cover image Cockroach


Rawi Hage, . . Norton, $23.95 (305pp) ISBN 978-0-393-07537-3

With a surprising degree of humor, Hage's second novel (after IMPAC Dublin-winner DeNiro's Game ) explores the peculiar politics of Montreal's immigrant communities through the bleak obsessions of a misanthropic thief. After trying and failing to kill himself, an unnamed narrator who believes himself to be part cockroach is compelled to attend counseling sessions with an earnest and alluring therapist. As he unspools his personal history—from his apprenticeship with the thief Abou-Roro to the tragic miscalculation that led him to flee his home country—the narrator, reluctant to tell his story (we never learn where the narrator is from, and inconsistencies in his tale cast doubt upon his honesty), scuttles through the stories of others, recounting secrets both confidentially shared and invasively discovered. Unable to support himself on burglary alone, the narrator takes a job as a busboy, but runs into complications after discovering his lover's connection to the restaurant's most prominent customer. The novel's gritty back-alley world gives rise to a host of glorious rogues, each swindling the others at every opportunity, and yet each is capable of great empathy under just the right circumstances. (Oct.)