Introducing Behrouz Boochani: prize-winning refugee writer
Picador is proud to be publishing Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish-Iranian refugee writer who has been detained on Manus Island for six years and written his memoir via hundreds of secret Whatsapp messages.
Behrouz Boochani is the Kurdish-Iranian refugee writer who won Australia’s most valuable literary prize, the Victorian Premier’s Prize for Literature. While being illegally detained by the Australian government on Manus Island, Boochani wrote his memoir via hundreds of secret Whatsapp messages. Picador is proud to publish his prize-winning book, No Friend But the Mountains.
Behrouz Boochani is a journalist, scholar, writer and filmmaker with a Masters degree in political geography and geopolitics. In 2013 he fled Iran and became a political prisoner of the Australian Government. For the past six years he has been incarcerated in the Manus Regional Processing Centre on Manus Island.
During his time trapped on the island, Boochani wrote his extraordinary memoir, No Friend But the Mountains, via hundreds of secretly tapped out Whatsapp messages. These were painstakingly organised message by message into a manuscript which was then translated from the Farsi to English by translator Dr Omid Tofighian.
The result is an astonishing account of what it is to be a refugee today as borders close around the globe. It opens with a deadly boat journey from Indonesia to Australia and then depicts daily life in cruel imprisonment on the island, battling for survival, sanity and dignity in degrading conditions.
In January 2019 the book won Australia’s most valuable literary prize, the Victoria Premier’s Prize for Literature, drawing attention not just to Boochani’s work but to the plight of refugees on Manus Island and around the world. Boochani was unable to collect his prize in person due to his detention, but recorded a moving and passionate acceptance speech.
In his prize acceptance speech Behrouz Boochani said ‘I believe that literature has the potential to make change and challenge structures of power. Literature has the power to give us freedom . . . I have been in a cage for years but throughout this time my mind has always been producing words, and these words have taken me across borders, taken me overseas and to unknown places. I truly believe words are more powerful than the fences of this place, this prison.’
While imprisoned on the island, Boochani has not only written a book, but has also written articles for international news outlets, including The Guardian, detailing his experiences and the conditions on Manus Island. He also collaborated on the documentary Chuaka, Please Tell Us the Time, with Dutch-Iranian filmmaker Arash Kamali Sarvestani. The documentary was recorded inside the detention centre, entirely on a mobile phone which was kept hidden from the authorities.
To understand more about Manus Island, and the 600 male refugees that have been detained there for six years, watch the video below.