Imagine trying to write an entire document by phone text, conveying your deepest thoughts and feelings in a meaningful flow, with only the tiny screen of your mobile to work with as you send text after text after text.
Then imagine managing to tap out an entire book – more than 300 pages – this way, transmitting it all to someone far away, in the hope of getting your work published.
And that, dear reader, is just what Behrouz Boochani has done with No Friend But The Mountains.
This is an outstanding accomplishment, and not just because he’s managed to do this all by text message. Mostly, it’s for the brilliance of the work and the language used by the author in describing this horrendous blight on the Australian psyche.
There is sadness in reading this book, knowing nothing has changed for its author. He commenced the book isolated from family and friends, alone in a particularly uncaring part of that world.
And he’s still in the same place at the end. But perhaps he will also have the heart of the reader ensconced firmly in his corner, despairing for the wretched lack of humanity we show fellow human beings fleeing persecution.
It is a truly sobering realisation as you read Behrouz’s (I take the liberty of calling him by his first name as I feel I have come to know him over the years of engaging with him on Facebook and Twitter,etc) narrative that we have a refugee policy that is uncaring and evil.
As we subject people innocent of any crime to periods of incarceration and slowly but surely whittle away their spirit and any resistance they may have to this cruelty, we cannot hold our heads high and claim the high moral ground in human rights and humanity. Behrouz exposes our cruelty in stark reality.
It is a very personal story and could never be replicated as a narrative. But it is coming from a person who is eloquent and articulate; not surprising, given his qualifications at the Masters level in political science, political geography and geo-politics. Before coming here to his prison he was the writer for a Kurdish language magazine, Werya.
There were many passages in the book that grabbed my interest and attention. One capturing his harsh reality reads:
“My eyes are heavy with sleep, but there’s nothing like curiosity, adventure or fear to keep me up….Bodies are twisted into one another. Even the normal physical boundaries between families has fallen apart. Men lie in the arms of another’s wife, children lie on the chests and bellies of strangers. It seems they have all forgotten the shouts and insults of earlier, and all that energy spent establishing gender based order, because everything is disrupted now. The sovereignty of the waves has collapsed the moral framework.”
Behrouz’s work in this book is profound. It cannot be categorised as simply the narrative of someone who happens to be a refugee. It will develop its own categorisation and in time will be seen as an expose of Australia’s inhumanity towards other human beings. It will always be a documentation of a stain on our path of history along with a myriad others including our destruction of the culture and way of life as well as the slaughter of our First Nation’s people.
Behrouz says, “I am disintegrated and dismembered, my decrepit past fragmented and scattered, no longer integral, unable to become whole once again. The total collection of scenes turns like pages of a short story, churned through with the speed of light.”
The other important feature of Behrouz’s writing is the strength of character that comes through. Behrouz is a very strong willed man. This has sustained him in the darkest of times.
Events subsequent to his arrival here and incarceration have given us ample proof of his strength of mind and character. So much has happened in the Immigration Detention Centres, essentially prisons, over the last few years. And in every one of those incidents Behrouz has been reminding us of our need for humanity.
“No Friend but the Mountains” should be compulsory reading for our school system in Australia. Like the inhumane treatment of our First Nations People, we cannot allow this cruel and unjust treatment to be swept aside.
Our move to incarcerate these people offshore, then not comment on the matters because of “national security” was engineered by Prime Minister Morrison (then Immigration minister) and taken to a new level of cruelty by minister Dutton. Both ministers deserve the sanction of the International Communities for their treatment of refugees. I hope Behrouz’s work will be instrumental in achieving this outcome.
Behrouz should be lauded and praised for his work. it is brilliant, profound and exceptionally lyrical. He is one of the most astute observers of human beings I have read.
On the one hand I hope to read more of Behrouz’s work. However, I hope to read that future work when he has been granted freedom so that he will have friends other than the mountains.
No Friend But the Mountains (Writing from Manus Prison) by Behrouz Boochani, Pan MacMillan Australia, RRP $32.99