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No Friend but the Mountains

Writing from Manus Prison
Length: 13 hrs and 1 min
4.5 out of 5 stars (58 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Winner of the ABIA audiobook of the year 2020.

In 2013, Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani was illegally detained on Manus Island. 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 firsthand account. A cry of resistance. A vivid portrait through five years of incarceration and exile.

At the time of recording, Behrouz was still being held on Manus Island. Normally the author is given the opportunity to read his own words but because he was not able to participate, a chorus of advocates have come together to speak not so much for Behrouz but with him.

Narrated by Richard Flanagan, Mathilda Imlah, Geoffrey Robertson, Janet Galbraith, Thomas Keneally, Sarah Dale, Yumi Stynes, Isobelle Carmody, Benjamin Law and Omid Tofighian.

Where have I come from? From the land of rivers, the land of waterfalls, the land of ancient chants, the land of mountains.... 

People would run to the mountains to escape the warplanes and found asylum within their chestnut forests.... 

Do Kurds have any friends other than the mountains?  

Winner of the Victorian Premier's Literary Prize for Literature and the Prize for Non-Fiction 2019.

Winner of the NSW Premier's Award 2019.

Winner of the Abia General Fiction Book of the Year 2019.

Winner of the National Biography Award 2019.

Inaugural Winner of the Behrouz Boochani Award for Services to Anthropology.

Finalist for the Terzani Prize 2020.

Longlisted for the Colin Roderick Literary Award 2019.

©2019 Behrouz Boochani (P)2019 Pan Macmillan AU

Critic Reviews

"Our government jailed his body, but his soul remained that of a free man." (Richard Flanagan)

"The most important Australian book published in 2018." (Robert Manne)

"A powerful account...made me feel ashamed and outraged. Behrouz's writing is lyrical and poetic, though the horrors he describes are unspeakable." (Sofie Laguna)

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    5 out of 5 stars

First-rate story, third-rate narration

I wanted to love this book. The story is timely and urgent, and ought to be on high school English curriculums and bestseller lists. Unfortunately, the audiobook narration was shared by several different people, who are mostly writers rather than gifted actors or narrators. It was difficult to fully immerse myself in the author's intimate story as every chapter was told by someone else, in wildly unpredictable styles that ranged from amused theatrics to monotone speedreading. This was frustrating, disappointing, and destroyed the story-telling magic for me. I wish the publisher would re-release this audiobook with only one narrator - preferably someone who makes a living from performing, rather than writing, words - so that this moving, unique and hopefully soon-to-be classic, memoir can have the treatment it deserves.

9 people found this helpful

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Fascinating story.

I just can say WOW. Amazing work and real life story. I was trying to imagine myself in characters described in the book and yet its tough life. We are all behind you guys. One more step to freedom. Keep up the good work.

2 people found this helpful

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Brilliant & powerful, a must-read

A masterpiece, maybe the most important book I’ve read. Every Australian should read this book and discover the truth about our Government. The narrators were fantastic, they made the story come alive.

2 people found this helpful

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Too many cooks

This is a well-known book in Australia, and the winner of some major awards, even though its author remains trapped on Manus Island, or Manus Prison as he calls it. I was most impressed by the book, though wondered how much I missed or misunderstood, from my total ignorance of Kurdish or Farsi literary traditions. However, I did not appreciate the many readers enlisted to read it. This is very much an autobiographical work, and therefore best heard by a reader doing a good acting job, ie 'becoming' Behrouz Boochani for the listener. To have several readers, as this audio book does, takes away from that possibility. Inevitably some readers are better than others - indeed I found a couple of them quite poor, with voices best kept well away from a microphone. With the 'celebrity' readers, Richard Flanagan, Geoffrey Robertson, Tom Keneally and Ben Law, it was hard to think beyond these well-known voices and personalities.
I could not stand the very frequent use of the invented word 'kyrarchial' - not invented by Boochani, I realize, but used by him often. I thought it was 'hierachical' mispronounced, at first, and indeed that word might have been used most of the time. It is not easy to adjust to such a specialist term like 'kyrarchial', and introduces the impression that this is an academic work. That impression is heightened by the long introduction and afterword by the (no doubt excellent) translator. Both of these seemed to me to urge us to read the book in certain ways, not to form our own impressions of the book unaided.

1 person found this helpful

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Powerful

Everyone Australian should read this to know just what we are capable of. Our collective shame is on display for the world in this book.

1 person found this helpful

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For every Australian

This is profoundly challenging hearing the truth of systematic torture on asylum seekers by our government. We can do better Australia.

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every Australian should read this

A wonderful piece of writing. It's humanity radiates from each word. Disturbing and profound.

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Overwhelming

Overwhelmed and ashamed of being Australian in the horrific way we treat people who are forcwd to flee their own beloved country.
There, but for the Grace of God, go I

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Profile Image for Anthony
  • Anthony
  • 29-12-2019

Must read for all Australians

Impressive documentation by Behrouz Boochani of the abusive regime established by the Australian right-wing government to discourage asylum seekers from trying to get to Australia by boat. Boochani smuggled via telephone messages and social media fragments of text documenting the micro-abuses that structured every hour of every day in Australia’s asylum detention system. The cruelty and indignities are carefully described along with commentary about the political purpose behind this inhumane system.

Boochani and Omid Tofighian, the translator, collaborated closely in representing and interpreting this work. Parts of it are extraordinarily powerful, including prose-poems by Boochani.

The audiobook is read by a range of well known human rights activists and journalists and includes an extensive discussion by the translator of how he and Boochani approached the work.

An important book that shames Australia’s policies toward asylum seekers. Most Australians do not approve of this cruel securitised approach to an humanitarian issue.

Australia can do so much better but the community will need to be far more active in demanding change to the abusive system still in place.

1 person found this helpful