Rawi Hage - Carnival (4 stars)

Rawi Hage - Carnival

Violently Chaotic yet warm and funny novel by award winning Lebanese-Canadian author

(Hamish Hamilton)

With his IMPAC Award-winning debut, De Niro’s Game, Rawi Hage was marked as one of Canada’s most exciting new writers. His third novel, Carnival, is just as thrilling. Fly, the narrator, is a bibliophile taxi driver who’s prone to grand delusions. In Hage’s typically picaresque style, Fly talks of life growing up in a carnival, his devotion to his anarchist friends and his flirtatious religious debates with his quiet neighbour, all interspersed with tales of the many people who hail his cab.

Carnival is suffused with literary references from Albert Camus to James Joyce, and its disjointed structure, dark humour and musings on psychosis create an inescapable absurdist atmosphere. Before his writing career bloomed, Hage – also a visual artist – was a taxi driver in Montreal. So perhaps it’s not surprising that the episodes about Fly’s passengers are the most captivating, from tender lovers and S&M enthusiasts to drunk bigots and big-time criminals. And although the last section feels like an unnecessary departure, Hage’s mellifluous prose holds the fragments of this violently chaotic, but warm and funny, novel together beautifully.

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