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De Niro's Game

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  3,394 ratings  ·  352 reviews
There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. In Rawi Hage's unforgettable novel, winner of the 2008 IMPAC Prize, 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 war torn Beirut. Now they must choose their futures: to sta ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 12th 2006 by House of Anansi Press
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Average rating 3.76  · 
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 ·  3,394 ratings  ·  352 reviews

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Apr 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The book ended. That was the only disappointing thing about it. I enjoyed reading this book so much to the point where I subconsciously impeded reaching the last chapter.
Every time I come to exhaustively describe a war -the drastic change in the atmosphere that makes the country seem like a whole other one which we are not familiar with, how mothers, children, and fathers feel when they lose a loved one- , I render myself speechless. But the fact that Rawi Hage is able to depict the war with su
Mar 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
I picked this up from the "new/7 day checkout" section at the front of the library... a favorite place to pick out books on a whim. I am glad I did.

I was very impressed by the poetic prose, the dreamlike quality of the characters experiences. The book is about 2 young men in Lebanon, and the twisted life that they try to live while running under the bombs. I really felt how a person could become quite numb living in such an unreal (or perhaps all too real) situation. It was darkly beautiful and
May 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, war, guardian-2020
A dark, gritty novel of two friends and the paths that they each take in war torn Beirut. It was the period and the setting of Beirut that enhanced the story of a friendship gone astray.
Jennifer (aka EM)
Jan 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jennifer (aka EM) by: Christine Patten
Shelves: maple-flavoured
From the first pages, it is clear that Rawi Hage can write, that he can paint pictures with words.

Inside their houses, the impoverished women carefully, economically, dripped water from red plastic buckets over their brown skins in ancient Turkish bathtubs, washing away the dust, the smells, the baklava-thin crust, the vicious morning gossip over tiny coffee cups, the poverty of their husbands, the sweat under their unshaven armpits. They washed like meticulous Christian cats that lick their pa
Thing Two
I read Hage's Cockroach last year, and was not looking forward to picking up this one. As a matter of fact, had it not won the International Impac Dublin award, I wouldn't have bothered. I'm glad I bothered.

This book is about two friends who grow up amid the war in Lebanon. Hage's writing is exceptionally beautiful, especially since he writes about death, and bombs, and beatings, and blood. I found it visually stark, but so compelling I could not put it down. It helps, I suppose, that I recently
Mar 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian
Hage's first novel won the 2008 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and was shortlisted for Canada's two most prestigious literary prizes, the 2006 Giller and 2006 GGs for its treatment of the Lebanese civil war. The first two sections of the novel deal with the brutality of "home" that Bassam tries to escape in the third act, but a lifelong exposure to war and violence makes this impossible. What interests me is a moment in the third act when Canada is painted as the safe haven for this potential refug ...more
Apr 17, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 1970-present, prose
Rawi Hage is a terrific prose stylist, but this novel doesn't really deserve the sort of acclaim it's gotten. The characters are mostly indistinct and unremarkable, and while war-torn Beirut is fabulously portrayed, in rich detail and with a really fine handling of the political and moral complexities of that war, there are few portions of the book that really work on the whole. I will give Hage credit for never being trite in the way it's so easy to be trite when writing about these things (see ...more
Jun 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-it, favorites
Rawi Hage's use of language is superb. He successfully melds magical and wondrous metaphors and allusions into a taut, tightly-wound narrative that is brutal, blunt and tears away human artifice. Bassam is an ambivalent character; I didn't love or hate him, but I felt great pity and sadness for his character that had been defaced by the rigours of the prolonged war.

Many passages I read, and then had to immediately re-read. I love this one:

He pulled out a small bag, and we rolled oily hash into a
Nov 23, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canlit, abandoned
Got about 30% in and just couldn't get any further. ...more
Megan Baxter
Dec 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
Unfortunately, this was another book from the CBC list of the "100 Novels That Make You Proud To Be Canadian" that I really didn't like. At this point, the tally is a few books I've liked a lot, several that were meh, and almost as many that I strongly disliked. Unfortunately, De Niro's Game was one of the latter, and I can say that whoever compiled this collection has vastly different taste from mine. I'd drop the list, but I'd like to keep some Canadian content in my reading cycle. If you know ...more
Mar 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 26, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, literary, canadian, x
Rawi Hage's De Niro's Game is a rare creature, a first novel that hits it out of the park. Few first novels are so assured or effective.

The novel is set in Beirut, just before and during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. George and Bassam are two petty street thugs eking out a living in Christian East Beirut by any means they can. Bassam dreams of escaping to Rome, while George is only interested in making himself more comfortable. They can't escape the reach of the militia, itself a crim
May 10, 2012 rated it liked it
I expected a lot from this book, but frankly I couldn't wait for it to end. It is well written, no doubt about that, and Hage has a unique way of conveying the voices of characters and the sequence of events which I found to be intriguing and compelling. However the story as a whole was somewhat lacking. There is an emptiness at times between the pages where I felt there should have been maybe a deeper rendition of the main character's thoughts. The story didn't fulfill my expectations and that ...more
Jun 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
I was blown away by the first 2/3 of this book. Set in Beirut during the Isreali invasion and cleansing of the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebannon, the book presents the events through the eyes of minor Christian thug. By turns heroic, then ruthless the thug/protagonist manages to avoid conscription into the Christian militia, or fall prey to his best friend, DeNiro's game. War time treachery, petty criminality, and middle east politics all come together in a convincing portrait of a man and c ...more
Jul 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
First time I encounter this author, and I`m astonished of his work. His sentimental narrative style with a pinch of existential philosophy, like Camus, he puts you in a front row of the scene of the real life. Also, like Remarque, he tries to mock the war mongers, by depicting that every single one is a loser during the war times, and the fate will always knock on the door sooner rather than later, so it's better to enjoy life now, than to try to postpone the inevitable. I gave this book 4 stars ...more
Jun 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
The Lebanon-related parts were great. An apt description which makes you boil. However, towards the end, the level of mastery is gone; the connection you felt with the Beirut Narrative is gone and the Third part (Paris) feels as if it's being loaded more than it can handle. Nevertheless, it's a jolting injection of the complexity of the Lebanese Civil War, even amongst friends and allies. A good and quick read without a doubt, perfect for being a travel book. ...more
Nov 19, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
Startlingly beautiful, gripping pose. Carries you along at break neck speed from the first word to the last. Didn't enjoy it as much as I would have in another setting (I brought it along as a 'holiday' read and it was a bit too heavy for that. ...more
Midya Rahman
Jun 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
simply El-Haj is a great writer
I’ve wavered over this one. This is a difficult novel to rate accurately since different aspects of struck or repelled me for entirely different reasons. There’s something remarkable in Rawi Hage’s prose and its sense of detachment. He is never trite or sentimental about war. It is always straightforward and brutal, in the way a person who fully witnessed it can communicate. There is death and torture and gore and ten thousand bombs falling all the time, and the writing certainly evokes the bana ...more
Oct 18, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book stated off strangely for m, but I gradually adjusted to the writing style and the story flowed rather well.
There are a lot of references to "western" pop culture (as in USA/Europe, not Buffalo Bill Cody or the OK Corral...) that can be funny at times as a way to lighten the serious nature of life in a perpetual battle zone. I did tire of them, though I did find the way they were written to be conceptually intriguing, almost like the repeating of a gun firing.
The descriptions of Beirut
Amy Wong
Sep 14, 2020 rated it liked it
The first thing that struck me is how casual war is in this story. And it's not just a backdrop either the characters are all immersed in war yet there's a clear striking numbness to it. Bombs are dropping left and right and nobody blinks an eye cause it's just another day. It's uncomfortable yet beautiful.

Bassam and George are two sides of the same coin. They're both capable of the same things but how they feel about it is completely different. George plans to survive by climbing as high as he
Jun 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Set in early 1980's Beirut, this novel tracks the destinies of two (Christian) childhood friends caught up in the Lebanese civil war. Bassam harbors dreams of escaping to Europe, while George embraces the war and joins a local militia. The novel - while dark - is incredibly well crafted and subtle in its depiction of life during this war, and of the struggles of two characters attempting to define their future amidst the bombings. ...more
Jan 26, 2021 added it
Shelves: globalread
Global Read Challenge 54: Lebanon

This book is hard to rate. It was extremely intense. Some parts grab me more than others. The last third was extremely gripping. I didn't feel like I understood Bassam's motivations a lot of the time, which happens in a first person narration when a lot of what's motivating characters is PTSD or other factors they can't easily identify.
Twist ending, was not expecting it. Very erratic writing style, sometimes hard to follow but is very raw.
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was very engaged in this book up until the point when Bassam left Beirut, then the book kind of lost me.
farah youssef
Nov 06, 2019 rated it liked it
I have never seen anyone write about women with such weird obsession with hymens. it’s very bizarre. but in a way i guess he’s trying to portray what society thought about women’s sexuality at the time. it’s a good story and the writing is incredible but i hoped for a different ending.
Mar 04, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
(view spoiler) ...more
Oct 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Oh, the horrors of war! The writing is stylish albeit a tad over the top. But the story is excellent; it keeps surprising me.
Sue Smith
I don't know what to think about this book. Truthfully - for the most part - I found I was floundering with it. The subject was something I have no basis of experience with to judge it against, and that shouldn't really be a reason to completely pan a book on. But it's based on a reality that is in the here and now of people's lives and I'm woefully - and thankfully - out of such day to day gorilla life experiences. I know it exists, I know some people grow up with this now as a norm and it's al ...more
Jul 13, 2020 rated it liked it
July ended up being a weird time to read this novel. Set during the war, and frequently referring to the destruction of the city, the falling bombs, it was just two weeks after finishing the book that the explosion of stockpiled weaponry at the port destroyed the city.

This book took me a long time to get into, and it isn't a long book. Bassam, the main character, and George (AKA De Niro) are two friends trying to make ends meet in a city in the middle of a war. Bassam works the port, and De Niro
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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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