No Friend But The Mountains by Behrouz Boochani, Australia, 2018

No Friend But The Mountains by Behrouz Boochani, Australia, 2018

This is a beautifully written book by a man who has spent more than five years on Manus Island, in Australia’s offshore processing centre – a centre that has nothing to do with processing and everything to do with punishment, humiliation, and the annihilation of the spirit.

Arriving on Christmas Island, only days after the Australian Government opened Manus Island as part of its border-protection programme, Boochani must have wondered if it may have been better to have perished during his terrifying flight from Iran to Indonesia, or during his several attempts to cross the water from Indonesia to Australia when he came very close to drowning.

With acute observation, Boochani – a Kurdish journalist – describes the centre, his fellow prisoners, and the Kyriarchal system, which as he points out, is all about degradation and dehumanization. He wrote the book by sending thousands of texts in Farsi to a friend who then passed them on to Omid Tofighian to translate. The resulting book, which won the 2019 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, should be compulsory reading for all Australians and, indeed, everyone. If Australia is sanctioning a place like Manus Island then it stands to reason that Australians should be aware of how the place is run and what is happening to the men imprisoned there.

As Richard Flanagan writes in the foreword to No Friend But The Mountains: ‘This book (…) is something greater than just a J’accuse. It is a profound victory for a young poet who showed us all how much words can still matter. Australia imprisoned his body, but his soul remained that of a free man. His words have now irrevocably become our words, and our history must henceforth account for his story.’

The image of Boochani is from Radio NZ
Watch a trailer from Boochani’s film documentary Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time

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