Winner of the Quebec Writers’ Federation Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction and a finalist for the Rogers’ Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, Rawi Hage’s Carnival is now available in paperback.
In the Carnival city there are two types of taxi drivers — the spiders and the flies. The spiders patiently sit in their cars and wait for the calls to come. But the flies are wanderers — they roam the streets, looking for the raised hands of passengers among life's perpetual flux.
Fly is a wanderer and a knower. Raised in the circus, the son of a golden-haired trapeze artist and a flying carpet pilot from the East, he is destined to drift and observe. From his taxi we see the world in all its carnivalesque beauty and ugliness. We meet criminals, prostitutes, madmen, magicians, and clowns of many kinds. We meet ordinary people going to extraordinary places, and revolutionaries trying to live ordinary lives. Hunger and injustice claw at the city, and books provide the only true shelter. And when the Carnival starts, all limits dissolve, and a gunshot goes off . . .
With all of the beauty, truth, rage, and peripatetic storytelling that have made Cockroach and De Niro's Game international publishing sensations, Carnival gives us Rawi Hage at his searing best. Alternately laughing at absurdity and crying out at oppression, by turns outrageous, hilarious, sorrowful, and stirring, Carnival is a tour de force that will make all of life's passengers squirm in their comfortable, complacent backseats.
Rawi Hage was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and lived through nine years of the Lebanese civil war. His debut novel, De Niro's Game, won the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, was a finalist for numerous prestigious national and international awards, including the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award, and has been translated into several languages and published around the world. His second novel, Cockroach, won the Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction and was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Governor General's Literary Award, and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. Rawi Hage lives in Montreal.
Fly's world is a bleak place, filled with themes of death and the grotesque and gritty pleasure.
[Hage's] most exuberant, imaginative and playful [novel] yet.
Hage’s prose is addictive ... [Carnival is] amazing, original, and impolite.
It’s easy to see why Carnival made Hage one of the finalists for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize ... the strands of the story weave tightly around the reader, leaving one tangled in a web of enchantment.
Hage continues to display a refreshingly confrontational aspect, and is unafraid to address material that writers more steeped in CanLit’s pervading politesse would studiously avoid.
Rawi Hage is, quite simply, a brilliant writer ... Carnival confirms Hage's status as a star in the literary firmament.
The normally polite CanLit canon won’t prepare you for the violence, obsession, anger, lust and corruption of Hage’s books ... imagine Camus rewriting Taxi Driver.
Hage’s writing can be poetic, funny and tragic. Most importantly, it always bears the mark of displacement.
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.
[Carnival] is delivered in Hage’s festive, hard-boiled style. The novel’s short scenes of decadence and desperation spray across the pages like buckshot –loud and scattered, but still penetrating.
Finally, a piece of fiction that roars...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.
The overall sense of the piece is a celebration of literature, but at the same time, Carnival is about the harsh, raw, senseless world that inspires books, driving home the fact that truth is -- unavoidably -- stranger than fiction.