CARNIVAL by Rawi Hage


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But then, life’s a carnival right?

The carnival metaphor/cliché suits the novel well, for the people who populate Hage’s world tend to be on the periphery—outsiders, loners, questioners and especially readers. Fly, the main character and narrator, was born to a mother who was a trapeze artist and a father who (literally? figuratively? symbolically?) flew a flying carpet; not exactly mainstream professions. (Fly further complicates his genealogical history by claiming to a friend that his mother was also “a weaver of ropes, who loved for dwarves to nibble on the backs of her knees.”) Fly becomes a taxi driver and gets his name because he embodies one of two styles of drivers: the spiders, who stay in one place waiting for their fares, and the flies, who incessantly roam the streets on the prowl for passengers. As one might imagine, this puts Fly in contact with some of the less prepossessing elements in modern urban culture. Another professional problem Fly runs into is the taxi inspector, a woman who “molests” the drivers, and if they resist her advances, they find themselves hit with big fines. Two other outsiders, Otto and Aisha, befriend Fly and take him into their home, but after Aisha dies, Otto is in such deep grief that he enters a mental hospital, unwillingly, for treatment. He gets his revenge on his psychiatrist by having Fly “kidnap” him and forcing him to read a poem by Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones). Fly's most important relationship is with Mary, a woman who, unlike her abusive husband, loves books.

Hage’s characters, while not necessarily larger than life, are certainly weirder than life, and Hage writes about them with humor and affection.

Pub Date: June 17th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-393-07242-6
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2013


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