A finalist for numerous Canadian book prizes, Hage's first novel is the haunting tale of two childhood friends in Beirut. Bassam and George (a.k.a. De Niro) came of age in a city pounded by "ten thousand bombs," a place utterly changed by war yet forced to wait patiently for its rebirth. Bassam notes that the bombs land in twos, "like Midwestern American tourists in Paris." He works at the docks, quietly observing the shady doings in the dark, and dreams of escaping to "Roma." George sits in a local casino, providing change for the gamblers who play the machines, and watches mutely as the militia carry the day's spoils away in bags.
In Beirut, the two young men have little hope of a future beyond a life of crime. Indelibly shaped by the war and violence of their homeland, they've grown up to yield a strange mixture of the carnage and immorality that surrounds them, yet they maintain a touch of innocence that has yet to be fully expunged. By what measure can decency be judged in the midst of chaos and atrocity? How does one measure love or loyalty? And can one be blamed for failing to recognize the moment of choice -- between redemption and damnation -- in such hellish circumstances? Such are the imponderables faced by Hage's characters in this spellbinding novel. (Holiday 2007 Selection)