Beirut Hellfire Society
Beirut Hellfire Society follows Pavlov, the 20-something son of an undertaker, who, after his father's death, is approached by a member of the mysterious Hellfire Society — an anti-religious sect that, among their many rebellious and often salacious activities, arrange secret burial for those who have been denied it because the deceased was homosexual, atheist or otherwise outcast and abandoned by their family, church and state. Pavlov agrees to take up his father's work for the Society, and over the course of the novel acts as survivor-chronicler of his torn and fading community, bearing witness to both its enduring rituals and its inevitable decline.
Combining comedy and tragedy, Beirut Hellfire Society is a brilliant, urgent meditation on what it is to live through war. It asks what, if anything, can be accomplished or preserved in the face of certain change and certain death. In short, this is a spectacular and timely new work from one of our major writers, and a mature, exhilarating return to some of the themes the author began to explore in his transcendent first novel, De Niro's Game. (From Vintage Canada)
- The best Canadian fiction of 2018
- Rawi Hage ponders death, war and the nature of mourning in the novel Beirut Hellfire Society
- 100 writers in Canada you need to know now
From the book
One sunny day at the start of a ceasefire, a father drove with his son down towards where the fighting had been.
A cadaver had been lying on the ground for days, mutilated. The son, who was named Pavlov, and his father, an undertaker, loaded the remains into plastic bags and carried them to the hearse. The cadaver's belly had been opened by a bullet wound and vermin had claimed it and multiplied inside the soft organs, gorging on the entrails. Father and son gathered the scattered items that belonged to the dead: a loose shoe, a bag filled with mouldy food, broken glasses.
Now, the man told his son, you're sixteen — old enough to become a member of the Society. The Hellfire Society, the father added. He switched on the car radio, and drove towards the coast and then up into the mountains of Lebanon.
From Beirut Hellfire Society by Rawi Hage ©2018. Published by Knopf Canada.