Cockroach Hardcover – Jul 21 2008
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...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 CBC.ca 2008-08-08)
"COCKROACH reveals Hage to be no mere fluke, but a fearless talent with his best years ahead."See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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!
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).Read more ›
-Probably Because I Have To
Most recent customer reviews
Very interesting book. It's one of those that stays with you for a long time. Six months after putting this book down, I can still see the characters.Published 2 months ago by Abbass Hojeij
I agree with one of the reviewers that said this was an over-rated book. I disliked the main character and found the plot boring. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Shepherdess Extraordinaire
Terrible choice for our book club although we did have an interesting discussion. Only one person in our group liked this book, not me!Published 21 months ago by Laraine Taylor
A very strange, but very quick read as it was hard to put down. Very uncomfortable in parts, but all around enjoyable.Published on July 12 2014 by Cassondra
Read this as a selection for my book club. I wasn't a big fan. It is rather weird and hard to follow in places as the main character flips into thinking he is a cockroach at... Read morePublished on March 16 2014 by Tracey
I'd heard that Hage's previous book was excellent, so I was a bit shocked at how much I disliked Cockroach. I couldn't get through it - the 'cockroach' conceit doesn't work at all. Read morePublished on Feb. 2 2014 by Mark Frommer
After reading the first few chapters I couldn't believe how awful this book was.
I started reading passages to my wife and we both were laughing at the endless... Read more
I decided to read this book for two reasons.
1. It was a finalist for the Giller Prize
2. Read more
if you want a book that requires no thought; where the plot, characters, themes, and symbols are laid out easily and overtly; where the action moves incredibly slowly and there is... Read morePublished on Feb. 6 2009 by J. Tobin Garrett