Stray Dogs by Rawi Hage

Stray Dogs is a collection of lithe, playful stories, sometimes tilting toward surreal but always grounded in issues of real-world significance. 

Rawi Hage’s characters are restless travelers, seekers, and strivers. Some are artists. Without exception, they are intellectually curious, culturally astute, and politically cognizant. Many of these tales of modern anxiety feature people who are discovering that long-held assumptions are mistaken or personal histories are fraudulent, or even that they have been misled by a notion or way of life held in reverence. 

In “The Iconoclast,” a successful writer narrates the unsettling story of Lukas, a German photographer who, amidst a newly formed sympathy for the oppressed, leaves behind a settled life, renouncing his art with the declaration that “the image is the root of all evil.” In the title story, Samir, a Jordanian philosopher, and critic of conceptual photography is invited to Japan for a conference. There he presents his paper, a comparative study of images of dogs taken by two master photographers—one Japanese, the other Czech. But, following his presentation, Samir is disheartened when audience members criticize his argument on cultural grounds, questioning the validity of his perspective as an Arab.

“Mother, Mother, Mother” is narrated by a Lebanese man who, receiving notice that his mother back home has died, narrates the turbulent story of her life and his own childhood, describing without sentiment his mother’s obsessive vanity and damaging class-consciousness. And “The Fate of the Son of the Man on the Horse,” tells the bittersweet story of unemployed photographer Guiseppe Cassina, an Italian living in Montreal, and how, in 1970, Guiseppe’s life is turned upside down when he receives an unexpected visit from the actress Sophia Loren and learns the shocking facts about his lineage. 

Throughout the volume, Hage writes with vigour and sly wit, creating narrative thrust using prose crowded with active verbs. The stories themselves are filled with surprising and abrupt twists and turns. Hage’s characters do not sit still for long. These are people constantly on the go, changing their minds, travelling far and wide, and moving from country to country as they search for truth and understanding. Rawi Hage writes about people who act on the strength of their convictions. Driven by a crisis of identity or a conflict of ideologies, they jettison old beliefs and venture out to discover more about themselves and the world around them. 

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This sounds daunting, but don’t be put off by the author’s weighty themes. For all the urgency at its core, Stray Dogs provides a quick, absorbing and highly entertaining read.

About the Author

RAWI HAGE was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and lived through nine years of the Lebanese Civil War during the 1970s and 1980s. He immigrated to Canada in 1992 and now lives in Montreal. His first novel, De Niro’s Game, won the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for the best English-language book published anywhere in the world in a given year, and has either won or been shortlisted for seven other major awards and prizes, including the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Award. Cockroach was the winner of the Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction and a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Award. His third novel, Carnival, told from the perspective of a taxi driver, was a finalist for the Writers’ Trust Award and won the Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction. And his most recent novel, Beirut Hellfire Society, was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and shortlisted for the Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. His work has been translated into thirty languages.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Knopf Canada (March 1 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 224 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0735273626
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0735273627

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