The Ungrateful Refugee

Tue 05.11.2019
20:00 - 21:30
Dina Nayeri C Anna Leader





€ 9 / 7 presale ; € 10 / 8 at the door


in English

In recent years, we have heard a lot about the refugee issue. Yet we can hardly imagine what it must be like: how does it feel to be a refugee? Dina Nayeri and Behrouz Boochani can answer this question all too well. The writer-refugees talk about their experiences and those of their fellow sufferers.

Dina Nayeri: making her own happiness

Her life reads like a fairy tale, yet is anything but. In 1988 Dina Nayeri fled from Iran at the age of 8 with her mother and brother. The reason: Dina’s mother had converted to Christianity, and this could have cost her her life. The three of them ended up in a dilapidated Italian hotel that had been transformed into a refugee camp. They eventually were granted asylum in the US, the father staying behind in Iran. In the US, Nayeri studied at Princeton and Harvard, worked for a large consultancy company and became a celebrated writer.

The Ungrateful Refugee

In her new non-fiction work, the literary reportage The Ungrateful Refugee, Nayeri interweaves her own life story with that of fellow sufferers. With surprising and provocative questions, she sounds out the essence: what is it like, being a refugee? Nayeri sketches real, human stories about what it means to have to flee your home, to cross borders and to start all over again.


Behrouz Boochani: whistle-blower for refugees

Behrouz Boochani will also take part in this evening, albeit via Skype: the Iranian-Kurdish journalist has been detained since 2013 on Manus, an island that belongs to Papua New Guinea and to which Australia deported many of its refugees. Although the detention centre on the island has been closed since 2017, Boochani remains on Manus. During his forced stay on Manus, Boochani used a secret mobile phone to send accounts about life in the detention centre to newspapers such as The Guardian and The Sydney Morning Herald and to organizations such as the Refugee Action Collective and the United Nations, exposing abuses.

No Friend But the Mountains

Boochani released his memoirs in 2018. No Friend But the Mountains is a vivid portrait of five years of imprisonment and exile. It is a moving testimony, an act of survival. Boochani wrote his book in prison via Whatsapp, out of fear that his work would be confiscated. Early this year he won the prestigious Australian prize, the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, in both the fiction and non-fiction categories. The jury described it as: ‘a stunning work of art and critical theory which evades simple description … a literary triumph, devastating and transcendent.’

On Dina Nayeri’s The Ungrateful Refugee:

‘This is a humane and compelling book that seeks to make human those demonised by the media and governing bodies for so long. Nayeri is never sentimental and her accounts of refugee lives, including her own, are unflinching, complex, provocative and important’
Nikesh Shukla
‘Dina Nayeri has written a vital book for our times. The Ungrateful Refugee gives voice to those whose stories are too often lost or suppressed. Braiding memoir, reportage and essayism, Nayeri allows those fortunate enough to have never been stateless or displaced to glimpse something of the hardships and subtleties of the refugee experience. Written with compassion, tenderness and a burning anger, her book appears at the end of a decade in which division and dislocation have risen to a terrible pitch. It speaks powerfully from – and to – the heart. Please read it’.
Robert Macfarlane

On Behrouz Boochani’s No Friend But the Mountains:

‘No Friend but the Mountains can rightly take its place on the shelf of world prison literature… It is a profound victory for a young poet who showed us all how much words can still matter’ .
Richard Flanagan.
Passa Porta, L&M Books, Orlando, Jurgen Maas
Photo Dina Nayeri © Anna Leader
Photo Behrouz Boochani © Hoda Afshar

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