In the judges citation, the novel is described as :
... a powerful, stark yet lyrical and compassionate book (in which) luck is a central element. The title refers to the game of chance - to the death-defying game of Russian Roulette played by DeNiro in the film The Deer Hunter. Hage’s characters find themselves in a very different yet equally extreme situation - caught in the civil war raging in Beirut in the 1980’s. Hage’s writing allows the reader a shocking intimacy with the personal impact of such conflicts. Through the fate of his anti-heroes, George and Bassam, he shows how war can envelope lives – how one doesn’t have a choice in such situations. Concepts of guilt and innocence are left to flounder in the hail of bombs and the struggle for survival. Life itself becomes a game with no real winners, only scarred survivors whose estrangement is deeper than any bullet wound, and whose future seems darker than their blacked out city.Hage was born in Beirut in 1964, and grew up in Lebanon and Cyprus. He studied photography in New York, and in 1991 moved to Montreal. His novel was shortlisted for the 2006 Scotiabank Giller Prize and the 2006 Governor General's Award for English fiction and won several smaller prizes. Not bad for an author writing in his third language!
He's also a successful photographer and his work has been acquired by the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Musée de la Civilisation de Québec.
More at The Toronto Star and The Guardian.