Summary and book reviews of In the Sea There are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda

In the Sea There are Crocodiles

Based on the True Story of Enaiatollah Akbari

By Fabio Geda

In the Sea There are Crocodiles
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  • Hardcover: Aug 2011,
    224 pages.
    Paperback: Jun 2012,
    224 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Jennifer Dawson Oakes

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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

I met Enaiatollah Akbari at a book presentation where I was speaking about my first novel, the story of a Romanian boy's life as an immigrant in Italy. Enaiatollah came up to me and said he'd had a similar experience. We got talking. And we didn't stop. I never tired of listening to his experiences, and he didn't tire of dredging them from his memory. After we'd known each other for a while, he asked me if I would write his story down, so that people who had suffered similar things could know they were not alone, and so that others might understand them better.
This book is therefore based on a true story. But, of course, Enaiatollah didn't remember it all perfectly. Together we painstakingly reconstructed his journey, looking at maps, consulting Google, trying to create a chronology for his fragmented memories. I have tried to be as true to his voice as possible, retelling the story exactly as he told it. But for all that, this book must be considered fiction, since it is the ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. The novel is narrated by someone recalling their childhood experiences. How does this affect your reading of the story? Do you feel more or less sympathetic than if it had been in the present tense? Do you always believe the narrator?


  2. Does knowing that this is a true story affect the way you read the novel? Are Enaiatollah's questions of Fabio throughout the novel meant to remind you that this is true?


  3. There are very few female characters encountered in the novel - why do you think this is?


  4. Overall, do you find Enaiatollah's story uplifting or heartbreaking? Is any of it hard to comprehend? Which sections affected you most?


  5. If Enaiatollah's story had been published as a non-fiction memoir, do you think your ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

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).

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Media Reviews
The Boston Globe

An intriguing story... [and] understated sense of humor, even when he recalls horrible scenes... quite dramatic.

Bookpage

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.

Publishers Weekly

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.

Library Journal

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.

Kirkus Reviews

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.

Booklist

[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.

Reader Reviews
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 10-year...   Read More

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 and...   Read More

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The Persecution of the Hazara People

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.)

Hazara Map

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 ...

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