De Niro's Game is the tale of two childhood friends growing up during the turbulent years of Lebanon’s civil war. Bassam and George ( known also as De Niro for his love of Russian roulette like Robert De Niro’s character in Deer Hunter) have a precarious future before them. Many of their friends and family are dead or missing, and the city is in a perpetual state of war. The foremost question in their lives is how to survive. And if they do, at what cost?
This is an impressive debut novel from Rawi Hage, who himself fled Lebanon for the safe shores of Canada. The book received much critical praise and since its publication has won a heap of prizes. It is brilliant work and betrays none of the usual flaws of a novice writer. Hage infuses his writing with palpable passion and the pages practically crackle with tension as you tear through the narrative. This is by no means an easy book, dealing as it does with the war torn landscape of Lebanon and its aftermath. It is infused with savagery where scenes of people hunting down the street dogs and the even more harrowing scenes of the Sabra and Chantilla massacres have the power to haunt even after you turn the page. Even as he writes about the savageness and horrors of war, Hage is also able to write beautifully poetic passages. A reminder, I suppose that even in the midst of horror, glimpses of beauty remain.