In this post “Iranian writers Political Refugees”, I am reviewing two books written by two previous Iranian journalists who are now political refugees live in Australia.
You can listen to both of these books by getting an Audible free membership trial.
No Friends But The Mountains by Behrouz Boochani
Who is Behrouz?
Behrooz Bochani is a male Kurdish -Iranian refugee who first arrived to Australia by boat in 2013. He typed out his story on a mobile phone in a series of messages over time from Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea to Omid Tofighian who is an Iranian-Australian. Omid translated text messages from Persian/Farsi/Parsi into English and by help of others published the book while Behrouz was still in Manus Detention Center.
He was one of the judges of SBS Emerging Writers’ Competition in 2021.
Novel or Memoir?
This is a memoir, a perspective and a horrifying experience. In this book you become his eyes and travel through his unfinished thoughts. You learn about ordinary humans’ behaviour in their most unfortunate states.
He obviously demonstrates his great skill of observation and paying attention to details usually ignored by many in narrating stories. One chapter just reminds us of the importance of toilets in the life of modern and intellectual humans in this world and its relation to our dignity. I hope no one ever experiences humiliation as described in this book.
How I like it?
I admire the courage and honesty of the author but I don’t like some of his logic and assumptions. It reminds me of the illegal and demanding Afghan refugees in Iran. I think with an illegal action comes unexpected consequences.
In my opinion, his reasons to go through such a horrifying journey and his understanding of the roots of his struggles is not mature and convincing. But, there is no justification for the cruelty of those in power whose actions remind me of WWII German camps .
In part of the book, he talks about war in Iran, completely ignoring the fact that Iraq forced war against Iran by attacking borders of country including the Kurdistan. He also totally ignored the fact that thousands of Iranians from different ethnic groups fought alongside Kurds to defend them from the Iraqis violation.
I believe that this book is unnecessarily descriptive, specially the last two chapters, sometimes I totally lost the story line.
This is a must read book for those who think being refugees especially the illegal type is a luxury!
In the end, I congratulate Australians for supporting him and helping him to publish his work which demonstrates the injustice in the system. Many political refugees that ended up in Australia had their voices suppressed in their birth countries. I also hope his book could have helped the Australian government prevent refugees from going through the horrifying journey described in the book!
The Enlightenment of The Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar
Who is Shokoofeh?
The amazing thing is, two people could live in a country at the exact same time and era yet experience life quite differently.
Shokoofeh is a female political refugee that came to Australia in 2010 exactly when I came to Australia as a skilled immigrant. A majority of the Iranians I grew up with were nice, loving and always ready to help and the ones she is portraying in her book are mostly a bunch of animals that no one would like to call compatriots!
How I found it?
First of all I wonder why an Australian art teacher would recommend this book to a 14-year-old child to read when he notices that her art works have Iranian elements and she is proud of being an Iranian!
I trusted teacher and bought the book for my daughter to read. After all, this book got so many awards and so popular amongst Australian intellectuals. She started reading and after finishing a couple of chapters, came to me and said: “I don’t like it, I think you would because you know more about things she is talking about. Could you read it and explain it to me please?”
Every time after reading a couple of pages, I stopped reading and picked up another book. It took me 3 years to get really engaged with this book but 3 days to finish it!
Fiction or Reality?
This book is historical fiction and sometimes is very difficult to know which part is based on true events and which part is just imagination, especially for those who are not familiar with Iranian history and magic realism style. There are many folklore stories of people living in Iran that are interjected in the book alongside the real historical events.
How I like it?
I have mixed feelings about this book. I don’t like it but I like it!
After finishing it, the first question that came to mind was: “Is there any book about Iran that got awards and so much attention for just talking about the many good sides of this country in Australia?” I couldn’t find any yet!
This book has a Gabriel Garcia Marquez-like narrative that has made it quite interesting and also a bit confusing at first, you must keep reading to make sense of the events.
No Iranian let alone a 14-year-old child would read this book and would be proud of being an Iranian. Sadly there are many books similar to this which portray the dark side of life in not only Iran but other countries as well. There are always people who have been oppressed in different eras and times around the world due to different political views or simply in the name of national security. But, this doesn’t justify the wrongdoing of these actions.
Where to buy Books from?
The Persian Paperback version of “The Enlightenment of The Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar” is also available on Amazon to buy.