In 2013, Kurdish-Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani was illegally detained on Manus Island, a refugee detention centre off the coast of Australia. He has been there ever since. This book is the result. Laboriously tapped out on a mobile phone and translated from the Farsi. It is a voice of witness, an act of survival. A lyric first-hand account. A cry of resistance. A portrait of five years of incarceration and exile.
... an extraordinary insight into the life of several hundred men held in offshore prisons under the Australian policy of immigration detention ... [Boochani's] writing was smuggled out via text message over a period of several years, collated by his interpreter Moones Mansoubi, and translated into English by Omid Tofighian. The result is a lyrical but also suffocating evocation of aimless days under the baking sun, dehumanizing queues, essential and often absurd acts of resistance, banal abuse, and extreme violence ... No Friend but the Mountains allows us to rethink the violence of these offshore sites as integral, not alien, to Australian society ... While its author remains officially unwelcome and unwanted, No Friend but the Mountains won two prestigious prizes at the 2019 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards. But it deserves, and will have, a much wider readership. As a detailed reading of colonial power, Boochani’s book charts a global landscape of fortified borders, spaces of removal, and policies of dehumanization.
If it were a piece of fiction, this intense account of being rescued would settle after its zenith...But Boochani’s work is not fiction, and respite is illusory ... No Friend But the Mountains is a work of witness. Richard Flanagan, in his foreword, acknowledges the ‘near impossibility of its existence’ ... The work transcends memoir, especially because Boochani is often self-effacing. The blaze and flicker of his self-assessment limns a more empathetic project through which he examines larger questions of the nature of human behaviour and the search for an adequate way to name and anatomise the cruel experiment that is offshore detention ... Boochani is a prodigiously gifted poet and prose stylist. There are few false notes.
Boochani has created a book that resists classification ... No Friend but the Mountains is a form of communication that emerges from sites of state violence; antagonism against people crossing borders for safety and freedom ... Both a profound creative writing project and a strategic act of resistance, the book is part of a coherent theoretical project and critical approach ... This book is a scathing critique of a modern form of systematic torture and the way border politics has been weaponised by nation-states ... The style, tone, form and content of No Friend but the Mountains reflects the mode of production; in fact, these features of the book and the writing and translation process are conditioned by the lived experience and endurance of the author, and the difficulties we encountered as we struggled to complete the translation.