Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Cockroach

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Cockroach

Article excerpt

Rawi Hage, Cockroach (Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2008), 312pp. Cased. $29.95. ISBN 978-0-88784-209-2. Paper. $18.95. ISBN 978-0-88784-834-6.

'I do not feel fully human,' confesses the protagonist of Lebanese-Canadian Rawi Hage's second novel, Cockroach. He explains: 'Maybe being human is being trapped' (p. 207).

Attempts to avoid various entrapments - religion, ethnicity, gender, class, species or even existence itself - constitute the work's core. The nameless narrator, hugely unreliable due to substance abuse, hunger and rampant imagination, is an impoverished immigrant from a war-torn Arab country recalling the Lebanon of De Niro's Game. Refusing to accept his new homeland's social and spatial limitations, the protagonist visualises himself as the eponymous insect, compulsively transgressing and infiltrating, pilfering food and other attractive objects. Unlike Kafka's virtually house-arrested Gregor, Hage's character exercises an unrestrained mobility. Simultaneously, the central image encapsulates the narrator's perceived traits as an intrusive foreigner: undesired, unclean, crafty, parasitical, prolific and repulsive. Ridiculing other immigrants' attempts at romanticisation (Reza) or denial (Youssef ), he prefers to immerse himself in the ignominy of the exotic. However, this perspective undergoes incessant complication; for instance, although self-avowedly partinsect, he joyously exterminates the cockroaches infesting his apartment. As human and animal elements are held in precarious balance, the very term 'cockroach' assumes ever newer significance, becoming as elusive as its designatum.

The novel pivots on numerous reversals. In the phantasmagoric, frozen Montreal, verticality, brightness and existence on the ground all indicate a certain death-in-life. Conversely, life-giving forces are found in the warm, waste-nourished underworld humming with agile, horizontal creatures that continually threaten to rise to the surface. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.