FINALIST FOR THE SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE
SHORTLISTED FOR THE ROGERS WRITERS' TRUST FICTION PRIZE
SHORTLISTED FOR THE GOVERNOR GENERAL'S LITERARY AWARD FOR FICTION
An explosive new novel from the award-winning, bestselling author of De Niro's Game and Cockroach.
It is 1978 in Beirut, Lebanon, partway through that country's Civil War. On a torn-up street overlooking a cemetery in the city's Christian enclave, we meet an eccentric young man named Pavlov, the son of a local undertaker. When his father meets a sudden and untimely death, Pavlov is approached by a colourful member of the mysterious Hellfire Society--a secret group to which his father had belonged. The Society's purpose is to arrange burial or cremation for those who for various reasons have been outcast and abandoned by family, clergy and state. Pavlov agrees to take up his father's work for the society, and over the course of the novel he becomes a survivor-chronicler of his embattled and fading community, bearing witness to its enduring rituals as well as its inevitable decline.
Deftly combining comedy with tragedy, Beirut Hellfire Society is at once propulsive, elegiac, outrageous, profane and transcendent--a profoundly moving meditation on what it means to live through war. It asks what, if anything, can be accomplished or preserved in the face of certain change and imminent death. Here is an exhilarating, subversive, beautiful and timely new work that reinforces Rawi Hage's status as one of our most original, necessary, fearless and important writers.
RAWI HAGE was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and lived through nine years of the Lebanese civil war during the 1970s and 1980s. He immigrated to Canada in 1992 and now lives in Montreal. His first novel, De Niro's Game, won the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for the best English-language book published anywhere in the world in a given year, and has either won or been shortlisted for seven other major awards and prizes, including the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award. Cockroach was the winner of the Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction and a finalist for the Governor General's Award. It was also shortlisted for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Award and the Giller Prize. His third novel, Carnival, told from the perspective of a taxi driver, was a finalist for the Writers' Trust Award and won the Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction. His work has been translated into 30 languages.
FINALIST FOR THE 2018 GOVERNOR GENERAL'S LITERARY AWARD FOR FICTION
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2018 ROGERS WRITERS' TRUST FICTION PRIZE
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2018 QUEBEC WRITERS' FEDERATION PARAGRAPHE HUGH MacLENNAN PRIZE FOR FICTION
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2018 SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE
“Place: Beirut. Time: 1970s. But Rawi Hage’s Beirut Hellfire Society is, actually, deeply set in any place consumed by killing and death during any time in human history. Fire is Beirut Hellfire Society’s elemental core—inherited fires of grief and sorrow, justice and love. Fantastically framed, its envisioned images and scenes burn with a mythic intensity not easily forgotten. Truly a masterpiece.” —Lawrence Joseph (author of So Where Are We?: Poems)
“Beirut Hellfire Society, if it is even possible, raises Hage’s game to sublime new heights in a moving, ultimately devastating treatise on war, death, morality, and sanity. Populating this world with a variety of misfits, rogues, lovers, and maniacs, Hage, like all great writers, approaches his subject from a fresh perspective, presenting the consequences of war in a fashion often breathtaking in its boldness. This is literary warfare via the unflinching realism of Erich Maria Remarque, the paranoia of Franz Kafka, and the absurdity of Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Beirut Hellfire Society is . . . a stripping-back of the nature of story, and its episodic structure burns with its own fuel. The possibility of death lurks behind every utterance. Yet the novel as a whole is not one of bleakness but joy.” —2018 QWF Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction jury citation
“A novel of tragic beauty and dark humour that is comfortable with contradiction and charged with probing philosophical insights and the luminosity of Arabic poetry. It’s a timeless story of the outcast whose act of witness chronicles the world he observes. It is also a testament to love for life. Hage reminds us of what it takes for a novel to endure on the level of both form and content.” —Quill & Quire (starred review)
“An elegantly beautiful novel, full of . . . gem-like sentences.” —Maclean’s
“For a novel that involves so much death and sadness, it is vibrant, very operatic and funny at times. . . . [A] very important book and a book very much about our times.” —CBC Radio
“A difficult but necessary read. Its carefully wrought, often poetic, writing is what kept me reading.” —Chuck Erion, former co-owner of Words Worth Books, The Hamilton Spectator
PRAISE FOR RAWI HAGE:
“The things that make Rawi Hage a major literary talent include freshness, gut-wrenching lyricism, boldness, emotional restraint, intellectual depth, historical sense, political subversiveness and uncompromising compassion.” —The Globe and Mail
“It is no surprise that Hage is also a gifted photographer and visual artist, because his sentences are like perfectly composed photographs.” —Toronto Star
“A daring and talented novelist.” —National Post
“Hage’s language is vivid, full of surreal imagery and laced with metaphor. . . . Literary risk-takers are rarer every day. I’ll take a novelist with Hage’s energy any time.” —NOW Magazine
“An immensely talented writer.” —Vancouver Sun
“Most fiction writers are primarily either stylists or plotters, but Hage is clearly both.” —The Guardian
“Writing cannot really get much better than Hage’s.” —Literary Review of Canada