lundi 30 mars 2009

I first heard of Rawi Hage during the last Festival for American Writers at the Bois de Vincennes last year. He was one of the authors featured in a number of the conferences even though he is Lebanese and currently living in Canada. Apparently, his book "De Niro's Game" had received numerous prizes and much critical praise. Despite that, I wasn't sure if I wanted to read his book though I was interested in hearing him speak. I have to admit that the first lines of his book really caught my attention.
De Niro's Game is the tale of two childhood friends growing up during the turbulent years of Lebanon’s civil war. Bassam and George ( known also as De Niro for his love of Russian roulette like Robert De Niro’s character in Deer Hunter) have a precarious future before them. Many of their friends and family are dead or missing, and the city is in a perpetual state of war. The foremost question in their lives is how to survive. And if they do, at what cost?
It is an impressive debut novel from Hage, who himself fled Lebanon for the safe shores of Canada. It is quite brilliant and his writing is infused with palpable passion and the pages practically crackle with tension as you tear through the narrative. This is by no means an easy book, dealing as it does with the war torn landscape of Lebanon and its aftermath. It depicts vividly the story of two friends whose paths diverge dramatically in their quest to survive. It is infused with savagery where scenes of people hunting down the street dogs and the even more harrowing scenes of the Sabra and Chantilla massacres have the power to haunt even after you turn the page. Hage writes about these events with such authority and realism and interestingly enough, he himself left the country at the beginning of the war. His response to the question as to how he is able to do this is interesting food for thought. "The author of a novel is under no obligation to tell or portray the exact truth or be bound to a faithful depiction of the real. It's the act of creativity, the storytelling and the novelist's views that should be predominant and valued as well."

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