No Friend But The Mountains by Behrouz Boochani, Tr. Omid Tofighian

4 out of 5 stars

In 2013, Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani was aiming to seek asylum in Australia but first he had to get there. The book opens with him in a truck on the way to a boat that he hopes will take him there. He knew of the stories of boats that were not seaworthy and would sink on the journey over. But he never thought it would happen to him. It did. The story of the boat he is on sinking is terrifying enough, but he is one of the fortunate ones to be plucked from the ocean to safety.

The waves have freed us from their clutches /
The waves have spared our lives /
I laugh at them /
I laugh in triumph /
Laugh to express the feeling of victory deep inside

He goes from a water hell to a fiery hell. Along with a load of others he is deported to the notorious detention centre on Manus Island. In this place, he tells the story of himself and other prisoners who are detained and treated with the most inhumane contempt. He tells his story of survival in this place as well as the stories of those around him.

We are four hundred people /
Four hundred lost souls in a tightly confined space /
four hundred prisoners /
Anticipating the nights we can leave /
. . . so we can leave /
. . . and enter our nightmares.

There is no denying that this is a grim read. The prison is full of cruel people, both immigrants and the warders, but there is still humanity in some of the things that he witnesses. Most amazingly, this was written one text at a time from a secret mobile phone in prison sent to someone on the outside and was translated and published before he was released. He has now been granted asylum in New Zealand and from what I can gather is making a new life for himself. It is not the most literary of books but should be necessary reading for those trying to understand how unnecessarily horrible most asylum seekers are treated.

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  1. Liz Dexter

    An important book, and how amazing that he got it out and into the world in that way.

    • Paul

      Very much so. From what I can gather, he is now making a new life for himself in New Zealand

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