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Cockroach

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Rawi Hage (Anansi)

Following up his IMPAC Dublin Literary Award-winning debut novel, De Niro's Game, Lebanon-born, Montreal-based Canadian novelist Rawi Hage storms back with Cockroach, another probing, intriguing and powerfully thrilling immersion into the mindset and mores of mainstream Middle Eastern agnostics. This time, however, Hage pitches his compelling story not in sectarian violence-ravaged Beirut, but in wintery Montreal. Hage shrewdly borrows from Kafka's Metamorphosis to image his unnamed narrator's sense of "outsiderness;" "a vermin, a bug" in "white city" Montreal. "I do not feel truly human." Structurally, two narrative threads move the story forward. One details the present in Montreal as events unfold for the narrator, surviving as a restless busboy and petty thief who, incredibly, uses his B&E skills to sneak into the domiciles of those he becomes acquainted with to learn more about them. The other strand, uncovered by psychiatric questioning, delves into past stomach-wrenching incidents in Lebanon that indelibly shaped the narrator's character. The two storylines interlaced, Cockroach drives to its inexorable violent conclusion. Vivaciously, vitally, Hage humanizes "the other" for us non-immigrant Canadians. A fascinating read. ---Graham Pilsworth

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