Adult fiction pick by Jean-Louis
Rawi Hage is another immigrant to Canada who is enriching our literature by bringing a new voice to the national conversation. This year, Hage’s book Cockroach was selected as on e of the shortlisted titles for CBC’s Canada Reads program. The theme for this year’s contest was to select a book that would change our understanding of Canada. I believe that Cockroach is truly one of those books (even though I agreed with the judges that Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda should be the winning title).
This novel, set in Montreal, is not an easy read by any means. Our protagonist (never named) is in therapy with a court-appointed psychiatrist after an attempted suicide. Alienation, mental illness, isolation, and disconnection are all powerful themes throughout the novel. Our protagonist and his friends and cohorts, like many immigrants, cannot escape their pasts. The traumas from which they have escaped in the middle east trail after them and plague their days and nights. The cockroach, which our protagonist dreams he is becoming, is a symbol of the hard underbelly defining the existence of this immigrant crowd. And at the same time, the cockroach, that most resilient of insects, finds a way to survive in a new land.
If you want to explore another perspective on our country, through the eyes of a very talented writer, choose Cockroach as your next read.