No friend but the mountains

One particular news item that caught my attention was The Victorian Prize for literature, Non-Fiction award and the winner, Behrouz Boochani for his No friend but the mountains: writing from Manus Prison (Picador Australia).

A Kurdish-Iranian asylum seeker and currently held on Manus Island, Boochani has been recognised as an Australian writer to win the $100,000 prize, the richest of its kind in Australia. Ironically the author has not been allowed to set foot in Australia by the system, yet.

One says ‘Boochani was arguably the most important literary phenomenon in Australian literature in 2018. In part, this is because of the distinctive qualities of No Friend But the Mountains, an epic work that moves between verse and prose, reportage and fantasy, the mundane and the historical. The fact that Boochani’s political memoir of what he calls Manus Prison was ever published in book form defies the odds. ‘ (The conversation )

What is even more inspiring is that the author wrote the book on his mobile phone then sent it through WhatApp to an academic, Omid Tofighian, for English translation. The book has been awarded on its high literature merit with its beautiful writing style. A Judge described the book as  “a stunning work of art and critical theory which evades simple description”.

This award is not only a victory for literature, but more, a victory for humanity. One doesn’t need any government recognition to become a writer. And a writer can write anything, even under very harsh conditions. While there have been a lot of reported cases of mental illness, even suicides due to the cruelty in Manus camps, Boochani’s sheer focus of literature and resistance makes this book even more a must read.