De Niro's Game Hardcover – Apr 7 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This aggressive, prize-winning Canadian import debut recounts the fate of two childhood friends in war-ravaged Beirut. Narrator Bassam dreams of leaving Beirut, where there is "not enough [money] for cigarettes, a nagging mother, and food," and escaping to Rome, where even the pigeons "look happy and well fed." To fund his escape, he enters into a scheme with his best friend, George, to skim funds from the poker arcade where George works. But George is soon coerced into joining the militia and rises to its top ranks, allowing the friends to indulge in freewheeling lawlessness. Their days of riding the streets of West Beirut "with guns under our bellies, and stolen gas in our tanks, and no particular place to go" gives way to betrayal and violence more ferocious than either self-styled thug had bargained for. Though Bassam does eventually leave, he finds he cannot entirely escape Beirut; only in Paris, where the story plays out its third and final act, does he discover the extent of his friend's treachery. Hage's energetic prose matches the brutality depicted in the novel without overstating the narrative's tragic arc—an impressive first outing for Hage. (Aug.)
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*Starred Review* East meets West in this stunning first novel yielding a totally fresh perspective on war-torn Beirut. Bassam and George have been best friends since childhood, when they roamed the ruined streets of their hometown, making a game out of collecting empty bullets and cannon shells to trade for cigarettes. Now, years into the civil war, "ten thousand bombs had landed," and the two have lost their parents and many neighbors to them, growing hard and cynical in the process. Every day is a test in survival, a mad scramble for food and petrol. Bassam dreams of escaping to Rome, where even the pigeons look "happy and well-fed." He and George concoct an elaborate ruse to rip off the gambling parlor where George works, but after joining the local Christian militia, George is a changed man. Soon even their close friendship is enveloped by the nihilism bred by living in a war zone, and Bassam is forced to flee from the militia, hopping a a boat bound for France. 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. Wilkinson, Joanne
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Top Customer Reviews
DeNiro's Game is set during the Lebanon Civil War. The protaginist, Bassam, is a young adult on the Christian side of war torn Beirut. While Bassam is fixated on leaving Beiruit, his life long friend, George, is a rising star among the local militia. While bombs fall all around, Bassam, a thug in his own right, sets out on a series of jobs to fund his departure to his dream city: Rome.
As you can guess by the synopsis above this novel does not deal with the bright side of human nature. The bombed out neighbourhood that is the setting for the story is littered with thugs and guns aplenty. Hage captures the gangster allure perfectly, right down to the gun in the belt, and the cigarette in the mouth. He also succeeds equally in cornering the essence of young men, with their sexual daydreams, reckless abandon, and rock hard stoicism. It's gritty subject matter but the author - with his own experiences in Lebanon - is up to the challenge of describing it.
To balance out this dark streak the book throws in a lot of poetry. Bassam will ramble on for about half a page about one thing taking it further and further. A great little sample of this type of writing is found on the back cover. I found this style weird at the start and in fact found it was one of my favourite parts of the book as the story progressed.
This is a great novel. It is a dark tragic page turner that you won't want to put down. I give it ten thousand stars out of ten thousand.
Most recent customer reviews
I finished De Niro's game a few days back, but am just getting around to making an entry now. In short, I liked this novel. Read morePublished on Nov. 12 2008 by DocDave
I didn't enjoy this book at all, although I did get through it. Edmonton has chosen it as the first book in their "Edmonton Reads" campaign, and I don't think it was a good choice... Read morePublished on June 24 2007 by Edmonton reads
One of the best books I have ever read. I could not put it down and had finished it in 2 days.
It is a dark portrayal of two young Lebanese men who take different paths... Read more