Book review: Cockroach by Rawi Hage- Ali’s pick

Cockroach is Rawi Hage’s (Winner of the 2008 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award) second novel; it takes place during the cold winter of Montreal where the reader will take a journey into the mind of a disturbed, unnamed Middle-Eastern man with suicidal tendencies. After a failed suicide attempt where the protagonist tried to hang himself in the park with a rope that he attached to a tree, he is taken to see a shrink to whom he tells a story of his family’s history during the Lebanese civil war. The shrink—well mannered and genuinely trying to help—is shocked to find out that the main character among other things, breaks into peoples houses for petty reasons, and sometimes for no reasons at all because he thinks he’s a cockroach. This is a story of violence, war, denial, desperation and hope. Yes, Hope with a capital H, the reasoning being that regardless of the nihilistic tone of the story as it is told by the protagonist there is a sense of hope to change, to overcome a tragic event that occurred earlier in his life.  I found this to be a real page turner, a book where I can dive and get lost. This book leaves the reader wondering with a sense of unease through out. Rawi Hage writes with a sense of urgency and unforgiving force, he takes hold of the reader with sentences that are full of intimate and vivid descriptions of the “underworld” where immigrants and cockroaches dwell.

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