It seems daily now that we see images of asylum seekers turning up on boats in Europe and Britain, but for many of us they are little more than faceless migrants; little mind is paid to their background, or their tortuous journey to reach here. This outstanding fictionalized chronicle by Bunye Ngene tells this particular part of their story in its full, shocking detail, from a writer who undoubtedly knows the reality, rather than simply rehashing the emotive triggers of competing news media narratives. His book is fascinating – and utterly appalling.
With an appropriately detached objectivity, this tremendous book doesn’t try to sugar-coat the refugees, or blame everything on external inequalities, readily admitting that these people are willing to risk all for a better life than the one they currently have – in this respect, few of them appear to be genuine “refugees”. However, what is eyebrow-raising is the terrible trick played on the unsuspecting travellers by the ruthless, despicable traffickers: if this account is to be believed (which I do), most believe themselves to be entering into a legitimate immigration and transport transaction – until, that is, the beatings, rapes and forced slavery begin, on the 3-week ordeal. The revelations Ngene impart in such a matter-of-fact tone will make even the chilliest blood boil; the inhumanity of which man is capable is on full display, regardless of your political feelings on the subject of illegal immigration. His calm demeanour and writing style are alluring, easing you effortlessly into what might otherwise be an entirely inhospitable read. Strangely, there is something comfortable about this book – perhaps it is Ngene’s manner, or maybe it is the continued hope these people carry, even after realizing the huge mistake many of them have made.
Some of the grammar could do with attention, and the sentences are a little short and brief for my liking, giving the prose a stop-start feel which, at the start, was a little tricky to gain traction from – although, this also perhaps gave the welcome impression of a dialect in the protagonist’s narrative voice. All in all, it is a superbly impressive book, which I strongly recommend for those of a political opinion from either wing; I genuinely believe both sides might learn something – I did – and that it is first-hand stories like this which will enable all but the most extremist to find a common ground for dialogue on an always relevant, always sensitive subject. This is, in a nutshell, a very important book, by an outstanding writer.
In : Book Reviews
Tags: bunye-ngene refugee immigrant political