De Niro's Game

Rawi Hage

De Niro's Game

Rawi Hage's first novel tells the story of two men living in war-torn Beirut. Lebanon's civil war is raging, and they are facing two choices: they can leave their homeland and emigrate to another country, or stay in Beirut and pursue a life of crime. Told through the eyes of one of the men, De Niro's Game is a powerful portrait of war's lasting impact on individuals and on a society as a whole.

De Niro's Game was a Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist in 2006 and won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2008.


Inside their houses, the impoverished women carefully, economically, dripped water from red plastic buckets over their brown skins in ancient Turkish bathtubs, washing away the dust, the smells, the baklava-thin crust, the vicious morning gossip over tiny coffee cups, the poverty of their husbands, the sweat under their unshaven armpits. They washed like meticulous Christian cats that lick their paws under small European car engines that leak corporate oil extracted by exploited Nigerian workers from underneath the earth where devils roam, and worms gnaw on the roots of dead trees that are suffocated by factory fumes and the greedy breath of white-skinned engineers. Those lazy cats lingered under unwashed cars, watching the passing of Italian shoes, painted nails, colourful and torn-out cuffs, pointy high heels, plastic flippers, stomping naked feet, and delicious exposed ankles that thick hands would bind, release, and slip higher to reach a flow of warm fluid that carefully, generously turned into a modest flood smelling of eel, red fish, and rosewater.

This excerpt is taken from De Niro's Game, copyright ©2006 by Rawi Hage, introduction copyright ©2012 by Colm Tóibín. Reproduced with permission from House of Anansi Press, Toronto.