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.BOOK REVIEW:
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.
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