Book Review: Cockroach by Rawi Hage

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Reviewed by: Stephen
Genre: Fiction
Format: Paperback
Page count: 320 pages
Rating: 4/5 stars
In stock: Yes

A nameless Middle Eastern immigrant unwillingly invites us into his troubled world; his struggles with mental illness, loneliness, aching poverty and bitterly cold Montreal winters.

Our narrator, an anti-hero, intelligent but fractured and possibly insane wanders the back alleys and shifty streets of Montreal, picking fights, bouncing off shady musicians, drug dealers and academic dilatants. Without a job, and living on welfare, the only structure in his life is a weekly consult with a psychiatrist, where he reluctantly shares stories of his past.

Hage follows the footsteps of great contemporary writers before him; the narrator lapses into episodes where he perceives himself as a cockroach, not unlike Kafka’s “Metamorphosis,” and the underlying theme is one of existential despair, not unlike Camus’s “The Stranger.” Though we may have “caught” Hage stealing, he does it in such a fresh way that we can forgive him.

This macabre tale, a portrait of a troubled soul, is as heartwarming as it is repulsive. Hage’s union of the light and the dark is masterful. The final product is a novel that makes you cringe and laugh at the same time.

If you like dark, humorous literature then you will enjoy Cockroach.

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