sexta-feira, 7 de outubro de 2011

In The Sea There Are Crocodiles

                                                        This book has just become a new favorite of mine.
It's the true story of a afghan boy whose mother abandoned him (as that was the only way he could survive since his life was being threatened by the Taliban) at the young age of 10. 
From that point on his whole life is a constant fight for survival. He soon catches on that his only hope of settling down, getting a reasonable job and having a decent life is somehow fleeing from the Islamic Countries and entering illegally inside of Europe. And so he begins his journey. From the age of ten until fifteen he crosses Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece and finally reaches Italy.
As he describes his travels you realize what people go through in search of a better life, in hopes of a chance of survival no matter the risks included that they have to take. Enaiatollah Akbari says that him being able to reach Europe was all a matter of luck and reading his book there is no way in not agreeing with him. He is constantly in touch with people traffickers having to pay them large amounts of money to be able to travel in precarious and inhumane conditions (for example: in lorries with false bottoms, crossing the sea in an inflatable boat without even knowing how to swim, etc.)  
The happy ending is that Enaiat is able to enter Italy and meets a wonderful Italian family who adopts him as their own. They take him in as part of their own family and help him learn Italian, adapt to the countries customs and help him study. By a miracle he was given political asylum and now he does what he can to help the rest of his blood family (mother, brother and sister) to flee to Italy as well. 
An epic story compels you in convincing everyone to read it as well. 

If Fabio Geda's first-person rendition of Enaiatollah Akbadi's story were entirely fictional, it would more than stand up as a page-turner that makes you care about its hero from the outset and willingly accompany him on his often perilous journey from Afghanistan to Italy. That it is based on reality makes it more than just a compelling adventure story. For here is a frank, revealing and clear-eyed testament of the experiences faced by a young asylum-seeker in the contemporary world. If you already know something about what it can be like to be an Afghan child struggling to find a home in the west, then this will enhance your awareness. If you know little, then Enaiat's story will do far more than inform.

Penniless and homeless, unable to speak the local language, Enaiat discovers quickly that the one commodity of value he possesses is his ability to work. He also has an inquiring mind and can think and learn quickly. After a stint working for paltry keep in a hostel he moves on to street trading and starts to save up money. He also has an innate urge to make a life worth living for himself. He sets his sights on moving to somewhere he hears the opportunities are better, and pays people-traffickers (whose "services" he will employ well into his teens) to get him to Iran. Here he lives and works on building sites, factories, wherever he can find a shelter, saving up before he heads by foot across the mountains to Turkey, from thence in a small dinghy to Greece. That he somehow manages to survive and get to Italy, when many of his companions do not, is as much down to luck as it is to quick judgment and an ability to connect with people – some of whom are kind and helpful to him at crucial moments.
The book starts with abandonment. In the Pakistani border town of Quetta his mother whispers advice to 10-year-old Enaiat as he drifts off to sleep: do not steal, cheat, take drugs or use weapons, she makes him promise. When he wakes the next morning she has disappeared, having returned home to the village in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, to take care of her younger son. For Enaiat is a Hazara, and the saying among the Taliban goes: "Tajikistan for the Tajiks; Uzbekistan for the Uzbeks and 'Goristan' for the Hazara." Gor means "grave", and brutal killing sprees of the Hazara are a regular occurrence. In order to save him from the permanent dangers of living at home, his mother has left him to fend for himself in another land where he might just have a chance of surviving without living forever in fear.
The book is peppered with conversations between Enaiat and Italian novelist Geda (pictured), in which the older European questions the young man who is also his character, trying to find out more about the detail of places and people in his life. "I don't want to talk about them," Enaiat insists, "they aren't important. Facts are important. The story is important. It's what happens to you that changes your life, not where or who with." But then, touchingly, he does name the Italian family who foster him because, he says, their names do not cause him pain. And how has he chosen this place to settle at last? "You recognise it because you don't feel like leaving."
Salutary and humane, In the Sea There Are Crocodiles, as its "international bestseller" status indicates, deserves to be read widely by young and older readers alike.
Diane Samuels's plays include Kindertransport.

terça-feira, 4 de outubro de 2011

Brothers - Da Chen

Da Chen writes an inspiring and heart wrenching novel about two brothers - one illegitimate and one not - whose paths intertwine as many events follow. 
To add to the whole drama both brothers fall in love with the same woman. Not a little crush or a passing summer fling - nope! A crazy and unstoppable passion - the kind that you can assimilate to trying to put out a fire on a pile of hot fresh hay. Somewhat impossible! 
At the beginning of the book I felt very attracted to Shento and took a liking to him at once while not really getting much into Tan. But as the book progresses and Shento's passion for Sumi takes over him creating him into a monster up to the point of putting her in prison together with their son; well that's when my inner being got on fire against such inhumane actions only because we cannot have the object of our desire.
The main thing about this book which got me thinking was about how many times we feel like we are entitled to something or someone and want to force things to happen to satisfy that same desire which is deep in us.
 I once read in a book which quotes many of Nietzsche's thoughts and sayings and one following quote for me says it all. Here it goes:

The true object of desire is not necessarily what it appears at first glance to be pursuing. This is why we do not always know what we want.  Were we able to view our desires in the full light of consciousness, we would begin to perceive that the process of desiring is never without the projection of the representation of a want: want of another person, want of recognition, want of affection, want of self.

  " ...Yet there is not only want in the object of Desire.  There is in Desire a Force, which cannot be reduced to the individual and egocentric will to power.  
This is Life wanting itself through the movement of desiring, Life seeking its own assertion and self-growth. Desire cannot be reduced to a desire of another person.  It is not enough to characterize desire to say that one desires with respect to other people. All desire emanates from the self, even if some of them contain a richer and deeper self-assertion than others.  Does this not imply in the end that the expression “object of desire” rests on a misunderstanding?  The essence of Desire is not in its object, but in the subject who is desiring.  To desire is to manifest, to give oneself in a perpetual self-manifestation, in a creation of oneself by oneself..."

All in all we have to be careful with what we desire - and this book shows this point very clearly. I wonder what experiences Da Chen when through and what motivated him to write a book with such a powerful hidden lesson (at least for me it was!). But even for those who aren't into getting in the whole deeper/philosophical side it's still a great novel to sit back and enjoy a good read!

Here goes the book review:

BROTHERS has been chosen as BEST BOOKS OF 2006 by:
  1. The Washington Post
  2. San Francisco Chronicle
  3. Miami Herald
  4. Salt Lake Tribune
  5. Publishers’ Weekly
At the height of China’s Cultural Revolution a powerful general fathered two sons. Tan was born to the general’s wife and into a life of comfort and luxury. His half brother, Shento, was born to the general’s mistress, who threw herself off a cliff in the mountains of Balan only moments after delivering her child. Growing up, each remained ignorant of the other’s existence. In Beijing, Tan enjoyed the best schools, the finest clothes, and the prettiest girls. Shento was raised on the mountainside by an old healer and his wife until their deaths landed him in an orphanage, where he was always hungry, alone, and frightened. Though on divergent roads, each brother is driven by a passionate desire—one to glorify his father, the other to seek revenge against him.
Separated by distance and opportunity, Tan and Shento follow the paths that lie before them, while unknowingly falling in love with the same woman and moving toward the explosive moment when their fates finally merge.
Brothers, by bestselling memoirist Da Chen, is a sprawling, dynamic family saga, complete with assassinations, love affairs, narrowly missed opportunities, and the ineluctable fulfillment of destiny.