COCKROACH

RAWI HAGEcockroach

Cock roach is an unusual novel full of magic realism and existentialism. The narrator survived a childhood in a war zone unnamed in the book but the author comes from Beirut. Now living in Montreal, he has been rescued from a failed suicide attempt and ordered to attend therapy sessions with an ineffectual female analyst. “I had attempted suicide out of a kind of curiosity, or maybe as a challenge to nature, to the cosmos itself, to the recurring light. I felt oppressed by it all. The question of existence consumed me.” He is confronted by the racism of his boss and others. “You know, we come to these countries for refuge and to find better lives, but it is these countries that made us leave our homes in the first place.” He envisions himself as a giant cockroach able to hide and slip into forbidden places. He breaks into people’s houses and moves among their possessions, crawling along their walls and their drains.  “Yes, I am poor, I am vermin, a bug, I am at the bottom of the scale. But I still exist.”

Cockroach begins strongly but the excellent fades in the second half. The writing is excellent. “I peeled myself out from under layers of hats, gloves and scarves, liberated myself from zippers and buttons, and endured the painful tearing Velcro that hissed like a prehistoric reptile, that split and separated like people’s lives, like exiles falling into cracks that give birth and lead to death under digging shovels that sound just like the friction of car wheels wedging snow around my mortal parts.”

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