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De Niro's Game [Paperback]

Rawi Hage
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

June 15 2008

There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. In Rawi Hage's unforgettable novel, winner of the 2008 IMPAC Prize, this famous quote by Camus becomes a touchstone for two young men caught in Lebanon's civil war. Bassam and George are childhood best friends who 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. Bassam chooses one path: obsessed with leaving Beirut, he embarks on a series of petty crimes to finance his departure. Meanwhile, George builds his power in the underworld of the city and embraces a life of military service, crime for profit, killing, and drugs.

Told in the voice of Bassam, De Niro's Game is a beautiful, explosive portrait of a contemporary young man shaped by a lifelong experience of war. Rawi Hage's brilliant style mimics a world gone mad: so smooth and apparently sane that its razor-sharp edges surprise and cut deeply. A powerful meditation on life and death in a war zone, and what comes after.

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...provides an essential historical context to current political turmoil in Lebanon... (Fast Forward Weekly 2007-04-01)

[A] masterpiece...writing cannot really get much better than Hage's. (Literary Review of Canada 2007-04-01)

...De Niro's Game discloses much to a Canadian audience largely sheltered from the physical and emotional effects of war...Bassam's voice, though emotionally restrained, tells a story that is not only vivid, but also illuminating. (Matrix Magazine 2007-04-01)

...provides an essential historical context to current political turmoil in Lebanon... (The Dominion 2007-04-01)

...the incredibly affecting tale of a young man's fight to remain sovereign, intellectually and politically... (The Hour 2006-11-09)

De Niro's Game is a feverish nightmare of a book, written with a distinctly European flair...it stubbornly refuses to offer the reader any easy comfort...[readers] will be seduced by the undoubted visceral power of this suddenly current narrative. (Toronto Star 2007-04-01)

East meets West in this stunning first novel yielding a totally fresh perspective on war-torn Beirut...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. (Booklist 2007-04-01)

Hage's energetic prose matches the brutality depicted in the novel without overstating the narrative's tragic arc-an impressive first outing for Hage. (Publishers Weekly 2007-04-16)

The excitement of Hage's action-packed plot is supplemented by his visually and viscerally descriptive language... (January Magazine 2007-05-01)

The novel is full of poetic descriptions of the surreal and horrific nature of war delivered through Bassam's stream of consciousness narrative. There are lines that you are compelled to read again and again due to their raw beauty and their insight into how war irreparably shapes human psyches. (Fast Forward Weekly 2006-12-07)

A magnificent achievement...the work of a major literary talent. (Dublin IMPAC Literary Award Jury 2007-06-01)

About the Author

Rawi Hage was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and lived through nine years of the Lebanese civil war. His debut novel, De Niro's Game, won the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, was a finalist for numerous prestigious national and international awards, including the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award, and has been translated into several languages and published around the world. His second novel, Cockroach, won the Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction and was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Governor General's Literary Award, and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. Rawi Hage lives in Montreal.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very real book back then... Sept. 26 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book is very simple in style, it's for sure inspired from the day to day life of every Lebanese and especially the ones living in Beirut. It tells a lot of facts in a humoristic tragic way that some people weren't aware that it was happening in their neighborhood. I would love to read another one describing the same daily routine on the other side during the same period (west beirut back then).
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  17 reviews
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great writing Nov. 5 2007
By Nick C. - Published on Amazon.com
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Great cinematographic style, vivid, risky, and imaginative. A close look at the personal and daily living of two young people in the midst of a civil war. More informative and captivating than general media coverage. One of the best literay novels on the middle east I have read in years. Simply brilliant.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece Aug. 22 2008
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
A stream of consciousness account of a shell-shocked young man struggling to retain his sanity in the middle of a war. The narrator's voice is disengaged and repetitive as he describes events that overcome his family, childhood friendships, and city. Hage presents a stark contrast between the poetic beauty of his language and the tragedies of the war.
22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Daniel is mistaken Dec 23 2007
By AJD - Published on Amazon.com
Rawi Hage's first novel is arguably one of the best pieces of English literature on Lebanon's devastating 15-year civil war. Daniel Scott's simplistic analysis of "De Niro's Game" does not do the book or its author justice. Hage's writing style, which is often poetic in nature, paints a vivid picture of Lebanon's internal tragedy between Christian militias, socialist forces, and Palestinian guerrillas. This book is an absolute must-read.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WOW! Aug. 25 2008
By Elisabeth Forrest - Published on Amazon.com
You read this novel and the writing is as clean, sparse and arid as the desert. Then suddenly, in a single passage, you are inundated, swimming, drowning in words and images that come at you so fast that it is difficult to breathe. Rawi Hage is a master in the making. Do not miss this tremendous book.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning Aug. 24 2008
By Rob Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Initially drawn to this book by the Literary Review's statement that "writing can't get much better..." I'd no idea what to expect. But Hage's written style is as close to modern day epic poetry as you'll probably ever find. The setting of Beirut would hardly seem to lend itself to poetry, but in the sprawling descriptions of the living conditions--both physical and emotional--of this war-ravaged state he seems to channel the style of Homer. For real!

In painting the picture of life for young men living for today amidst a conflict that is as much tradition as the tenets of the religions they follow, Hage brings a world to life that CNN can't tap with its two minute evening news insight.

The final part of the story loses steam as the location changes to somewhere (not to give anything away) it seems Hage is less familiar. Suddenly the same voracity of streaming description that brings Beirut to life is somewhat stifled. Even the actions of the protagonist appear to lose relevance, and certainly consistency.

Yet the writing style still clips along at a thoroughly entertaining pace, and ultimately delivers a story that I figure most readers would never believe that they would enjoy.

Highly recommended.
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