Italian author Fabio Geda’s first book translated into English is worthy of universal awareness. In the Sea There are Crocodiles tells the true story of Afghani boy Enaiatollah Akbari. At the innocent age of ten, his mother takes him to the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan and abandons him, forcing him to fend for himself and escape the clutches of Taliban rule.
What follows is a jaw-dropping, insane first-hand account of Enaiat’s journey from Afghanistan to Pakistan to Iran to Turkey to Greece and eventually to Italy, where he found asylum at the age of fifteen.
For the reader, the book is a poem. A travelogue of something unimaginable. For the child, the story is a five year nightmare. Shining shoes, selling candy, sleeping in parks, building concrete slabs: the life of a desperate immigrant.
Although Fabio Geda stays out of the picture for the most part, allowing Enaiat to tell his story, he interjects at proper times in order for Enaiat to further elaborate and give proper insight into situations most of us couldn’t imagine. Like being told that it would take three days to cross the mountains into Turkey, when it actually took four weeks: four weeks of passing frozen corpses and stealing their shoes because yours are destroyed. Four weeks of frozen bread and numbness.
In an interview with the boy (who is now in his early twenties) he talks about the hardest part of the journey. “Every single day of my life was hard. But the most dangerous thing was overcoming the borders. I remember as a nightmare the twenty-seven days walking across the mountains between Iran and Turkey, the three days traveling under the truck, and the night on the sea towards the Greek island.”
A rather quick read, this book flies through five years in a little over 200 pages. While the true story situations are overwhelming and almost impossible to imagine, the voice of Enaiatollah remains innocent and free-spirited, taking everything at face value and never growing too attached or emotional at any particular moment.
In regards to this aspect, author/documentor Fabio Geda said, “That evening, while I was listening to him telling his story – a story so dramatic, so painful – I discovered that he was able to tell it with an incredible lightness, a surprising irony. So I thought it would be nice to put the same lightness, the same irony, in the pages of a book.”
Stay open-minded. Stay educated on life outside of your region. Be sure to snag In the Sea There are Crocodiles in order to take off your shoes and put on a pair of foreign kicks. Bills to pay? Lady left you? Read about the world of Middle Eastern immigrants and dust the dirt of your first-world problems off your shoulder.