WINNER OF THE 2008 INTERNATIONAL IMPAC DUBLIN LITERARY PRIZE
De Niro’s Game plunges readers into the timely story of two young men caught in Lebanon’s civil war. Bassam and George, best friends in childhood, have grown to adulthood in war-torn Beirut. Now they must choose their futures: to stay in the city and consolidate power through crime, or to go into exile abroad, alienated from the only existence they have known. Told in a distinctive, captivating voice that fuses vivid cinematic imagery and page-turning plot with the measured strength and beauty of Arabic poetry, De Niro’s Game is an explosive portrait of life in a war zone, and a powerful meditation on what comes after.
This aggressive, prize-winning Canadian import debut recounts the fate of two childhood friends in war-ravaged Beirut. Narrator Bassam dreams of leaving Beirut, where there is "not enough for cigarettes, a nagging mother, and food," and escaping to Rome, where even the pigeons "look happy and well fed." To fund his escape, he enters into a scheme with his best friend, George, to skim funds from the poker arcade where George works. But George is soon coerced into joining the militia and rises to its top ranks, allowing the friends to indulge in freewheeling lawlessness. Their days of riding the streets of West Beirut "with guns under our bellies, and stolen gas in our tanks, and no particular place to go" gives way to betrayal and violence more ferocious than either self-styled thug had bargained for. Though Bassam does eventually leave, he finds he cannot entirely escape Beirut; only in Paris, where the story plays out its third and final act, does he discover the extent of his friend's treachery. Hage's energetic prose matches the brutality depicted in the novel without overstating the narrative's tragic arc an impressive first outing for Hage.