Congratulations Behrouz Boochani!
Many congratulations Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian Kurdish journalist, a refugee illegally detained, winner of the 2019 Victorian Prize for Literature.
He wrote ‘No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison’. The book was written on a mobile phone and smuggled out as thousands of PDF files! The prize is worth A$100,000 – but what price has freedom? He also won the Non-Fiction prize!
‘Seated all around me, it seems, are people with thoughts full of beautiful dream images – even as they are haunted by broken and disturbing memories.’ From chapter three, ‘The Raft of Purgatory’. They have been picked up by a British Cargo shop after a very dangerous voyage and full of hope wait for the Australian navy. He couldn’t imagine what lay ahead.
‘Distinctive narrative formations are used, from critical analysis to thick description to poetry to dystopian surrealism. The writing is beautiful and precise, blending literary traditions emanating from across the world, but particularly from within Kurdish practices.’ The judges.
Arnold Zable, who has been up here as a guest of the literary festival, writes, it is: ‘A chant, a cry from the heart, a lament, fuelled by a fierce urgency, written with the lyricism of a poet, the literary skills of a novelist, and the profound insights of an astute observer of human behaviour and the ruthless politics of a cruel and unjust imprisonment.’
On Monday in the Coffs Botanic Gardens I passed a group of Kurds having a picnic, one was playing a tambur. I stopped for a listen and a chat, they invited me to join them but I was on my way to the airport. A woman insisted I share some watermelon. They were from Syria, but Kurds are also populations in Iraq, Turkey and Iran. Hence their ongoing struggle to have the right to be Kurds, to speak Kurdish and celebrate Kurdish culture and ideally have a Kurdish state – a hope Turkey is intent on suppressing.
See Post – Writing to the Wire – It’s a book about the idea of being Australian. It is about who we are and who we would rather be. Poetry can show us what we’re thinking and feeling in a way our politics has failed to do.