I am reading and LOVING Rawi Hage's De Niro's Game. The book is set in Beirut during the Civil War and follows a young man whose life has been torn apart by bombs, death, crime, confusion and a nagging sense of unbelonging. Hage is a magnificent writer. His style is sparse but vivid, paints his characters' inner-worlds in such ways that you don't always understand but accept nonetheless. For his work on De Niro's Game, in 2008 Rawi Hage received the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, which is "the most lucrative literary prize in the world."
When I was in Bulgaria a couple of weeks ago, I attended a book party for De Niro's Game, at which Rawi Hage himself was present. The party was held at a coffee-shop and the author remarked that he was used to drinking wine at readings but loved the venue anyway. Hage is originally from Lebanon but immigrated to States and then Canada. When I asked him whether the book was autobiographical and how his family responded to it, he said that his mother read the novel and said, "Son, you have a great imagination."
In Bulgaria, the book was published by Janet-45, the most exciting and most progressive publishing house in the country. Janet-45 will be publishing my first book (co-edited with Yana Buhrer Tavanier) some time this fall. So, when the Publisher (Rawi's and mine) asked me if I would be willing to accompany Rawi Hage to a radio-interview and interpret for him, of course, I had to say YES. What I should have said was YES but also THANK YOU FOR THE HONOR.
Only in Bulgaria do we, young aspiring writers, get to rub shoulders with the Great Ones. Only in Bulgaria do we get to crack up about the amount of drinking that we'd been doing in the last couple of days. Only in Bulgaria do we spend an hour talking about Civil Wars, and Death, and Immigration and then hop on a cab together and share a ride to our respective bar engagements. Only in Bulgaria does HE get to thank ME.
That's what Bulgaria is like. Things happen to you and you wonder if it shouldn't be the other way around.