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Beirut Hellfire Society

Written by: Rawi Hage
Narrated by: Ali Momen
Length: 6 hrs and 50 mins
4 out of 5 stars (16 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Finalist for Scotiabank Giller Prize

Shortlisted for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize

Shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction

An explosive new novel from the award-winning, best-selling author of De Niro's Game and Cockroach.

It is 1978 in Beirut, Lebanon, partway through that country's Civil War. On a torn-up street overlooking a cemetery in the city's Christian enclave, we meet an eccentric young man named Pavlov, the son of a local undertaker. When his father meets a sudden and untimely death, Pavlov is approached by a colourful member of the mysterious Hellfire Society - a secret group to which his father had belonged. The Society's purpose is to arrange burial or cremation for those who for various reasons have been outcast and abandoned by family, clergy, and state. Pavlov agrees to take up his father's work for the society, and over the course of the novel he becomes a survivor-chronicler of his embattled and fading community, bearing witness to its enduring rituals as well as its inevitable decline. 

Deftly combining comedy with tragedy, Beirut Hellfire Society is at once propulsive, elegiac, outrageous, profane, and transcendent - a profoundly moving meditation on what it means to live through war. It asks what, if anything, can be accomplished or preserved in the face of certain change and imminent death. Here is an exhilarating, subversive, beautiful and timely new work that reinforces Rawi Hage's status as one of our most original, necessary, fearless, and important writers.

©2018 Rawi Hage (P)2018 Knopf Canada

What the critics say

  • Finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction
  • Shortlisted for the 2018 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize
  • Shortlisted for the 2018 Quebec Writers' Federation Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction
  • Longlisted for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize

Beirut Hellfire Society, if it is even possible, raises Hage’s game to sublime new heights in a moving, ultimately devastating treatise on war, death, morality, and sanity. Populating this world with a variety of misfits, rogues, lovers, and maniacs, Hage, like all great writers, approaches his subject from a fresh perspective, presenting the consequences of war in a fashion often breathtaking in its boldness. This is literary warfare via the unflinching realism of Erich Maria Remarque, the paranoia of Franz Kafka, and the absurdity of Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Beirut Hellfire Society is...a stripping-back of the nature of story, and its episodic structure burns with its own fuel. The possibility of death lurks behind every utterance. Yet the novel as a whole is not one of bleakness but joy.” (2018 QWF Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction jury citation)

“A novel of tragic beauty and dark humour that is comfortable with contradiction and charged with probing philosophical insights and the luminosity of Arabic poetry. It’s a timeless story of the outcast whose act of witness chronicles the world he observes. It is also a testament to love for life. Hage reminds us of what it takes for a novel to endure on the level of both form and content.” (Quill & Quire, starred review) 

“For a novel that involves so much death and sadness, it is vibrant, very operatic and funny at times.... [A] very important book and a book very much about our times.” (CBC Radio)

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So dark

Really morbid and dark. Hard to follow all the back and forthing in time. I’m afraid I hated this book.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful