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No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  1,622 ratings  ·  281 reviews
Where have I come from? From the land of rivers, the land of waterfalls, the land of ancient chants, the land of mountains...

In 2013, Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani was illegally detained on Manus Island. He has been there ever since.

People would run to the mountains to escape the warplanes and found asylum within their chestnut forests...

This book is the result. La
Audiobook, Unabridged
Published July 19th 2019 by Picador (first published July 31st 2018)
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4.19  · 
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 ·  1,622 ratings  ·  281 reviews

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Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Begin mandatory reading. End mandatory detention.
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For three days I have been locked inside a hell that I can still barely fathom, one that I experienced on the page, but that Behrouz Boochani and his fellow prisoners on Manus Island have lived for over five years. What's worse was the knowledge that we have all been made accomplice to their suffering.

No Friend But The Mountains is a masterpiece of prisoner literature, up there with Solzhenitsyn and Levi (and no, I'm not going the Godwin's Law route, but I had visceral shivers reading some of t
Jan 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-harder-2019
Winner of The Victorian Prize for Literature, and the Prize for Non-Fiction, Victorian Premier's Literary Awards 2019

Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani fled persecution in Iran in 2013. He attempted to make his way to Australia by boat but was instead captured and imprisoned on Manus Island in hellish conditions for five years. This book was tapped out in thousands of text messages in Farsi, and translated into English by Omid Tofighian.

Any review here is bound to be totally inadequate. How do
“My mother always sighed and would say: ‘My boy, you came into this world in a time we called the flee and flight years.’

In his poem, “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote of the disastrous ride of the 600 into the Valley of Death: “Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them, Cannon in front of them volleyed and thundered; Stormed at with shot and shell. . . ”

But for the Kurds, living in Kurdistan, (now mostly part of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria), they weren’t
Nikola Leka
Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a masterpiece. It is unique in the prison literature- tapped out in Farsi on a mobile phone from Australia's offshore version of Guatanamo- Manus Island prison, where successive Australian governments have imprisoned innocent people without charge indefinitely.

The first three chapters are absolutely harrowing, a pace that has your heart hammering and your hands sweating with anxiety and fear- and then in flips into a description of the gratuitous cruelty of the insane system that rules t
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

It is nothing short of a triumph of human spirit and resilience in the face of insurmountable odds that I am sitting here reading this book, in its current format, in English. This wonderful book was compiled over time, translated from Farsi, and smuggled out of Manus Island from thousands of text messages thumbed out on a mobile phone.

It chronicles the downright, horrible, despicable, conditions on Manus Island and the inhumane treat
My friend Maggie said it best in her review of this book- it feels wrong, inappropriate even to give a star rating to someone’s story of human suffering like this. So in that sense, my rating is not an expression of the quality of this narrative, but the significance of this text. No Friend But the Mountains is an important story, about refugee experience in Australia. It is a harrowing story, and one which we must engage with critically, in order to restore humanity, to the way we treat those w ...more
Rachel Morris
Aug 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
An absolute standout in Australian and Persian literature. Behrouz experience is shared so vividly and thoughtfully. The hardest book I’ve ever had to read through in my life, as it’s still the truth of the political situation for the men on Manus, but the insight into the systematic abuse behind it and the way Behrouz draws on his culture is absolutely astounding. This book in itself, is an act of resistance. This book, is a gift to humanity. Every Australian needs to read this book.
Jennifer (JC-S)
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
‘Do the Kurds have any friends other than the mountains?’

I read this book in November and have struggled since to try to assemble the right words with which to review it. I think that all Australians should read this book, regardless of whether they support the existing Australian Government detention policy. Those who do not support mandatory detention will find plenty here to support their views. And surely those who do support mandatory detention must concerned by the consequences of the inde
Jade Maree
Finally finished! This book was so hard to read. I usually don’t struggle with translations but I’m sure with this one something must have been lost. Such an important story, just didn’t do it for me.
Jaclyn Crupi
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When your government creates an offshore prison system for people seeking asylum designed to break their spirit and soul you know there will be a reckoning. Following a long tradition of prison memoir, Boochani adds his lived experience of this nightmare. Typed on a mobile phone and sent via whatsapp to his translator in small sections the very fact this book exists is remarkable. His insights and observations are often crippling in their depictions of life in Manus Prison. His use of poetic str ...more
Anne Fenn
Unforgettable prison literature - this book is on that level, along with work by Dostoevsky, Solzhenitzen, in Australia maybe Marcus Clark's For The Term Of His Natural Life. These books have in common powerful imaginative narratives of the interminable suffering and savagery men go through over a long period. They remain powerful testaments of the brutalising and mind-numbing effects of prolonged incarceration.
Behrouz Boochani's book has the power of being real, not fiction, being here and now
Michael Livingston
This is not a perfect book, but it's one that every Australian should read. Written via text message from the Manus Island prison, Boochani has written an expose of the brutal conditions that the Australian government has abandoned 100s of refugees to on PNG. Boochani has higher literary ambitions and he writes evocatively of life on Manus. This is an infuriating, shaming book - we're complicit in torture and there's no sign of anything changing.
Nov 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

“For some moments I exert everything to reach something far down inside the deepest existential places of myself. To find something divine. To grab at it…maybe. But I uncover nothing but myself and a sense of enormous absurdity and futility.”

This is Boochani recalling some of his darker thoughts on a botched and treacherous boat journey from Indonesia to Australia. And this was before he got to the real horror, at the hand of the Australian authorities. He is buoyed with the
Natasha (jouljet)
Oct 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: refugees, memoir, poc
This is such an important book - an account, witness and lived experience of the indefinite offshore detention Australia is enforcing on a select number of refugees who sought our protection.

Behrouz writes as a prisoner, a refugee, a journalist and writer. This is a record of his boat journey, and his exile to Manus. It is a tribute to those held with him, those killed by the system during this period, and the impact of the day to day interpretations of the harsh policy of "deterrence".

The trans
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Heartbreaking, horrifying, harrowing - a tragic description of incarceration and mental torture of asylum-seekers on Manus Island at the hands of the Australian Government. The writing is beautiful and poetic, the descriptions accurate and insightful.
The book was painstakingly tapped out on a smuggled mobile phone, and sent to Australia where it was translated from the Farsi by researcher Dr Omid Tofighian. The translated version is lyrical and beautiful – I can only imagine that the original F
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't expect No Friend But The Mountains to be a happy story, and it certainly wasn't. It's a lyrical account of one man's prison life complete with despair, hope, drama and complexity. It's not a light or easy read, but if you can read this book, it's worth your time. This story is different from other similar stories. Actually, it's refreshingly honest and shocking. I enjoyed this one. Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.
The story of the book is better than the book itself. Behrouz, an Iranian journalist from the Kurdistan region was seeking freedom, ends up in refugee prison camp on Manus Island due to the unfortunate timing of his illegal arrival in Australia. The book was compiled from mobile phone texts and translated from Farsi.

It's very sad, depressing, and troubling, showcasing the gruesome squalor and inhumane treatment of refugees on Manus, whose only crime was striving for a better life. The cruelty of
Carmel Hanes
This book was not particularly enjoyable to read, but it's an important book, nonetheless. It details the personal experience of the author in attempting to seek asylum in Australia, but instead being imprisoned on nearby Manus Island. The narrative begins with the boat trip across the ocean, which is harrowing and dangerous, and which leads not to freedom but to incarceration.

The atmosphere of this detention center is oppressive and hopeless and the details provided are gruesome and relentless
A challenging and uncomfortable read. I personally feel it would be an insult to judge Boochani’s work and the circumstances under which he is forced to exist so I am leaving this unrated. His ability to construct ‘every man’ using colloquial names (that could be people that we all know) creates a surreal yet highly personal account. The collapse of individuality and resignation to hopelessness witnessed is a human tragedy.
The description of ‘bosses with bosses’ and the ludicrous and unknowable
This book stands apart anything I have ever read, which is why I don't feel qualified to give it a rating.
It is poem, journal, non-fictional account of Manus prison, a tentative theory of emprisonment, a study of the psychological effects of modern prisons, and more. The story how this book was written alone is reason to read it.
But besides all this, what struck me most, was the way the prison system became a person. It is a dramatic warning that we have gone far beyond the ethically acceptable
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is probably the most harrowing book that I've read this year; I think it should be compulsory reading for all Australians. Obviously the book itself is a marvel, written by text message from Manus Island and translated from Kurdish, and the writing style is really exquisite.

I particularly found the translator's note and explanatory essay at the beginning and end of the book interesting - they provide context and an academic explanation of certain choices made during translation and the th
Catherine Davison
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The author is a Kurd refugee languishing in Manus Island, a prison the Australian Government calls an off-shore processing centre. This is a unique book. It's a much a study on why the Australian Government has enacted the draconian, dehumanising conditions as a piece of literary brilliance, a feast of Farsi prose and poetry and a glimpse into life within this prison.
The production of the book is worthy to note. Written as a series of text messages in Farsi, a small team of interpreters, journal
90th book for 2019.

An important book about the Australia's offshore detention system for so called "illegal" immigrants—seeking asylum in a foreign nation is not an illegal act under international law, which Australia is a signatory—that places men, women and children fleeing death/imprisonment in their own countries in horrific prison conditions on tropical islands outside Australia.

A must read, not only for all Australians—whose acts of inhumanity are done in their name—but also for all Europe
Brenda Kittelty
Jun 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
And yet we Australians continue to vote to return governments who uphold the disgrace at the heart of this book. As a nation, we need - desperately - to hang our heads in shame. This book is 200 kinds of depressing, but an infinite number of kinds of beautiful.
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an extraordinary record of a prison that should not exist.
This is the story of Behrouz Boochani. Behrouz is an Iranian author, journalist and film maker, with a master in political science, political geography, and geopolitics. In 2013 he escaped Iran after the office of the pro-Kurdish magazine he co-founded was raided and his colleagues were arrested. He fled first to to Indonesia, and from there by boat to Australia. Since 2013 he is held prisoner on Manus Island, a small island of Papua New Guinea where Australia detains refugees who have fled to t ...more
Anna Baillie-Karas
Behrouz Boochani seeks refuge in Australia but is held without charge in Manus Island Prison.

Horrifying, shameful for us Australians & a harrowing read, but also beautiful and compelling. We’re lucky to have an intellectual, creative voice telling us his story.

I expected to be shocked by the cruelty, but it was worse than I expected, and so unnecessary - for example, two prisoners use a marker to draw a Backgammon board & improvise a game with bottle tops, before a guard stamps it out:
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Behrouz Boochani holds a Masters degree in political geography and geopolitics. He is a Kurdish-Iranian journalist, scholar, cultural advocate, writer and filmmaker, founder of the Kurdish language magazine Weya, an Honorary Member of PEN International. In 2013, he fled Iran and became a political prisoner of the Australian Government incarcerated in the Manus Regional Processing Centre (Papua New ...more
“We feel that we have burned our bridges” 1 likes
“The presence of my mother / She is always present.” 0 likes
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