unusual family, particularly Salwa the "hyena" cousin. The title Society is dedicated to providing cremation for the outcasts of conventionality. Pavlov's father is a charter member and the Society's undertaker, and when he dies, the Society approaches Pavlov to take over the role. The book is essentially a collection of anecdotes and character studies, unified by the personage of Pavlov and his work for the Society. It took me a little bit of time to get into the storyline, but once I did, I found myself fascinated and eager to learn what would happen next. There were even touches of magical realism, which I didn't expect at all. My only disappointment was the ending, which I won't reveal to avoid a spoiler, but even that, on reflection seemed to me appropriate, and the epilogue even had a note of redemption. I haven't read Rawi Hage's other books, but now I want to.
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