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An Interview with Rawi Hage

Rawi HageBy Charles-Adam Foster-Simard

Rawi Hage was born in Beirut, Lebanon, where he grew up before he moved to New York and then Montreal. He studied at Concordia University and began his career as a visual artist and curator. His first novel, De Niros Game, set in war-torn Beirut, was published in 2006. It was nominated for several prizes in Canada and abroad, and went on to win the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. In 2008, Hage published his second novel, Cockroach, which depicts the life of an immigrant in Montreal’s underground world, to similar critical acclaim. Hage’s latest novel, Carnival, follows the picaresque adventures of a well-read, circus-raised cab driver in an unnamed city reminiscent of both Montreal and New York. Carnival is a finalist for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize.

I met Rawi Hage while the author was in town for the 2012 Vancouver Writers Fest.

P: Your other novels were more focused in terms of narrative, more linear. Carnival is different, because of the short sections.

RH: It’s episodic, for sure. In each small story, there’s a character that shines, that performs. There’s that element of performance

P: How did you write the novel? Did you write each of the different strands separately and then mix them together?

RH: No, I wrote it chronologically. The only thing I changed is the opening. The original opening was about taxi drivers, but then I wrote this long opening about the carnival. I thought if I opened the novel with a taxi driver scene, it would become a book about taxi drivers. If I open it with something fantastic, it gives people an initial shock and the fantastic elements in the novel don’t come so suddenly. That way everything else could be permissible.

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