Summary and book reviews of De Niro's Game by Rawi Hage

De Niro's Game

by Rawi Hage

De Niro's Game by Rawi Hage
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2007, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2008, 304 pages

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Book Summary

Two young friends caught in Lebanon’s civil war 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.

De Niro’s Game plunges readers into the timely story of two young men caught in Lebanon’s 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 Niro’s 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.

1

TEN THOUSAND BOMBS HAD LANDED, AND I WAS WAITING for George.

Ten thousand bombs had landed on Beirut, that crowded city, and I was lying on a blue sofa covered with white sheets to protect it from dust and dirty feet.

It is time to leave, I was thinking to myself. My mother’s radio was on. It had been on since the start of the war, a radio with Rayovac batteries that lasted ten thousand years. My mother’s radio was wrapped in a cheap, green plastic cover, with holes in it, smudged with the residue of her cooking fingers and dust that penetrated its knobs, cinched against its edges. Nothing ever stopped those melancholic Fairuz songs that came out of it.

I was not escaping the war; I was running away from Fairuz, the notorious singer.

Summer and the heat had arrived; the land was burning under a close sun that cooked our flat and its roof. Down below our white window, Christian cats walked the narrow streets...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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).

Full Review (817 words).

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Media Reviews

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.

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.

Kirkus Reviews

Sad and discouraging for anyone holding out hope for that part of the world.

Library Journal

Given its level of artistry and portrayal of the complexities of Lebanon's civil war, this book is recommended for academic libraries.

Publishers Weekly

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.

Booklist

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.

Reader Reviews

Amanda

A glimpse of another world
Excellent read recommended to me by one of my children. I hadn't heard of this author before and was very impressed at the way he sliced open a world that most of us have no real clue about. The main character was fascinating, especially with regard ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

A Short History of Lebanon

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 ...

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