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Cockroach

3.36  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,016 Ratings  ·  241 Reviews
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 ses
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Hardcover, 312 pages
Published September 1st 2008 by House of Anansi Press
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Xan No problem! We discussed that the therapist was a problematic character, not exactly competent at her job. I think we concluded that either she didn't…moreNo problem! We discussed that the therapist was a problematic character, not exactly competent at her job. I think we concluded that either she didn't know definitively or couldn't prove that the narrator had broken into her home. (less)
Xan
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Neva
Mar 08, 2012 Neva rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An Arab immigrant as a Scheherazade to his Canadian therapist, his wild Third world past as 1001 nights to a steril life of taxpaying, TV-watching and self fooling. A compulsively stealing, quite lazy, sexually starving, resentful loner with a suicidal tendency, a special talent for metaphors and ability to turn himself (willingly, unlike Kafka's Samsa) into a cockroach. Witty, passionate prose, great little kamikadze story. Oh, how I enjoyed this one.

A spoilerish P.S. Still, I'd take away half
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Corey
Sep 03, 2008 Corey rated it really liked it
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 phantasmagorical and hallucinatory elements that Rawi Hage’s novel Cockroach brings to the recipe.

The Canadian author arose seemingly from out of nowhere in 2006 when his debut novel De Niro’s Game was rescued from the obscurity of the slush pile at House of Anansi Press.
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Steven Teasdale
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
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Jennifer (aka EM)
Disturbing. Less of what I liked so much about his first in the way of sweeping, poetic language to describe a world of hallucinogenic brutality, and more focused on an internal world of delusion, trauma and sadness. The central character here is a soul in great pain, but the first two-thirds of the novel don't plumb those depths except by inference. The superficiality of the court-assigned psychotherapist's intervention compared to the gradual revelation of what caused the 'cockroach's' flight ...more
Anne
Apr 18, 2011 Anne rated it it was amazing
Awesome and haunting, and a spot-on sense of Montreal portraits--the "eccentric" landlady with fading aristocratic colors, the exploitative bosses, the hyper-educated cab drivers. The blur of fantasy-reality across underground/overground story layers really worked for me. Highly recommended. Also, funny as hell.
Carly Svamvour
Mar 10, 2011 Carly Svamvour rated it really liked it
Yes, I completed the book yesterday afternoon and attended the discussion at the library last night.

We had a good turnout there, more than expected, the weather being cold and wet.

Feelings on the book were mixed, not so much around the table, but within ourselves as individual members. We all agreed on it being a good book, in that the author's characters, including the protag were exasperating people.

Protag . . . and nobody can figure out what his name is - feels sorry for himself due to his 'p
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Laleh
Mar 24, 2014 Laleh rated it really liked it
Dark, cold, unsettling, and yet familiar; the half-cockroach narrator of the book feels real. He is haunted by his past though he does not admit it. He reveals his story through conversations with a therapist. He stalks and steals and hallucinates, and drags the reader with himself the entire time.

I enjoyed the passages where he talks about his cockroach side, especially where he followed a couple, entered their house and then inside their dreams.

I don't think this book has any resemblance with
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Loraine
Sep 07, 2014 Loraine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel feels true. It happens in my city but it is not of my culture, and yet the author put me right in there, experiencing the struggle to survive. I felt the empty belly of having no food, no money and nowhere to turn when you are hungry and cold. I felt the total alienation from the mainstream, the hierarchy within the immigrant community, the weight of emotional baggage that an immigrant may bring with him. Canada, land of welcoming arms and opportunity? Oh, yeah? Maybe if you come with ...more
Samar Barakat
Aug 18, 2011 Samar Barakat rated it it was amazing
What a fresh approach to dealing with issues of exile. I had begun to despair that Arab writers could do it, could write novels that could be taken seriously aesthetically and also pay homage to the issues-political and social- that must dominate the psyche of all Arabs. What was impressive was how effortlessly the writer moved from West to East, from describing the banal, self-absorbed existence of people in the West to describing the hysterical, emotionally-loaded and usually desperate realiti ...more
Shane
Jul 01, 2010 Shane rated it liked it
Cockroach is an engaging character: thief, suicidal, obsessed with the underbelly of life, hating his new homeland and the people who live in it (why did he come, I wanted to ask), supposedly illiterate but wonderfully articulate and poetic, especially when he runs off into stream-of-consciousness ramblings on the state of his mind and of the nation.

There is also a trend in writing, which I recently tried to address in a blog article, and I call it "let-it-all-hang-out writing," which Hage seems
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Hoda Marmar
Oh, was I disappointed with this book?!
I hate it. It's about all of the clichés that frame immigrants : messed up, psychotic, sex-addicts, egocentric, psychopaths, thiefs, hallucinating drunkies, drug addicts, filthy, leeches,...
I happen to know many Lebanese who are immigrants in Canada, they have worked hard, they're serious people, they fled the war but they weren't psychotics who got turned on by their own sisters. And they're not a threat, or terrorists-in-the-make. what the hell is this au
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Janet Berkman
Jun 18, 2013 Janet Berkman rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Janet by: Heard Hage read at IFOA 2012
Shelves: canadian
Hage's writing never fails to seduce. His protagonist is not particularly appealing in the usual way, but I began to care for him even as he stumbles through life, seemingly unable to have normal relationships with those around him. Much of the novel takes place in a Montreal winter and our immigrant cockroach avoids the sun, stumbles along the frigid streets, bumming cigarettes and food, and stealing. He is (I believe) unnamed in the novel.

So why did I care?

Because there is some damaged core to
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Heather(Gibby)
There is a lot packed into this book. It is hard to separate my feelings for the main character and my feelings for the book. The book is at its core about a marginalized immigrant who has a failed suicide attempt, and his interactions with the few other human beings in his life. I found the books comments on society's and other people's views of the main character more interesting than his own thoughts. He is someone who is marginalized by society, and one of those whom many would not even noti ...more
L
Apr 10, 2010 L rated it it was amazing
First, you will care about Cockroach (in truth, no name is given, but he sometimes envisions himself as a cockroach), despite his B & E, his theft, and his less than attractive habits. This is a story of emigres in Montreal. One of the cover blurbs refers to the tale as a "hypnotic journey, taking us to the dark and mad underside of exile." Another refers to this as a "Dostoevskian fable, which lowers the reader into the sewers of immigrant Montreal to confront an underground world teeming w ...more
Teresa Mills-clark
Just to qualify, there was a time part way through the book that I thought I didn't want to invest any more of my time reading it. But, I persisted, mainly because it was one of the Canada Reads picks for 2014.

My preconception of the book was that the character would be identifiable in the "there but for the grace of God go I" and I could gain empathy for the refugee/immigrant plight. How narrow minded and naive of me. The book was unsettling and yet by the end I could appreciate how very well
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CanadAnn
Sep 28, 2015 CanadAnn rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015
The author definitely has a good grasp of language and is quite skilled with the art of description, but I found the story to be extremely fractured and choppy. I had a hard time finding any kind of sequential order to the plot. Perhaps this is what the author intended in order to illustrate the mental state of the unnamed main character, who was in therapy for a suicide attempt that was triggered by what, surely must have been either PTSD, from his years in war-torn Iran, or by his struggle wit ...more
Kathleen O'Grady
Coackroach by Rawi Hage is hot fury and loathing and pride and bristling lust and disgust -- and bloody brilliant.

I read his De Niro's Game previously, and loved it, but Cockroach is a whole other level of brilliant. I'd place this novel alongside works by Kafka and Dostoevsky and other such greats.

It is searing, scarring. It bursts through the soft middle of much pleasant, storied CanLit with claws.

It is not a nice book to read, you won't come away feeling good about the world or yourself or
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Dave
Apr 27, 2010 Dave rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature, fiction
Rawi Hage’s second novel “Cockroach” is an absorbing story, told through the eyes of Lebanese immigrant living in Montreal. The unnamed narrator (fittingly unnamed as one would not name a cockroach) is the anti-hero of this tale of survival without hope, which takes place during a extremely harsh winter in Montreal, a city known more for beauty than the lowlife activity which occurs in this story. The narrator associates himself with cockroaches, an association that started with an innocent earl ...more
Tina
Nov 07, 2011 Tina rated it liked it
This is a book about justice or perhaps revenge, though you wouldn't think so from the start. At first I wasn't sure what to think about the novel and I didn't like it at first. From the book jacket it sounded like a story about a weird loner, but that isn't what the narrator is at all, well, at least not in the way I was hoping for. The first third of the book was depressing, bleak, and seems to go nowhere, but the author has this way of drawing you into the narrator's life, making you want to ...more
Patrick O'Neil
Nov 07, 2010 Patrick O'Neil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's a cool interesting story in Rawi Hage's Cockroach. His underlining premise in regards to immigration and the starting over of uprooted displaced people. Of what someone fleeing political persecution, or those that grew up in an urban wartime battlefield bring with them to the new country. How being ill prepared to exist, emotionally damaged, as well as being unwanted in this alien environment could possibly raise comparison to common household bugs that people tend to dislike, yet somewh ...more
A.J.
Sep 22, 2009 A.J. added it
Shelves: fiction, canadian, x
Rawi Hage has said that he writes without a plan. He's not one for detailed outlines; instead, he writes himself into a situation and then turns around and writes his way back out of it. And this approach is evident in his novels.

De Niro's Game was a two-part novel in three parts: Hage seemed not to notice that he had already reached a plausible conclusion, and tacked on a contrived plot to bring things to a close. And it felt contrived, improbable, implausible, as we went from being just some k
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Steven Buechler
Oct 14, 2014 Steven Buechler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We all have a notion of what it is like to be an immigrant to our country. Usually it is based on the stories of people who came before us. But Rawi Hage has given a new perspective to what it like to be an immigrant in today’s age that is gritty, bittersweet, and totally refreshing. In short, his novel Cockroach is a brilliant read.

http://pacifictranquility.wordpress.c...
Tim Weakley
I read Cockroach because it had been chosen for Canada Reads this year. From the defense for the book on the show it sounded interesting enough to catch my attention. I agree that to me this doesn't seem like a typical immigrant experience to Canada, but my point of view is likely a combination of wishful thinking and naivete. He writes his characters in a valid way. Even the hallucinations have a validity to them. It had a violent, raw aspect to it that I have to say I really enjoyed. I would r ...more
Dan
Jan 04, 2012 Dan rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
a really enjoyable, snarky-but-not-misanthropic satire of multiculturalism and poverty in montreal. the rambling narrative follows a troubled, brutally honest, occasionally hilarious arab immigrant who has recently attempted suicide. we watch him as he attends therapy sessions, strong-arms his friends out of money, washes dishes, breaks into multiple apartments and eventually falls in love. for its first two thirds, cockroach maintains two contradictory accomplishments - in one sense, it's an ex ...more
Gilly
Oct 14, 2009 Gilly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Hage conveys anger, detachment, discomfort and chaos better than just about anyone. He does this through the story itself, with its marginalized immigrants and smug natives, its cruelty and violence. And he does it through the narrator, who is schizophrenic but whose vision of the world is true and right, and who is enormously seductive. He does it, amazingly well, through language. At times he piles on crazy metaphors that reveal parallels I'd never otherwise see. He's amazing at describing how ...more
R.f.k
تائة لبناني مهاجر لكندا محمل معة الالآم وفجوعات الحرب الاهلية اللبنانية
يتسكع في كندا مع مهاجرين إيرانيين بعضهم سجن وعذب في ثورة الخميني والبعض الاخر فقد
أقربائه بالتصفيه في تلك الثورة الدينية...يجتمع هولاء التائهون المناضلون سابقاً في بلدانهم في كندا
في هموم وضياع مشترك...يقول احد المهاجرين الايرانيين في أقتباس اعجبني
تعرف أن هذه البلدان التي نعيش فيها تحكي عن الديمقراطية,لكنها لاتريد ديمقراطية.تريد دكتاتوريين فقط.من الأسهل عليها التعاطي مع
دكتاتوريين بدلاًمن الديمقراطية في البلدان التي جئنا منها,ح
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Don
Mar 18, 2015 Don rated it liked it
Shelves: canada
Something of a The Thief's Journal set in Montreal.
Carole
Apr 25, 2014 Carole rated it liked it
I decided to read this book because it was the runner-up for Canada Reads this year. Rawi Hage is a talented writer whose characters represent an important issue in Canadian society: the difficulties of integration for immigrants from war-torn, traumatized countries.

The problem is that the main character and most of the people that he associates with are so completely unlikable that it is very difficult to relate to them or empathize with their problems.

I really did not enjoy reading this book
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VWrulesChick
Wow...it was raw perspective from an immigrant's who has experienced traumatic experiences from his former life in Lebanon and is on the cusp of poverty with others in similar situations. He is seeing a therapist to help him deal with these issues/trauma to his life. But you see his darkness, loneliness and struggles, even some similarities to Kafka's Metamorphis. It is a dark tale during the cold winter of Montreal and no happy ending here. But shows even with all his misfortune, he continues t ...more
Surreysmum
Jul 09, 2015 Surreysmum rated it it was ok
Shelves: canlit, passed-on, 2014
I remembered, as I started, that I have actually encountered Rawi Hage before (I read De Niro's Game some years ago, though I don't seem to have recorded it here). Both then and now, I ran into a problem, probably at least as much mine as the author's. I simply find myself completely out of sympathy with the subject matter, to the point of disgust. Easy to see, with this novel, why I would find myself creeped out by the primary metaphor - in fact, that was presumably intentional on the part of t ...more
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Rawi Hage is a Lebanese Canadian writer and photographer.

Born in Beirut, Hage grew up in Lebanon and Cyprus. He moved to New York City in 1982, and after studying at the New York Institute of Photography, relocated to Montreal in 1991, where he studied arts at Dawson College and Concordia University. He subsequently began exhibiting as a photographer, and has had works acquired by the Canadian Mus
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“My steps were muffled. It was quiet, so quiet that I felt as if I did not walk but instead crawled in silence. The snow covered everthing and I walked above cotton, on silent carpets, on beach sand. Softness is temporary and deceiving. It gently receives you and gently expels you.” 4 likes
“I waited, hesitant to go out into the cold again. It was one of those days that have no mercy on your toes, that are oblivious to the suffering of your ears, that are mean and determined to take a chunk of your nose. It was a day to remind you that you can shiver all you want, sniff all you want, the universe is still oblivious. And if you ask why the inhumane temperature, the universe will answer you with tight lips and a cold tone and tell you to go back where you came from if you do not like it here.” 2 likes
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