The Ungrateful Refugee
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:
On Behrouz Boochani’s No Friend But the Mountains: