Cockroach

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Cockroach

by Rawi Hage

House Of Anansi Press Inc | August 1, 2009 | Trade Paperback

Cockroach is rated 3.6 out of 5 by 10.

Cockroach is as urgent, unsettling, and brilliant as Rawi Hage's bestselling and critically acclaimed first book, De Niro's Game.

The novel takes place during one month of a bitterly cold winter in Montreal's restless immigrant community, where a self-described thief has just tried but failed to commit suicide. Rescued against his will, the narrator is obliged to attend sessions with a well-intentioned but naive therapist. This sets the story in motion, leading us back to the narrator's violent childhood in a war-torn country, forward into his current life in the smoky emigre cafes where everyone has a tale, and out into the frozen night-time streets of Montreal, where the thief survives on the edge, imagining himself to be a cockroach invading the lives of the privileged, but wilfully blind, citizens who surround him.

In 2008, Cockroach was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Governor General's Literary Award, and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. It won the Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction, presented by the Quebec Writers' Federation.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 320 pages, 8 × 5.3 × 0.8 in

Published: August 1, 2009

Publisher: House Of Anansi Press Inc

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0887848346

ISBN - 13: 9780887848346

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Quirky dark tale I like strange novels with disturbed characters and this story definitely fits the bill. Our character in this novel is a petty thief who was caught attempting suicide and now he has to endure government-sponsored therapy or be committed. The story revolves around his somewhat precarious life of breaking into peoples' homes and trying to find money through nefarious means. Although unpleasant, the protaginist is not without charm - he frequently has success with women and he manages to manuevre himself into various social circles. Because of his mental illness, he suffers hallucinations and the cockroaches in his apartment serve as common subjects for his delusions. He often thinks of himself as a cockroach and he enters other homes whilst operating under this illusion. This book is quite short and very entertaining - something to read when you are looking for a book that is a little different.
Date published: 2013-10-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Rawi Hage's Dark and Lyrical Montreal Little need be said about this slim novel except that it was a jarring pleasure to see the book classified as Canadian, though of course Montreal is to Canada as New York is to America (a wonderful bit of something rather different than the whole). Lyrical and angry, poetic and sinister, this is not your grandmother's prairie novel. Montreal feels dark. The criminal is so sexual. The sexual so perverse. The vice is nice. This is how I feel inspired by this book, not to give details of the author's ethnicity (everyone else does anyway), not to go into political history, because the book so masterfully manages to touch on the political without getting bogged down in it. Which is to say the dream is never ruined. The darkened streets are never lit too bright with some lecture. There are no lectures. There is little light. The beauty is in the darkness, and the flow of the language. -Probably Because I Have To
Date published: 2010-05-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Read between the lines Not an easy story to follow but becomes very interesting once you are in the middle of the story. I have to say it is not as good as De Niro's Game but nice
Date published: 2010-02-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Average The book is Hage's 2nd, following De Niro's Game, which was one of the best books I have ever read. Cockroach is basically about an immigrant living in Montreal. It's a multi-layered themed book, touching on topics such as adapting to a new society, poverty, selfishness, multi-culturalism to name but a few. The problem is that the book seemd a little unfocused. Maybe it was trying to hit too many topics at one time. This led to distractions, which led to boredom at some points in the book. Hage is a great storyteller, but I just felt this book was a little difficult, and unpleasant to read at times. Still, I can't wait for his next novel.
Date published: 2009-02-16
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Good book for High School English class Cockroach is great book for High School English Class; it has everything English teachers like: rich literary language and deep themes. The book is written by Rawi Hage who is an immigrant and writes a book in genre of fiction that I like to refer as immigration fiction. The immigration fiction focuses itself on the life and the struggles of the immigrants. Cockroach makes a good attempt at that. This book is about an immigrant who is driven by his whole life and current situation to perceive himself the lowest of the low, a cockroach. The quality of language used by the author is superb and any reader would enjoy reading the book for that reason. The author does a great job of putting vivid pictures in the reader’s head, which is done through all sorts of the literary devices throughout the narrative. Narration is original in style; it has no quotes for the dialogue and so demonstrates that the narrator is expressing the events in his head from the first point of view. This puts some doubt in validity of the narrative, as the narrator is depressed and already has visited mental institution. It also acts as the tool for character development as it helps the reader to understand the mental state of the narrator. The characters and character development are done superbly in the book. The character development in the book is nor rushed, but it is slow in the beginning. The characters are a Lebanese immigrant, who is the protagonist, and the Iranian immigrants. They are shown in vivid details with well developed personalities and strong back stories that explain why they are the way they are. The realization why protagonist sees himself as a cockroach comes as through the understanding of his situation. The novel has additional characters such as the therapists and the other Canadians who are utilized to contrast the lives of immigrants with the lives of Canadians as well as to show how little they understand of the Middle East immigrants and the world they came from. The contrast is one of the major themes in the novel. The themes of the novel are: the contrast of the lives of immigrants and the Canadians and the gap that the Canadians are unable to breach in their understanding of the immigrants, the emotional baggage of the immigrants that they bring with them, the hardships that they face in Canada are all developed extremely well and sit comfortably in the overall plot. The plot itself progresses in two lines; one is in the present and in Montreal and the other one is in the past of the narrator when he lived in Lebanon. This makes it possible to understand why exactly the protagonist has become the way he is. It also shows the challenges of the protagonist in the past and in the present as well as the challenges of the other characters. However, due to the fact that the protagonist is on the verge of being insane the description of the characters that are around him are of questionable accuracy. The book has bad side to it. Let’s begin with the narrative; the use of French is interesting. While it is good that it adds to the book’s feel, it is also not essential enough for people who do not know the language. The question than appears why to include it? As the narrative is done in the head of the protagonist it is hard to imagine person thinking in two different languages. The character development also has a flaw, the protagonist from the way he speaks, comments, alludes to historical figures is clearly very educated yet there is no explanation as to where the protagonist got such education. The high level of education of the protagonist is questionable since he spent his whole life in poverty. The plot is too slow and it fills the person with the sad thoughts. The literature is an art and such has been created for entertainment purposes first and everything else second. In this case it failed to entertain as the plot only picks up in the second part of the book with the ending that leaves the reader wondering. When the reader finishes a book, the question so what comes up. Why should have reader read this book?. This come from the fact that people want to see something besides the entertainment in the art, readers want to know what they should learn from the book. The book does an excellent way of showing life of the immigrants; however it doesn’t show the whole truth of that life. There are other characters in the book that show much better and represent the immigrants and their struggles. In the end the book has plenty to offer for people who would like to dissect it for the themes and literary devices; it offers good character development and the plot organization that is well done along with the narrative style. However, the plot progressing too slowly, fails to entertain, has a flaw in character of the protagonist and fails to answer the question of so what effectively enough. Considering all this I would say that this is book is average.
Date published: 2009-02-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The outsider's lament Rawi Hage’s second novel Cockroach takes place during a frigid Montreal winter and details the picaresque adventures of an unnamed protagonist, a recent immigrant from the Middle East and self-professed thief who often envisions himself as a giant cockroach. Hage is the recent winner of English literature’s richest prize, the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, for his debut novel DeNiro’s Game (which I did not read); as such, there has been a considerable degree of anticipation for this new book. There are two narrative arcs in this novel. The primary arc is a first-person description of the protagonist and his interactions within and without the shadowy émigré community of Montreal. The secondary arc provides the backstory of the protagonist’s family history in the old country as detailed to his government-appointed psychologist. Hage writes with an almost relentless forward momentum, and the prose quickly takes hold of the reader by providing an intimate depiction of the protagonist’s underworld. The tone is persistently nihilistic (particularly in the first half), cynical, and dark. This is reflected in the actions of the unnamed protagonist, who breaks into the homes of his acquaintances for petty reasons (or none at all) and sells drugs to shallow and self-obsessed young Quebecois. These young cocaine-addled materialists who live “expensive apartments with faux shantytown architecture” are viciously described by the protagonist, who recognizes their implicit acceptance of him as nothing more than their latest exotic fashion accessory, another acquisition from the savage East. The following passages illustrate this gleefully sardonic tone (and there is much of this in the novel). "All of her friends, too, lived in a state of permanent denial of the bad smells from sewers, infested slums, unheated apartments, single mothers on welfare, worn-out clothing. No, everything had to be perfect, every morsel of food had to be well served — presentation, always presentation, the ultimate mask." "… They were corrupt, empty, selfish, self-absorbed … I despised them; they admired me." This unrelenting nihilism, untypical in many ways of Canadian literature, is coupled with a fascinating use of imagery. It is this imagery that has the greatest impact upon the reader. As the title implies, the protagonist views himself as a giant cockroach, quick and agile, feeding off the detritus of civil society, thriving in the dark and recognizing no boundaries and barriers. He comes to identify with the cockroaches infesting his apartment, to the point of conversing with a giant albino roach. He exists on the edge of madness, for reasons that become clear as the novel progresses. Despite all the cynicism, surreal imagery, and nihilistic tone (which many have found offputting), the ultimate sense conveyed by the protagonist is a profound sense of loneliness. As he laments to his psychiatrist: "I just wanted to know you, I said. I just wanted to be invited in." This loneliness is coupled with a deep sense of responsibility and shame by the protagonist at his failure to affect an earlier tragedy. The primary narrative arc of this novel is his attempt to atone for this tragedy. And as such, the novel is ultimately a novel of redemption. I found it fascinating, a very quick read, and enjoyed the propulsive narrative style. The imagery stretches a bit too far in some cases, and parts of the second half are a bit slow, but these are minor complaints. I look forward to reading more from Hage in the future.
Date published: 2008-12-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding and thrilling! Amazing... the "mélange" of reality and surreal(ity) both molded into that schizophrenic thief character renders the novel even more thrilling, pleasant, and rich. Description: cinematographic, figurative, sublime, genuine, moving... makes you drift into this world Hage describes; the ground or reality versus the underground or surreal(ity)! As detailed, intricate, and elaborate the descriptions are, you feel your imagination has no place… Everything is offered to you… BUT all your senses interfere, and try to discover both worlds described with great maneuver… Hage is a great psychiatrist too! An outstanding scheme! A must-read!
Date published: 2008-11-27
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Unreadable I tried three times, but couldn't get past the first 100 pages of this book. I really loved DeNiro's game, but this book for me was unreadable.
Date published: 2008-11-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful book. Everyone who wants to know how it feels to be an immigrant in Montreal should read this book. Rawi Hage has a masterful hand. I am happy he has chosen to live in Canada and share his insights with us and share our beautiful country.
Date published: 2008-10-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A wobbly but ultimately fine second novel Seeing as immigration is an integral element of the Canadian landscape, it should come as no surprise that authors might seek to dip into this cultural stew for dramatic purposes. Very few, however, would likely seek to add the hallucinatory elements that Rawi Hage’s novel Cockroach brings to the recipe. The Canadian author arose seemingly from out of nowhere in when his novel De Niro’s Game was rescued from the slush pile. The novel was deluged with plaudits and awards, culminating in his win of the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the largest English literary prize on the planet. No one could blame Hage for tentativeness in his approach to his sophomore novel. Yet while it contains many of the same themes as his first, Cockroach proves that Hage is not content to rest on his laurels. Leaving behind Game’s war-blighted Lebanon, Cockroach sets itself in the more familiar surroundings of Montreal. But while the country may be considerably dissimilar, Hage continues his penchant for bleak poetic atmosphere, transforming the metropolis into an alien topography of menial jobs, mysterious accents, and class hostilities. Cockroach is foremost a character study of a stranger in a strange land. A very strange stranger at that, an individual with the odd habit of imagining himself as a cockroach; “Other humans gaze at the sky,” he explains, “ but I say unto you, the only way through the world is to pass through the underground.” Hage has more on his mind than allusions to Kafka, however. Like Kafka’s many baffled protagonists, Hage’s anti-hero may be bewildered by the machinations of the world, but he is no mere observer, taking pains wherever and whenever he can to make his presence felt. The narrator is not so much a hero as he is a survivor. Unlike the start realism of Game, the narrator of Cockroach may or may not be on the brink of insanity, adding a surreal aspect to many of his daily encounters. Cockroach’s unnamed narrator is an immigrant, a man who ekes out a living through a combination of odd jobs and surreptitious thievery. After a suicide attempt, explained as being “a challenge to nature, to the cosmos itself, to the recurring light,” he is ordered to attend therapy sessions to assess his competency. The narrator is not having an easy time of it living in Montreal, the clash of cultures altering the man he perceives himself to be. “[H]ere in this Northern land,” he laments, comparing his new life to his old, “no one gives you an excuse to hit, rob, or shoot, or even to shout from across the balcony, to curse your neighbours’ mothers and threaten their kids.” Alongside a gift for breaking and entering, the narrator prides himself on his ability to lay bare the true natures of those who surround him. “I see people for what they are. I strip them of everything and see their hollowness. I strip them, and they are relieved of the burden of colour and disguise.” Hage writes his tale in short, declarative sentences, capturing the despondency of a life of potential trapped in a world as similarly rigid in its caste structure as the land that he left. The narrator grimly acknowledges himself and his acquaintances as “the scum of the earth in this capitalist endeavour,” and it becomes readily apparent that Hage did not have to trek too far to revisit the themes of isolation and pain that suffused the pages of Di Niro’s Game. Like that novel, Cockroach occasionally betrays a wicked wit, manifesting through the narrator’s inserting himself into the lives of those he watches. “I was part of their TV dinner,” he writes after one young couple watches him as they would watch a reality television show, “I was spinning in a microwave, stripped of my plastic cover, eaten, and defecated the next morning just as the filtered coffee was brewing in the kitchen and the radio was prophesying the weather, telling them what to wear, what to buy, what to say, whom to watch, and whom to like and hate.” Despite its many admirable qualities, Cockroach is not flawless. There is an abrupt switch as a more formalized plot begins to force its way onto the page. The ending, involving a weirdly-played subplot of a mysterious figure who draws the attention of the narrator’s friends, feels incomplete. Cockroach is also, like its hero, a supremely frustrating creature, alternately fascinating and confused. By the finale, the skill of Hage is readily apparent, but there is a maddening sense of incompleteness to the whole of the novel, an impression exemplified by the narrator’s frequent digressions that entertain and provoke but don’t linger in the mind, a dilemma De Niro’s Game so effortlessly avoided. Nevertheless, Cockroach reveals Hage to be no mere fluke, but a fearless talent with his best years ahead. Regardless of its shortcomings, Cockroach exposes a world so otherworldly to most Canadians as to be near-unimaginable, and reveals an author on the cusp of greatness.
Date published: 2008-09-03

– More About This Product –

Cockroach

by Rawi Hage

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 320 pages, 8 × 5.3 × 0.8 in

Published: August 1, 2009

Publisher: House Of Anansi Press Inc

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0887848346

ISBN - 13: 9780887848346

From the Publisher

Cockroach is as urgent, unsettling, and brilliant as Rawi Hage's bestselling and critically acclaimed first book, De Niro's Game.

The novel takes place during one month of a bitterly cold winter in Montreal's restless immigrant community, where a self-described thief has just tried but failed to commit suicide. Rescued against his will, the narrator is obliged to attend sessions with a well-intentioned but naive therapist. This sets the story in motion, leading us back to the narrator's violent childhood in a war-torn country, forward into his current life in the smoky emigre cafes where everyone has a tale, and out into the frozen night-time streets of Montreal, where the thief survives on the edge, imagining himself to be a cockroach invading the lives of the privileged, but wilfully blind, citizens who surround him.

In 2008, Cockroach was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Governor General's Literary Award, and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. It won the Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction, presented by the Quebec Writers' Federation.

About the Author

Rawi Hage was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and lived through nine years of the Lebanese civil war. His debut novel, De Niro's Game, won the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, was a finalist for numerous prestigious national and international awards, including the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award, and has been translated into several languages and published around the world. His second novel, Cockroach, won the Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction and was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Governor General's Literary Award, and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. Rawi Hage lives in Montreal.
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