No Friend but the Mountains

No Friend but the Mountains

Writing from Manus Prison

Written by: Boochani, Behrouz
Translated by: Tofighian, Omid

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Winner of Australia’s richest literary award, No Friend but the Mountains is Kurdish-Iranian journalist and refugee Behrouz Boochani’s account of his detainment on Australia’s notorious Manus Island prison. Composed entirely by text message, this work represents the harrowing experience of stateless and imprisoned refugees and migrants around the world.

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 vivid portrait of five years of incarceration and exile. Winner of the Victorian Prize for Literature, No Friend but the Mountains is an extraordinary account — one that is disturbingly representative of the experience of the many stateless and imprisoned refugees and migrants around the world.

“Our government jailed his body, but his soul remained that of a free man.” — From the Foreword by Man Booker Prize–winning author Richard Flanagan

Winner of Australia’s richest literary award, No Friend but the Mountains is Kurdish-Iranian journalist and refugee Behrouz Boochani’s account of his detainment on Australia’s notorious Manus Island prison. Composed entirely by text message, this work represents the harrowing experience of stateless and imprisoned refugees and migrants around the world.

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 vivid portrait of five years of incarceration and exile. Winner of the Victorian Prize for Literature, No Friend but the Mountains is an extraordinary account — one that is disturbingly representative of the experience of the many stateless and imprisoned refugees and migrants around the world.

“Our government jailed his body, but his soul remained that of a free man.” — From the Foreword by Man Booker Prize–winning author Richard Flanagan

Published By House of Anansi Press Inc — Feb 11, 2019
Specifications 416 pages | 6 in x 9 in
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Excerpt
Written By

BEHROUZ BOOCHANI is a Kurdish-Iranian writer, journalist, scholar, cultural advocate, and filmmaker. His memoir, No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison, won the Victorian Prize for Literature, Australia’s richest literary prize, and the Victorian Premier’s Prize for Nonfiction. Boochani has written for the Kurdish-language magazine Werya; is an Honorary Member of PEN International; won the 2017 Amnesty International Australia Media Award, the Diaspora Symposium Social Justice Award, the Liberty Victoria 2018 Empty Chair Award, and the Anna Politkovskaya Award for journalism; and is non-resident Visiting Scholar at the Sydney Asia Pacific Migration Centre (SAPMiC), University of Sydney. He publishes regularly with the Guardian, and his writing also features in the Saturday Paper, HuffPost, New Matilda, the Financial Times, and the Sydney Morning Herald. Boochani is also co-director (with Arash Kamali Sarvestani) of the 2017 feature-length film Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time, and collaborator on Nazanin Sahamizadeh’s play Manus. He graduated from Tarbiat Moallem University and Tarbiat Modares University, both in Tehran; and he holds a Master’s degree in political science, political geography, and geopolitics.

Written By

BEHROUZ BOOCHANI is a Kurdish-Iranian writer, journalist, scholar, cultural advocate, and filmmaker. His memoir, No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison, won the Victorian Prize for Literature, Australia’s richest literary prize, and the Victorian Premier’s Prize for Nonfiction. Boochani has written for the Kurdish-language magazine Werya; is an Honorary Member of PEN International; won the 2017 Amnesty International Australia Media Award, the Diaspora Symposium Social Justice Award, the Liberty Victoria 2018 Empty Chair Award, and the Anna Politkovskaya Award for journalism; and is non-resident Visiting Scholar at the Sydney Asia Pacific Migration Centre (SAPMiC), University of Sydney. He publishes regularly with the Guardian, and his writing also features in the Saturday Paper, HuffPost, New Matilda, the Financial Times, and the Sydney Morning Herald. Boochani is also co-director (with Arash Kamali Sarvestani) of the 2017 feature-length film Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time, and collaborator on Nazanin Sahamizadeh’s play Manus. He graduated from Tarbiat Moallem University and Tarbiat Modares University, both in Tehran; and he holds a Master’s degree in political science, political geography, and geopolitics.

Winner, Victorian Prize for Literature

Winner, Victorian Premier’s Prize for Nonfiction

Winner, NSW Premier’s Literary Award: Special Award

Winner, ABIA General Non-Fiction Book of the Year

Winner, State Library New South Wales National Biography Award

Nominated, Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award: Autobiography & Memoir

Winner, Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award: Editor’s Choice (Nonfiction)

Commended, A New Statesman Book of the Year

“A stateless Kurdish-Iranian asylum-seeker detained by the Australian government won the country’s highest-paying literary prize on Thursday. But he could not attend the festivities to accept the award. Behrouz Boochani, a writer, journalist and filmmaker who has been held in offshore detention on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea for more than five years, won the 2019 Victorian Prize for Literature for his book, No Friend but the Mountains . . . Typically, only Australian citizens or permanent residents are eligible for the award. But an exception was made in Mr. Boochani’s case because judges considered his story an Australia story, said Michael Williams, the director of the Wheeler Center, a literary institution that administers the award on behalf of the state government. ‘We canvassed the critical and broader literary reception of the book, and we made our decision on that basis,’ Mr. Williams said. ‘This is an extraordinary literary work that is an indelible contribution to Australian publishing and storytelling.” —New York Times

“Boochani tapped his book out in text messages to his friend Omid Tofighian, who translated the book from Persian. Before the book was published, Boochani filmed a movie, Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time, which was shot in secret, on his cell phone. He has written many articles and essays for Australian and international media. He now holds a non-resident appointment at the University of Sydney. In a different place, or at a different time, these professional recognitions, to say nothing of his many literary awards, would have signalled that Boochani is integrated into Australian society, and valued by it. But Australia’s extreme anti-immigrant turn, which preceded that of the United States by several years, has created a stark disjuncture between what the culture values and what the state allows. In an era when simply being a person in need of international protection makes a man a criminal, he cannot live in the society that has showered him with praise.” —The New Yorker

“No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison is an extraordinary insight into the life of several hundred men held in offshore prisons under the Australian policy of immigration detention.” —Los Angeles Review of Books

“The winner of Australia’s richest literary prize did not attend the ceremony. His absence was not by choice. Behrouz Boochani, whose debut book won both the $25,000 non-fiction prize at the Victorian premier’s literary awards and the $100,000 Victorian prize for literature on Thursday night, is not allowed into Australia. The Kurdish Iranian writer is an asylum seeker who has been kept in purgatory on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea for almost six years, first behind the wire of the Australian offshore detention centre, and then in alternative accommodation on the island. Now his book No Friend but the Mountains — composed one text message at a time from within the detention centre — has been recognized by a government from the same country that denied him access and locked him up.” —Guardian

“As war, crime, famine, and civil disruption result in growing numbers of asylum seekers, Boochani’s deeply disturbing memoir introduces readers to hard realities and reveals the wounded hearts of captors and prisoners alike.” —Foreword Reviews


“No Friend but the Mountains by Behrouz Boochani will always belong to the canon of literature written under great duress and courage. This unique book should be read by all who care about the stories of our time. No Friend but the Mountains reminds us that no matter how different we may be from one another, whether it’s the colour of our skin, the god we pray to, where we are born, or where we call home, that we have words, language, and literature in common. I celebrate the courage of Boochani, who has pursued this ideal, this love of writing, and the faith in words as a tool to inform, to be a doorway to new and unexpected worlds, challenge tyrannies, and seek justice.” —Jennifer Clement

“Under atrocious conditions [Behrouz Boochani] has managed to write and publish a record of his experiences (experiences yet to be concluded), a record that will certainly leave his jailers gnashing their teeth . . . No Friend but the Mountains provides a wholly engrossing account of the first four years that Boochani spent on Manus, up to the time when the prison camp was closed and the prisoners resettled elsewhere on the island. Just as absorbing is his analysis of the system that reigns in the camp, a system imposed by the Australian authorities but autonomous in the sense that it holds the jailers as well as the prisoners in its grip . . . [No Friend but the Mountains is] the absorbing record of a life-transforming episode whose effects on his inner self the writer is still trying to plumb.” —J.M. Coetzee

“No Friend but the Mountains deserves a place beside some of the world’s most famous prison narratives and testaments about living in a time of genocide, slavery, and state-sponsored oppression. It brings to mind various literary siblings: the ways in which The Diary of Anne Frank sketched the life of a young girl in the period leading up to her murder in the Holocaust; how Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl painted Harriet Jacobs’s life as a fugitive in the United States; the means by which One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn showed the daily oppression of a man living in a Soviet gulag; how The Autobiography of Malcolm X charted the movement of a man through prison life and into militancy as the most famous Black Muslim in America; and how Martin Luther King Jr. condemned arbitrary imprisonment and racial segregation in The Letter from Birmingham Jail . . . In a time of mounting hysteria and paranoia with regard to the arrival of migrants in developed countries, Behrouz Boochani reminds us that 68.5 million displaced people in the world today are the same as us. We could be them, tomorrow.” —Lawrence Hill