When ten-year-old Enaiatollah Akbari's small village in Afghanistan falls prey to Taliban rule in early 2000, his mother shepherds the boy across the border into Pakistan but has to leave him there all alone to fend for himself. Thus begins Enaiat's remarkable and often punishing five-year ordeal, which takes him through Iran, Turkey, and Greece before he seeks political asylum in Italy at the age of fifteen.
Along the way, Enaiat endures the crippling physical and emotional agony of dangerous border crossings, trekking across bitterly cold mountain pathways for days on end or being stuffed into the false bottom of a truck. But not everyone is as resourceful, resilient, or lucky as Enaiat, and there are many heart-wrenching casualties along the way.
Based on Enaiat's close collaboration with Italian novelist Fabio Geda and expertly rendered in English by an award-winning translator, this novel reconstructs the young boy's memories, perfectly preserving the childlike perspective and rhythms of an intimate oral history.
Told with humor and humanity, In the Sea There Are Crocodiles brilliantly captures Enaiat's moving and engaging voice and lends urgency to an epic story of hope and survival.
Every now and then, a quiet, little book comes along that really grabs the attention of readers. The voice and tone of a book like this requires your full concentration - as though an old storyteller were sitting in the room with you... you lean in, just a little closer, listening carefully so as to not miss a single word of his tale. In the Sea There Are Crocodiles, the first work of Italian author Fabio Geda to be translated into English, is just such a tale. Our narrator, Enaiatollah Akbari, is quiet and calm, but his words, his story, are anything but serene. (Reviewed by Jennifer Dawson Oakes).
The Boston Globe
An intriguing story... [and] understated sense of humor, even when he recalls horrible scenes... quite dramatic.
A small book with a big story to tell... compelling narrative that maintains the youthful voice of this remarkable boy... undeniably eye-opening... What makes In the Sea There Are Crocodiles so persuasive is the boy's voice, beautifully captured by Geda.
The book is simply written, and strangely distant emotionally, but gives a face to the refugees who face daunting odds to get to the West.
Geda has crafted a deeply compelling novel about the cruelty and kindness of strangers and the strength of one man's will to survive even when the world seems bent against his success.
Starred Review. One marvels that Enaiat has told his life adventure to Italian author Geda, and while the novelist has evidently shaped Enaiat's story for publication, at its core is an authentic, open and marvelous voice of youthful exuberance.
[T]here's no shortage of heart-breaking trials to be faced... Enaiat's daring adventure is ideally suited for young adults, but older readers will find in it a deeper layer of investigation of the humanity of strangers and the power of family.
The Financial Times
Reminds us that Afghanistan's current woes did not begin with the American invasion of 2001... And so it goes on, almost unimaginable horrors related with a lack of sentiment and bombast... [a] remarkable story.
The Guardian (UK)
More than stand up as a page-turner that makes you care about its hero from the outset and willingly accompany him on his often perilous journey from Afghanistan to Italy. That it is based on reality makes it more than just a compelling adventure story. ...Salutary and humane, In the Sea There Are Crocodiles... deserves to be read widely by young and older readers alike.
The Times (UK)
Chilling... beautiful... heart-warming.
The Independent (UK)
It's sobering and heart lifting to see the stoical determination and achievement of someone who makes our world look like paradise. This little gem, beautifully and unobtrusively translated, will raise tears of sorrow and joy.
The Washington Post
This gripping, strangely sweet tale... captures the young man's open-hearted tone just right... Reading of Akbari's efforts to find a better life - alone and at an age when children in our country can't even drive yet - will leave you shaken, but his resilient joy leavens the story even when he's toiling for 90 hours a week at dangerous work in a locked warehouse, crossing the snow-covered mountains from Iran to Turkey on foot, or hiding in the false bottom of a truck "like grains of rice squeezed in someone's hand." The lovely rapport between Akbari and Geda comes across now and then when the journalist interrupts to prod him for more detail, gently reminding him just how extraordinary his experience is.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Louise J Intense The true story of Enaiatollah Akbari is one wrought with immense courage. It took a great deal of courage, fortitude, determination, and resilience to accomplish what Enaiatollah did at such a young age. It boggles my mind that a very young... Read More
Rated of 5
by Chris Coming of Age Refugee Style Thank you to BookBrowse for recommending this book to me. In comparison to” A Long Way Gone", the story of a young boy's daunting walk out of Darfur, “In the Sea There are Crocodiles” is not as graphic and disturbing , yet just as hideous... Read More
The Hazara people - a long-persecuted and long-suffering population - are an Iranian ethnic group living in central Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan. First mention of the Hazara is believed to have occurred in the late 16th century when the term was used to describe the people of the geographic location bordered by Kabul, Ghor, and Gazhni, in the central and mountainous regions of Afghanistan. (See dark green area on map below.)
As noted in In the Sea There Are Crocodiles (and, coincidentally, in Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner), the Hazara are a marginalized population. They are predominantly viewed as a lesser people and the lowest of the caste system. Comprised mostly of practicing Shi'a Muslims, the Hazara beliefs are considered to be in direct conflict with the ruling Sunni Muslims, who make up the majority of the population of Afghanistan....
At once an incredible chronicle of thirty years of Afghan history and a deeply moving story of family, friendship, faith, and the salvation to be found in love.
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