Saturday, June 27, 2009

DeNiro's Game - Rawi Hage

I find it really hard to describe this novel. Booklist describes it as "Bassam and George have been best friends since childhood, when they roamed the ruined streets of their hometown of Beruit, making a game out of collecting empty bullets and cannon shells to trade for cigarettes. Now, years into the civil war, "ten thousand bombs had landed," and the two have lost their parents and many neighbors to them, growing hard and cynical in the process. Every day is a test in survival, a mad scramble for food and petrol. Bassam dreams of escaping to Rome, where even the pigeons look "happy and well-fed." He and George concoct an elaborate ruse to rip off the gambling parlor where George works, but after joining the local Christian militia, George is a changed man."

It was amazing and heartbreaking and beautiful and so very sad. The lyrical writing style as well as the decriptions of war reminded me a bit of The Cellist of Sarajevo. The characters were wonderfully written. Bassam just wants to get out and live somewhere that is safe. On the other hand his best friend George gets caught up in everything and will do anything to fight for the Christian militia.

DeNiro's Game allows us to see what can happen to young men and women during times of war. But more importantly it shows us what can happen after either it ends or they leave the area of conflict. It is difficult to change a mindset that has been set during times of conflict. It was hard for Bassam to give up his gun when he left Beruit and even harder for him to believe that he didn't have to fight for his life in the streets of Paris. Bassam does some terrible things but some of it is forgiven when we look at the bigger picture (at least for me they were forgiven).

We find out near the end of the book what the title Deniro's Game means to the characters and how it really isn't a game at all but a way of life for some people in Beruit.

I think everyone should read this book. It makes you think about how countries survive and rebuid themselves after a war when their own people have been so damaged.

Rating - 5

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