Carnival is the weird and wonderful 2012 offering from Lebanese-Canadian writer Rawi Hage. It was listed as one of Flavorwire’s Ten New Must-Reads for June 2013, so my guess is that the book has been a slow burner, finding an audience mostly via word-of-mouth amongst book people. I’m delighted because it’s Red Brick Reads’ first every opportunity to tag a post #canlit (though not the last, we have a couple coming up soon). It’s a strange book, man.
Luckily we love strange books around here and would be happy to act as tour guides through the strangeness of this one.
1) The first three acts are all (or mostly) about Fly’s history, his fantasies and his inner life. There’s a plot coming in acts four and five, but a smart reader will savour this early stuff. Roll Hage’s excellent sentences around your mouth and blush at his flashbacks and fantasies as you shield your book from over-shoulder readers on the subway.
2) There’s a lot of masturbation so maybe make sure no one is looking over your shoulder on the subway.
3) Unrelated to the story but worth noting, the cover variants are beautiful. The cover art for the Canadian edition, shown here, offers some clues for what’s coming and the international additions range from psychedelic (UK edition) to simple and striking (American edition). Study your cover while reading and you may find some clues. Track down a Canadian copy if you’re really lost.
4) The novel is meant to be darkly comedic so quit being a stuck-up jerk and crack a smile once in a while.
5) Your patience for strangeness will be rewarded and your tolerance for sadness will be tested.
Please stick with this book. Hage is a master storyteller and seeing this book through is its own reward. And I’m not just saying that because of my #canlit pride.