His 2018 novel Beirut Hellfire Society follows a young man named Pavlov as he takes his deceased father's place in a mysterious group known as the Hellfire Society. Part of their mission is to arrange secret burials for the outcasts of Lebanon — those denied burial because they were gay, atheist or otherwise abandoned.
Death as a beginning
"Death is such a risky subject to tackle in a novel. It's been done before, of course, but literature and death are two themes that are connected.
"I got to a certain age when I began losing close people around me like family and friends. The book started as a eulogy — that led me to explore subjects like mourning and death burials. And that led me back to Beirut during the civil war."
The freeing nature of fiction
"I think literature is a space where everything can be explored — from empathy to violence to apathy — depending on the character. It's a space where everything and anything can be explored. It is a space of ultimate freedom."
Rawi Hage's comments have been edited for length and clarity.