Format: Trade Paperback
Dimensions: 280 Pages, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.39 in
Published: February 21, 2007
Publisher: House of Anansi
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10: 088784765X
ISBN - 13: 9780887847653
Read from the Book
De Niro's Game: excerpt I Ten thousand bombs had landed, and I was waiting for George. Ten thousand bombs had landed on Beirut, that crowded city, and I was lying on a blue sofa covered with white sheets to protect it from dust and dirty feet. It is time to leave, I was thinking to myself. My mother's radio was on. It had been on since the start of the war, a radio with Rayovac batteries that lasted ten thousand years. My mother's radio was wrapped in a cheap, green plastic cover, with holes in it, smudged with the residue of her cooking fingers and dust that penetrated its knobs, cinched against its edges. Nothing ever stopped those melancholic Fairuz songs that came out of it. I was not escaping the war; I was running away from Fairuz, the notorious singer. Summer and the heat had arrived; the land was burning under a close sun that cooked our flat and its roof. Down below our white window, Christian cats walked the narrow streets nonchalantly, never crossing themselves or kneeling for black-dressed priests. Cars were parked on both sides of the street, cars that climbed sidewalks, obstructed the passage of worn-out, suffocating pedestrians whose feet, tired feet, and faces, long faces, cursed and blamed America with every little step and every twitch of their miserable lives. Heat descended, bombs landed, and thugs jumped the long lines for bread, stole the food of the weak, bullied the baker and caressed his daughter. Thugs never waited in lines. George honked. His motorc
From the Publisher
"There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is
In Rawi Hage's astonishing and unforgettable novel, this famous
quote by Camus becomes a touchstone for two young men caught in
Lebanon's civil war. Bassam and George are childhood best friends
who have grown to adulthood in wartorn Beirut. Now they must choose
their futures: to stay in the city and consolidate power through
crime; or to go into exile abroad, alienated from the only
existence they have known. Bassam chooses one path: Obsessed with
leaving Beirut, he embarks on a series of petty crimes to finance
his departure. Meanwhile, George builds his power in the underworld
of the city and embraces a life of military service, crime for
profit, killing, and drugs.
Told in the voice of Bassam, De Niro's Game is a
beautiful, explosive portrait of a contemporary young man shaped by
a lifelong experience of war.
Rawi Hage brilliantly fuses vivid, jump-cut cinematic imagery with
the measured strength and beauty of Arabic poetry. His style mimics
a world gone mad: so smooth and apparently sane that its
razor-sharp edges surprise and cut deeply. A powerful meditation on
life and death in a war zone, and what comes after.
Scotiabank Giller Prize
Governor General's Award: Fiction
Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction
McAuslan First Book Prize
Rogers Writer's Trust Fiction Prize
Commonwealth Writer's Prize (Canada and the Caribbean):
Best First Book
Prix des libraires du Québec
IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
Questions for Discussion
1) The city of Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War (1975?1990) is
the setting of De Niro's Game. Almost 100,000 people lost their
lives in this conflict. How much did you know about the war before
reading the book? What impression of the war did the novel give
you? Did reading it make you want to learn more about the history
of this war?
2) Hage's writing style is poetic, merging images from the present,
the near past, and the reaches of history. How does this layering
function in telling the story?
3) De Niro's Game is told in three parts - I. Roma, II. Beirut, and
III. Paris. Part I is highly poetic, setting the tone and stage for
the rest of the novel; Part II uses storytelling by secondary
characters to relate stories from the war and stories of exile;
Part III reads much like a journal. How does this three-part
structure work to tell the story?
4) Hage's quotation from Ezekiel - "And the breadth shall be ten
thousand" - refers to chapter 45 of the book of Ezekiel in the
Bible, which describes what the measurements are to be of a holy
district set aside for God. What effect does the repetition of the
number "ten thousand" throughout the book have on the reader? How
is it connected to Hage's portrayal of religion in the novel?
5) There is frequent mention of dogs, cats, and birds throughout
the novel. What purpose does this have? How did the story of the
dog executions affect you as a reader? Why does Bassam say, "All
cities should be emptied of men and given to dogs"? What is the
significance of the partridge that follows Bassam from Beirut to
6) Genevieve says that she knew Beirut before the war and that it
was a beautiful place. In fact, it was the intellectual capital of
the Arab world and a major commercial and tourist centre until the
civil war began. Bassam also reminds us that Beirut is an ancient
Roman city. Why does he want to go to Rome? What overtones of the
fall of the Roman Empire are reflected in the novel?
7) Bassam calls Fairuz, "the notorious singer" and mentions her
frequently throughout the novel. Fairuz, who became internationally
famous in 1971, is known as "Our (Lebanese) Ambassador to the
Stars." During the Lebanese Civil War, Fairuz never left Lebanon
but, as a form of protest, did not hold any concerts there to avoid
showing favour to either side. However, her voice was heard
frequently on the radio. What purpose do the references to Fairuz
serve in the plot?
8) Bassam observes, "That day, as I remember, there was a ceasefire
and few clouds." What do you think the author is saying here about
the adaptability of humans? Try to imagine how you would react to
such daily concerns as an intermittent flow of electricity and
water and no garbage collection. Discuss how you imagine you would
react to fifteen years of falling bombs.
9) "Dust flew onto shop windows, dust landed on silky, exposed
thighs; everyone inhaled it, everyone saw through it, dust from the
undertaker's shovel, dust of demolition, dust of fallen walls, dust
falling from Christian foreheads on a holy Thursday. Dust was
friendly and loved us all. Dust was Beirut's companion." Discuss
how the image of ever-present dust works in the novel. How does it
10) Bassam says, "Death does not come to you when you face it;
death is full of treachery, a coward who only notices the feeble
and strikes the blind." Joseph says, "No one dies before his time
comes." How does fate operate in the story? Why does Bassam refuse
to go into the bomb shelter? Why do the young men play "De Niro's
game" of Russian roulette?
11) The Sabra and Shatila massacre is a real event that took place
from September 16 to September 19, 1982. Between 700 and 3500
Palestinians were killed in the manner described by George. George
says the whole thing was "like a movie" and that some of the
killers were high on cocaine. Is desensitization essential to war?
What does George mean when he says "the torture chambers are inside
12) Bassam says, "I could not remember when, exactly, Paris had
started to move south, or when it had finally deserted its colonies
and slid back north." What does Monsieur Laurent's life reveal
about colonialism? What does Bassam's reading of Jean-Paul Sartre's
L'Étranger reveal about colonialism?
13) "I had finally succeeded in leaving and had entered those
posters with the happy fountains and the pigeons," says Bassam. Why
is he unable to reconcile the real Paris with the one he has heard
about? Why does he create his own imaginary revolutionary army
while in Paris?