In The Sea There Are Crocodiles - Fabio Geda

Hi everyone!

My translated fiction reading has been a bit slow this summer but it is coming back in force with this review of the Italian best-seller In The Sea there Are Crocodiles and my future Japanese YA novels week (21-27 November!) which will be co-hosted by the lovely Nina and Katy at Death Books and Tea!

Summary from Amazon:

One night before putting him to bed, Enaiatollah’s mother tells him three things: don’t use drugs, don’t use weapons, don’t steal. The next day he wakes up to find she isn’t there. Ten-year-old Enaiatollah is left alone in Pakistan to fend for himself.

In a book that takes a true story and shapes it into a beautiful piece of fiction, Italian novelist Fabio Geda describes Enaiatollah’s remarkable five-year journey from Afghanistan to Italy where he finally managed to claim political asylum aged fifteen. His ordeal took him through Iran, Turkey and Greece, working on building sites in order to pay people-traffickers, and enduring the physical misery of dangerous border crossings squeezed into the false bottoms of lorries or trekking across inhospitable mountains. A series of almost implausible strokes of fortune enabled him to get to Turin, find help from an Italian family and meet Fabio Geda, with whom he became friends.
The result of their friendship is this unique book in which Enaiatollah’s engaging, moving voice is brilliantly captured by Geda’s subtly simple storytelling. In Geda’s hands, Enaiatollah’s journey becomes a universal story of stoicism in the face of fear, and the search for a place where life is liveable.


You are not going to be surprised if I say that I adored this book, right?
I know, I know what you're going to say, I *always* love the translated books I review in my Lost in Translation feature, and I keep telling you how much you *need* to read them, so much that I'm turning into the boy who cried wolf and you don't believe me anymore.
But guess what? This one, you really do need to read it! No really!

This story is a real eye opener. Not only do you see life through the eyes of someone from a foreign culture and country, but you also see how things are like in countries who do not have the chance to be democraties and you see the theme of immigration through the point of view of the immigrant. Enaiatollah is sent out of Afghanistan by his mother who wishes him to survive and not be a casualty of the Talibans which had taken over the country. His travels bring him to Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece and Italy. He is just a child yet he manages to get through countries and survive very hard conditions. 

What is fascinating to see are the similarities between our culture (Western European that is) and Enaiatollah's, and I think that is why it is important to read this book. Enaiatollah is a regular little boy, he lives with his family, he plays ball with the other children in the village and he really likes to go to school (though he'd rather play outside!). People in his village are not Talibans and are on the contrary bullied by them. From his very early years, Enaiatollah witnesses his teacher getting killed. 
There are some real heart-breaking moments in the book and Enaiatollah meets many people, some of which happen to help him, others who will hurt him. Any random act of kindness is remembered and cherished by Enaiatollah but he doesn't blame the ones who hurt him. I found him to be full of love, for the people around him that he comes across, but also for the countries and the different cultures he encounters. Enaiatollah proves to have a real hunger to learn and to live.

The book is a conversation between the writer, Fabio Geda, and Enaiatollah Akbari who is now an adult and sometimes, Fabio or Enaiatollah come out of the story to clarify one point or discuss bigger themes and I found it to be really interesting because everything is put in perspective and the book becomes more than just a story.

What I loved about this book is that Enaiatollah, no matter how horrible and dangerous the things he goes through are, doesn't lose faith. He doesn't even think he is to be pitied. I mean he is just a kid when he leaves his country and moves into territories which have some of the harshest life conditions on this planet and yet he doesn't give up. This is an incredibly uplifting story, it makes me believe that anything in life is possible and anything can be achieved by pretty much anyone. 

This book is quite simply breathtaking and is a wonderful way to get to see the world through the eyes of an Afghan child in his journey to find a new place to call home.

Info: It is fine for both boys and girls. There are some violent bits in it so younger children might find this a bit hard to read if not reading with an adult who can explain some things (which would be a great way to approach the book).

Thanks to RHCB for the proof copy!

In The Sea There Are Crocodiles, by Fabio Geda | 2011 | RHCB | Proof copy from publisher