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Cockroach Hardcover – Jul 21 2008

3.2 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: House of Anansi Press; 1st Edition edition (July 21 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0887842097
  • ISBN-13: 978-0887842092
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 14 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #313,110 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


...Cockroach is the kind of alienated-outsider book the just don't write anymore...While his narrator stumbles through existence, cleaning toilets, and going in and out of lucid and devastating observations, Hage subtly builds a thriller in the background that climaxes written Jim Thompson-cold. (Eye Weekly 2008-08-08)

[Hage is] an immensely talented writer [who presents a] fascinating portrait of a complex character who is not sure he's human. (Vancouver Sun 2008-08-08)

Cockroach echoes Hage's trademark concern for life's losers, for the dispossessed, the troubled and the despairing...In a novel laced with dark humour and scorn for the complacency toward suffering in contemporary society, Hage dissects the immigrant experience with incisiveness and a good degree of aplomb. (London Free Press 2008-10-08)

Cockroach is an unforgettable, good read. (Banipal 36 2009-09-01)

Hage has done it again. He has produced an amazingly original and brilliant novel that shows he is no one-hit wonder, but a major force in Canadian literature. (Ottawa Citizen 2008-08-08)

The best novel I read this year was Rawi Hage's Cockroach...which tells the story of an ungrateful immigrant, filled with angst and attitude, in a Montreal which could be Kafka's Prague. It is a dark book, narrated with verve and brilliance. It made me jump for joy. (Colm Toibin 2009-09-01)

The things that make Rawi Hage a major literary talent - and Cockroach as essential reading as its predecessor [De Niro's Game] - include freshness, gut wrenching lyricism, boldness, emotional restraint, intellectual depth, historical sense, political subversiveness and uncompromising compassion. (Globe and Mail 2008-08-08)

...a tour de force novel of fearsome wit, skilled prose, and impressive imagination...A beautiful, compelling, original work, one of the finest novels of the year. (Edmonton Journal 2008-08-08)

Cockroach reveals Hage to be no mere fluke, but a fearless talent with his best years ahead. (Winnipeg Free Press 2008-08-08)

Hage is definitely the real deal...[Cockroach is] powerful, poetic...a near-thriller; you won't be able to put it down...The prose is tight, the haunting imagery beautiful and unsettling, and the setting vividly evoked. (Now Magazine 2008-11-08)

Hage's largest debt is naturally to Kafka, but in grating these influences onto a Montreal immigrant's story, he has managed to recontextualize and transcend them...a potent, honest dissection of material that is too often ignored by Canadian writers. (Quill & Quire 2008-08-08)

Hage's look at the underbelly of organized religion and immigrant life in Canada is unflinching and grim; what's even more remarkable is that he has transformed that material into a page-turner. Cockroach's finely wrought scenes build in tension toward a conclusion that's fitting and yet unpredictable...Readers are bound to be seduced. (Kevin Chong 2008-08-08)


"COCKROACH reveals Hage to be no mere fluke, but a fearless talent with his best years ahead."

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By sean s. TOP 500 REVIEWER on Aug. 8 2008
Format: Hardcover
After having been nominated for Canada's two most important literary awards for fiction, the Giller and the Governor-General's, Rawi Hage's previous novel, De Niro's Game, ended up winning the ultimate prize, the 2008 IMPAC award, the richest in the world for a single novel. So the pressure was on for this, his second book!

For the most part Hage succeeds admirably. The voice used is that of a poor immigrant to Montreal, with all of the baggage of an old-world mindset, resentment against a culture he does not fully grasp, and an abject discomfort with the cold. Add to that mental illness, attempted suicide and serial break and enters, and the picture is pretty grim.

Nonetheless Hage draws a compelling picture of a dreamy underworld, very much Montreal, and yet at the margins. In this, the book is part of a recent trend in Montreal fiction, other examples of which are Heather O'Neill's Lullabies for Little Criminals and Maya Merrick's The Hole Show.

Due to the protagonist's mental illness, Hage is able to effectively drift into territories of fantasy and delusion, expressed through an oneiric, poetic language that is often truly sublime in its imagery.

My one criticism of the book is that at times the Cockroach motif seems forced into passages repeatedly and a bit gratuitously. The book's narrative holds up very well on its own, so in my view it wasn't at all necessary to hammer on this imagery so insistently.

That having been said, this is nonetheless clearly a five-star book. It gives a tip of the hat to Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground, and obviously also to Kafka's Metamorphosis. In its masculine tone and accomplishments it reminds one of another of today's brilliant writers, Lluis-Anton Baulenas from Barcelona.

So though De Niro's Game was a tough show to follow, anyone who enjoyed it will also likely enjoy this great novel. Recommended!
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Format: Hardcover
Rawi Hage's second novel Cockroach takes place during a frigid Montreal winter and details the picaresque adventures of an unnamed protagonist, a recent immigrant from the Middle East and self-professed thief who often envisions himself as a giant cockroach. Hage is the recent winner of English literature's richest prize, the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, for his debut novel DeNiro's Game (which I did not read); as such, there has been a considerable degree of anticipation for this new book.

There are two narrative arcs in this novel. The primary arc is a first-person description of the protagonist and his interactions within and without the shadowy émigré community of Montreal. The secondary arc provides the backstory of the protagonist's family history in the old country as detailed to his government-appointed psychologist.

Hage writes with an almost relentless forward momentum, and the prose quickly takes hold of the reader by providing an intimate depiction of the protagonist's underworld. The tone is persistently nihilistic (particularly in the first half), cynical, and dark. This is reflected in the actions of the unnamed protagonist, who breaks into the homes of his acquaintances for petty reasons (or none at all) and sells drugs to shallow and self-obsessed young Quebecois. These young cocaine-addled materialists who live "expensive apartments with faux shantytown architecture" are viciously described by the protagonist, who recognizes their implicit acceptance of him as nothing more than their latest exotic fashion accessory, another acquisition from the savage East. The following passages illustrate this gleefully sardonic tone (and there is much of this in the novel).
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Format: Hardcover
Little need be said about this slim novel except that it was such a jarring pleasure to know this got classified as Canadian, though of course Montreal is to Canada as New York is to America (a wonderful bit of something rather different than the whole). Lyrical and angry, poetic and sinister, this is not your grandmother's prairie novel. Montreal feels dark. The criminal is so sexual. The sexual is so perverse. The vice is nice. This is how I feel inspired by this book, not to give details of the author's ethnicity (everyone else does anyway), not to go into political history, because the book so masterfully manages to touch on the political without getting bogged down in it. Which is to say the dream is never ruined. The darkened streets are never lit too bright with some lecture. There are no lectures. There is little light. The beauty is in the darkness, and the flow of the language.

-Probably Because I Have To
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It started off slowly but soon captured my attention. You felt empathy for the immigrants and realized some of the struggles they face.
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Format: Hardcover
The Lebanese-Canadian novelist, Rawi Hage, as written another powerful story about the life an immigrant's attempt to survive and eventually make it Canadian society. There are a number of layers and strands in this cautionary tale that involves a young Iranian living in the St.Laurent area of Montreal, a working-class part of the city and home to many new immigrants arriving from the Middle East. The protagonist describes his squalid existence as a daily fight to keep the cockroaches in his apartment at bay. He lives in a Dostoevskian world where he is constantly fighting to stay afloat while hoping to climb an imaginary social ladder to success. Unfortunately, all his efforts are consumed with committing petty crimes that put him further behind the eight ball to the extent that he considers suicide. Hage introduces a psychotherapist into this man's life who takes an altruistic interest in trying to get him to realize the futility of his ways. She encourages him to take on a job at a local restaurant, and it is there that he discovers that the world he aspires to belong to is corrupt, dangerous and worse than the life he originally escaped from or his current straits. This is a very intelligent, sensitive man who realizes that his future most likely is contained to the edge of society, between a rock(the establishment)and a hard place(the abode of cockroaches). I found "Cockroach" a rewarding read in terms of correcting any illusions I might have had that the immigrant experience is an unimpeded road to success, especially for those coming from the poorer parts of the world.
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