'Where have I come from? From the land of rivers, the land of waterfalls, the land of ancient chants, the land of mountains...
'Since 2013, Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani has been held in the Manus Island offshore processing centre.
'People would run to the mountains to escape the warplanes and found asylum within their chestnut forests...
'This book is the result. Laboriously tapped out on a mobile phone and translated from the Farsi. It is a voice of witness, an act of survival. A lyric first-hand account. A cry of resistance. A vivid portrait through five years of incarceration and exile.
'Do Kurds have any friends other than the mountains? ' (Publication summary)
Dedication: For Janet Galbrouth - who is a bird.
It is September 2016. I take my glasses off to swim. I leave them tucked in the folds of my discarded dress, follow the softened outline of Lucas's body down and into the water. I let it form the world for me. Definition is unnecessary in water; fluidity renders mute any firm lines or clear distinctions. The water has its own clarity, one of light going forever down, and a brilliance of deep colour-Homer's winedark sea. I did not understand the metaphor until we arrived and saw it, this water with its surreal intensity of blue. Luminous, the opulence of wine. Lucas dives and tells me that it just keeps going down past the point of view.' (Publication abstract)
'No Friend But the Mountains, the electrifying “memoir of ideas” by the refugee journalist-philosopher Behrouz Boochani is my book of the year. Boochani defied every attempt of successive governments to deny refugees such as him a voice, transmitting the manuscript via text and WhatsApp messages from a smuggled-in phone to his translator and interlocutor, Omid Tofighian. Such heroic defiance alone would make it a worthy book. But this is a great book, with a voice, as The Saturday Paper review had it, that is “acerbic yet compassionate, sorrowful but never self-indulgent”.' (Introduction)
'Behrouz Boochani is a Kurdish-Iranian journalist, playwright and activist whose book, No Friend But the Mountain was written by text message over a couple of years on Manus Prison. The resulting work is a powerful, readable memoir with poetry that is a searing indictment of the offshore detention regime. His other works of documentation include writing for The Guardian, a play ‘Manus‘, and a film ‘Chauka, please Tell us the Time‘. (Introduction)
'No Friend but the Mountains: Writing From Manus Prison is a literary work typed using mobile phone text messaging and produced after five years of indefinite detention in the Australian-run immigration detention centre on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. Behrouz Boochani’s Manus Prison narratives represent the fusion of journalism, political commentary and philosophical reflection with myth, epic, poetry and folklore. By experimenting with multiple genres he creates a new literary framework for his uncanny and penetrating reflections on exile to Manus Island and the prison experience from the standpoint of an Indigenous Kurdish writer. In addition, the narratives he constructs function as political and philosophical critique and expose the phenomenon of Manus Prison as a modern manifestation of systematic torture. Drawing on scholarship from social epistemology, this article emphasises the situated nature of Boochani’s writing and the interdependent way of knowing uniquely characteristic of his positionality. This study also demonstrates, from the perspective of the translator, the interdisciplinary nature of the translation process and indicates how a particular philosophical reading was required, particularly in order to communicate the work’s decolonial trajectory. The Manus Prison narratives depict a surreal form of horror and are best described in terms of anti-genre: the stories redefine and deconstruct categories and concepts; they resist style and tradition; and they show the limitations of established genres for articulating the physical, psychological and emotional impact of exile and indefinite detention on refugees.' (Publication abstract)
'It is a matter of wonder that Behrouz Boochani was able to write No Friend but the Mountains at all. He did so while in Manus prison, using text messages in Farsi on smuggled mobile phones. Egyptian and Australian academic Omid Tofighian worked closely with Boochani to translate the text into English. In a detailed introduction to the book, Tofighian explains that Boochani’s writing contributes to a Kurdish literary tradition. He describes his style as “horror surrealism”.' (Introduction)
'Australia’s government tries to stop stories from being told but a new wave of authors are rallying against injustice.'
'In his astonishing book At the Mind’s Limits: Contemplations by a survivor on Auschwitz and its realities (1980), Jean Améry devotes a chapter to intellectuals in the Nazi camp. An essayist and novelist himself, he focuses on how writers made sense of their incarceration. ‘Did intellectual background and an intellectual basic disposition help a camp prisoner in the decisive moments?’ he asks. ‘Did they make survival easier for him?’' (Introduction)
'Behrouz Boochani describes being smashed into the sea by the boulder-like weight of an overpacked, splintering boat transporting asylum seekers from Indonesia to Australia. The wreck’s ‘slashed carcass’ gashes the flailing survivors and the bodies of those who have died, and Boochani settles under a wave, finding refuge ‘by imagining myself elsewhere’. Finding the strength to surface, he sees a group of men clinging to a wooden spar torn from the battered boat. Its spikes lacerate Boochani’s legs as he sinks and surfaces amid violent waves. A British boat approaches: ‘our gruelling odyssey has come to an end’. Having faced death in those underwater moments, Boochani reflects that ‘even a brush with mortality gives life a marvellous sense of meaning’.' (Introduction)