Book review

Behrouz Boochani No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison (Picador 2018)

No Friend but the Mountains was written largely by text message in the Farsi language from Manus Island Prison by Iranian Kurdish writer, journalist, poet, activist and refugee spokesperson Behrouz Boochani. Behrouz has been a detainee (for the past five years) on Manus Island Prison. He also co-directed the 2017 film Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time.

To avoid his writing being stolen by guards this book was largely thumbed by Behrouz in thousands of text messages on his mobile phones and smuggled to Sydney for a collaborative effort of writing, planning, translation and publication.

Behrouz’s writing convey a truthful first hand experience of what it’s like to be detained on an Australian offshore detention centre. His writing makes the prolonged discomfit, duress and psychological torture he and others have endured since landing on Manus Island very real. Behrouz’s poetry is interspersed throughout the writing . . . at times creating beautiful images of the island and sea but more often highlighting the pain and suffering of individuals there.

The book’s translator Omid Tofighian writes that Behrouz’s main objective is to highlight the systemic torture in Manus Prison. The book is a call to action to move readers and to inspire them to resist the mindset that is driving Australia’s detention regime. On 30 October an IEU group attended the Unions for Refugees book launch for No friend but the Mountains. Behrouz spoke from Manus Island and thanked the large audience for their support. Speaking alongside him were Michele O’Neil ACTU President, Penny Howard, Maritime Union of Australia and Paul Murphy, Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance.

Further actions

During November members organised to ‘wear blue for Nauru’ 'Kids off everyone off' and post pics on social media and the IEU’s Facebook page.

Palm Sunday Rallies for refugees on Palm Sunday 14 April 2019 offer another opportunity to campaign on this issue.

Read, discuss, book club No Friend but the Mountains.

IEU is offering our members a special chance to get a free copy of this book. Email entries to No Friend but the Mountains in the subject line and your name, membership number and address in the body of the email. All entries to be received by 14 January 2019.

Ann-Maree McEwan