Sunday, February 15, 2015

Book Review: Cockroach by Rawi Hage

In Montreal's restless immigrant community, our unnamed narrator is living in despair. Forced to visit a therapist after a suicide attempt, he brings us back to his 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 nighttime streets of Montreal, where he imagines himself to be a cockroach invading the lives of the privileged, but willfully blind, citizens who surround him. Cockroach is a carnivalesque, philosophical novel that weaves dark humour with an accusatory, satirical voice, spawning form the subsurface to challenge humanity and its downfall.

Even the paperback adds to the reading experience. It has a slimy feel.

As always, I took notes as I read...

The narrator has a compelling, captivating voice. His story weaves around and through me. I read on...

Defiance. Resilience. He has started with and continues with nothing and I have faith that he can overcome it all.

For me, exploring Canada through this unnamed, foreign narrator is a rare treat. He makes the familiar seem exotic.

My mind is full of so many questions...
How did he escape his war torn country and immigrate to Canada?
Will he remain here?
What does he truly think of us, of Canadians?

I have known immigrants. They where polite, respectful. And now I wonder why they conducted themselves that way. I hope it was genuine. I hope it wasn't out of a need to survive.

The unnamed immigrant is told by a giant cockroach that he is part cockroach and part human. Part cockroach because he participants in the seedy side of life. Part human because he aspires to be more, to be 'worshipped by women' (p. 203)

The narrator believes that people remain safe only if he remains ineffectual, if he robs himself of all his power. This type of thinking is a product of poor self-esteem.

Rawi Hage, the author, chosen not to use any quotation marks.
Well, perhaps he wished to underline the fact that the narrator, being is unnamed and lost, has no voice. That no one really cares about him.

We think the ugly side of life is hidden in the lives of the desperately poor. This is only partially true. The wealthy, the powerful, they too hide an ugly side.
'Montreal, this happy romantic city, has an ugly side... One of the largest military-industrial complexes in North America is right here in this town.' (p. 281)

I think the final scene means that the unnamed narrator realizes that he has sunk too low. He has become a cockroach. And any chance he had at being human has been lost to him. What do you think it means?


book tailer
Rawi Hage reads from his book -- Cockroach

Shelf Monkey blog:
A review originally published in the Winnipeg Free Press

Gulf Islands Arts Council song writing challenge...

The Gulf Islands Arts Council has issued a challenge to all writers and musicians...

to compose a song about any part of this theme:  "To promote and celebrate the natural beauty and wildlife of the Active Pass Region of the Salish Sea, the unique communities within it and the art it inspires
They want you to record your song and send it to them (song@festivalactivepass) by February 28th. 

Sharing my author journey...

According to the Chinese Horoscope, 2015 is the year of the sheep (goat). I was born in the year of the Tiger. And so, this is my 2015 fortune...

'People born in the year of the Tiger will achieve almost everything they yearn for through a correct mental attitude and activation of creativity.' -astrology club

And so, I say, "Bring on 2015."
Happy Lunar New Year!