Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish-Iranian journalist, stares at you intensely from the cover of this book. In 2013, while trying to seek asylum in Australia, he was illegally detained on Manus Island. This is a refugee detention centre off the coast of Australia that I had never heard of. Boochani calls it Manus Prison because that's what it was to him and many other refugees. At the time the book was published in 2019, Boochani was still there. This book was written by typing short messages in Farsi on a smuggled cell phone.
There is a lot of space, too much in my opinion, used by the translator to explain the translation process and reasons for doing things. Most of it was of no interest to me. What did interest me was learning that Boochani wanted the book to imitate Persian literature and he used specific words and names with intention. Poetry is interspersed throughout his stories. The poetry was beautiful yet heartbreaking and probably where more of his own emotions are shared. The fact that this book exists and wasn't somehow confiscated by the Australian government is a miracle.
The characters in Boochani's book are cleverly named. For example, The Prime Minister and The Father of the Month's Old Child. The names tell you what type of people they are, something about their characteristics or personalities and how they handled imprisonment. What I think is lacking is Boochani himself. He shares some of his personal experiences, but doesn't give too much of himself away in this book. There maybe several reasons for that, but he is more of an eye-witness to what others are experiencing than telling his own story.
Throughout the story we learn of the horrible conditions of the prison and often brutal treatment of the refugees. We learn about the system that is crushing their human spirits. I know many Australians who are appalled that this was happening with their tax money, in their name. It is not only a book all Australians should read, but everyone should read.
While reading this book and certainly afterwards, I had to do some more searching on line to learn more about Boochani and Manus Island. There are several interviews and videos with Boochani, some even from Manus Island. Manus Island was officially closed in 2017, Boochani was still there near the end of 2019 and then went to New Zealand. Something tells me his story is not over yet.
I realize this is another heavy topic, but I strongly encourage reading this book or at the very least doing a search online to learn more about this.
Bookworm Rating: 🐛🐛🐛🐛