How can one book be at one and the same time gritty, fatalistic, lyrical, bitter and rhapsodic? How can a writer conjure beauty out of the stuff of ugliness and desperation? Rawi Hage succeeds in all of that and more. It's no surprise that this book has been so widely praised and at the same time disliked by some. Also no surprise that it made the final cut on Canada Reads, to be surpassed only by "The Orenda" in the end.
It explores schizophrenia in a more compelling and (almost) comprehensible manner than anything I've ever read, while exploring some (but by no means all) of the many aspects of the "immigrant experience" -- at least the sort that afflicts refugees from violent, oppressive and war-torn places of origin.
The protagonist (who pointedly is given no name) is on the one hand amoral, manipulative and even criminal in his behavior. And yet he garners the sympathy of this reader for his clear-sighted and merciless condemnation of the destructive forces in our society that masquerade under the guise of social services, religion, and the sheer ugliness of bourgeois sham and empty-headed pretentiousness. He takes no prisoners, gives no quarter and spares no one, including himself.
Kafka, with the voice of Dylan Thomas!
This book has a terrible main character. There is nothing redeeming about him. He is creepy and perverted. I don't sympathize for the character because he is poor and an immigrant and mistreated because he is so unlikable. For example: The main character works in restaurant where all he wants to do is seduce the restaurant owner's daughter. As a young woman I hope that this is not a model men ascribe to. The reason I gave this book 1 star is because Rawi Hage could not have more accurately created a character who you would want to call Cockroach. I got through the book because I wanted to see what the Canada Reads panel saw in it. In the end I saw very little and would not recommend it to anyone to read!
Rawi Hage's thorny, nameless protagonist will not exactly capture your heart, but you will follow his tenacity, resourcefulness and sometimes unexpected fidelities with fascination. The ending packs surprising redemption, paying tribute wickedly to everyone's capacity to survive and to love.
Absolutely agre with erinsnest. i rate this book 0/5. Only read it for the Canada Reads and couldn't wait to be done.
Dec 23, 2013, started this book today, after finishing "Annabel." It is on the list for Canada Reads 2014, which is why I chose to read it. I don't think I would have picked it out otherwise......Dec 26, Well, this is not really my kind of book, I find it a little.....um, kooky. I am not too sure what the point of it is, I am on page 114 of 305. I am thinking that this guy has the potential to be a real twisted individual. He is a type of peeping Tom/burglar, and I am getting the impression that he has committed murder, or at least killed someone in his past. I am getting used to the writing style, but it is an effort for me. So far, not one I would recommend to my friends!.......Dec 30, I am getting a little tired of this fellows ramblings. Just when something starts to get interesting, he starts rambling on about nothing again. I'm on page 242 of 305, and looking forward to being finished. I'll let you know if I change my mind about this book, but I really can't see the last 65 pages changing my mind!........It's New Years Eve! and we had the most awesome homeade lobster dinner with baked stuffed potatoes, (no vege's we were feeling in a party mode!) Yum. Yum. Anyway, I'm on page 279 of 305, and (hmm I just realized I don't even know the guy's name!) the guy is not hungry anymore, he's kinda bored and so he goes out a picks a fight. Ho hum! Be glad when this is over, but don't think I can make myself do that tonight. So, I'll be back tomorrow for the end result!......Jan 1, finished it, and I can't get it back to the library fast enough. This book was a total waste of my time. I guess it went WAY over my head. I don't even want to try to understand it. Just too boring for me! (I predict it will make it to the top 2 for Canada Reads in 2014 as it is so boring, people won't vote it off so that they hope their book will have to go against it in the top 2, and then their book will be a shoe in!)
Depressing at times, but well worth the read, thoroughly eye opening on what life is like through the true perception of another person, that being a poor immigrant. I've never quite read a book like this. Very well written.
Detailed, evocative, scathing description of a side of life I'd rather not know about. This ugly story centers on unlikeable characters who have been irrevocably damaged by their violent pasts. Hopeless.
This novel is well written. Very lyrical and in a stream of conscious way. Unfortunately the character development is lacking. All the characters are selfish and there is no growth.
This book is full of hate, desepcion, jealousy, isolation, selfishness, self pitty. But is very well written.
Shortlisted for the 2008 Giller Prize.
Apparently Hage’s previous novel won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the most lucrative literature prize with the worst name currently awarded, so this second novel must have a lot to live up to. It also, obviously, has to live up to Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. I haven’t read either, so my foray into this novel is definitely undereducated. Keep that in mind while I summarize it as half sharp and staticky character sketch, half sticky and tacked-on revenge plot.
* I have now read The Metamorphosis. I see an implicit statement now that the life of the immigrant in Cockroach is an inhuman one. He left a life of crime in Iran, but it was motivated by taking care of his family – his life of crime in Montreal is motivated by his own survival and it is only here that he becomes a cockroach to himself and others. When we are slaves to survival or to routine, our lives are as meaningless as the bug’s underfoot.
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