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 ...
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).
Full Review (1070 words).
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 ...
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