'Beirut is still a place to mourn': Rawi Hage sets new novel in his old hometown
Author Rawi Hage was initially reticent about being labeled as "a writer who lived through the war and wrote about it," after the success of his debut novel DeNiro's Game.
Born in Lebanon, Hage grew up through nine years of civil war in the country's war-torn capital. In 1992, he emigrated to Montreal, where he now lives.
His latest novel, Beirut Hellfire Society, though, takes him back.
"I thought, for me, Beirut is still a place to mourn," he told The Sunday Edition's host Michael Enright.
The novel is nominated for a Governor-General's Award, the Writers' Trust Award, and for a Quebec Writers' Federation literary award. It was also long-listed for this year's Giller Prize.
Beirut Hellfire Society is set in the early days of the Lebanese civil war in 1978. Through a series of linked vignettes that create a portrait of a city in the chaos of war, it is a meditation on death in all its forms.
Sixteen-year-old Pavlov, the book's narrator, is the son of an undertaker. His father was part of an anti-religious group called The Hellfire Society, which secretly arranges burials for the bodies of social outcasts, atheists, stray corpses and orphaned cadavers. When he dies, Pavlov is asked to continue his father's work.
Along the way, he meets an array of characters, all of whom are profoundly affected by the war raging around them.
Hage describes the novel as "anti-war, anti-violence."
Click 'listen' above to hear the full interview.