No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison.

AuthorKarelia, Marja

Boochani, Behrouz. No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison. Translated by Omid Tofighian. Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2019.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than eighty million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced in recent decades because of persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations, and war. As a result of the huge influx of migrating populations, many countries have closed their borders to migrants, leading to the establishment of refugee camps around the world. One such camp was established on Manus Island off the coast of Papua New Guinea. It was officially referred to as Manus Island Regional Processing Centre, functioning under Australian jurisdiction.

Yet no processing seems to have taken place on Manus Island; it was effectively a refugee detention center with prison-like conditions. No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison, written by Behrouz Boochani, exposes life at Manus prison to the outside world from an insider's perspective. Boochani is a Kurdish-Iranian journalist, writer, and filmmaker who was illegally detained on Manus Island for more than five years after being forcibly taken there in 2013. He and other asylum seekers had traveled thousands of miles hoping for freedom in Australia, but due to the country's borders being closed to asylum seekers, their journey continued to Manus Island. Boochani asks: "Why did I have to arrive in Australia exactly four days after they effected a merciless law" (89)?

No Friend but the Mountains is an autobiographical account of Boochani's experiences and observations while detained in Manus Island prison. He tapped the book on various smuggled-in mobile phones on WhatsApp and sent it to his contacts in Australia by thousands of text messages. Although the book begins with descriptions of near-death experiences and starvation during his journey from Indonesia to Papua New Guinea by truck and by boat, the majority of the narrative refers to his forced detention in the Manus Island prison.

Boochani considers writing an act of resistance, an action to expose the unjust treatment of the prisoners on Manus Island. His writing is a blend of prose and poetry while many segments of his prose also reveal poetic tendencies. Writing music and poetry provided him relief from the atrocious conditions of the camp. True to his journalistic profession, Boochani describes events as an observer, as if he were an...

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