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In the Sea There are Crocodiles

Cover of In the Sea There are Crocodiles

In the Sea There are Crocodiles

Based on the True Story of Enaiatollah Akbari
Borrow Borrow Borrow

When ten-year-old Enaiatollah Akbari's small village in Afghanistan falls prey to Taliban rule in early 2000, his mother shepherds the boy across the border into Pakistan but has to leave him there all alone to fend for himself. Thus begins Enaiat's remarkable and often punish­ing five-year ordeal, which takes him through Iran, Turkey, and Greece before he seeks political asylum in Italy at the age of fifteen.

Along the way, Enaiat endures the crippling physical and emotional agony of dangerous border crossings, trekking across bitterly cold mountain pathways for days on end or being stuffed into the false bottom of a truck. But not every­one is as resourceful, resilient, or lucky as Enaiat, and there are many heart-wrenching casualties along the way.

Based on Enaiat's close collaboration with Italian novelist Fabio Geda and expertly rendered in English by an award- winning translator, this novel reconstructs the young boy's memories, perfectly preserving the childlike perspective and rhythms of an intimate oral history.

Told with humor and humanity, In the Sea There Are Crocodiles brilliantly captures Enaiat's moving and engaging voice and lends urgency to an epic story of hope and survival.

From the Hardcover edition.

When ten-year-old Enaiatollah Akbari's small village in Afghanistan falls prey to Taliban rule in early 2000, his mother shepherds the boy across the border into Pakistan but has to leave him there all alone to fend for himself. Thus begins Enaiat's remarkable and often punish­ing five-year ordeal, which takes him through Iran, Turkey, and Greece before he seeks political asylum in Italy at the age of fifteen.

Along the way, Enaiat endures the crippling physical and emotional agony of dangerous border crossings, trekking across bitterly cold mountain pathways for days on end or being stuffed into the false bottom of a truck. But not every­one is as resourceful, resilient, or lucky as Enaiat, and there are many heart-wrenching casualties along the way.

Based on Enaiat's close collaboration with Italian novelist Fabio Geda and expertly rendered in English by an award- winning translator, this novel reconstructs the young boy's memories, perfectly preserving the childlike perspective and rhythms of an intimate oral history.

Told with humor and humanity, In the Sea There Are Crocodiles brilliantly captures Enaiat's moving and engaging voice and lends urgency to an epic story of hope and survival.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    I met Enaiatollah Akbari at a book presentation where I was speaking about my first novel, the story of a Romanian boy's life as an immigrant in Italy. Enaiatollah came up to me and said he'd had a similar experience. We got talking. And we didn't stop. I never tired of listening to his experiences, and he didn't tire of dredging them from his memory. After we'd known each other for a while, he asked me if I would write his story down, so that people who had suffered similar things could know they were not alone, and so that others might understand them better.
    This book is therefore based on a true story. But, of course, Enaiatollah didn't remember it all perfectly. Together we painstakingly reconstructed his journey, looking at maps, consulting Google, trying to create a chronology for his fragmented memories. I have tried to be as true to his voice as possible, retelling the story exactly as he told it. But for all that, this book must be considered fiction, since it is the recreation of Enaiatollah's experience -- a recreation that has allowed him to take possession of his own story.
    Fabio Geda, Turin 2010


    Afghanistan

    The thing is, I really wasn't expecting her to go. Because when you're ten years old and getting ready for bed, on a night that's just like any other night, no darker or starrier or more silent or more full of smells than usual, with the familiar sound of the muezzins calling the faithful to prayer from the tops of the minarets just like anywhere else . . . no, when you're ten years old--I say ten, although I'm not entirely sure when I was born, because there's no registry office or anything like that in Ghazni province--like I said, when you're ten years old, and your mother, before putting you to bed, takes your head and holds it against her breast for a long time, longer than usual, and says, There are three things you must never do in life, Enaiat jan, for any reason . . . The first is use drugs. Some of them taste good and smell good and they whisper in your ear that they'll make you feel better than you could ever feel without them. Don't believe them. Promise me you won't do it.

    I promise.

    The second is use weapons. Even if someone hurts your feelings or damages your memories, or insults God, the earth or men, promise me you'll never pick up a gun, or a knife, or a stone, or even the wooden ladle we use for making qhorma palaw, if that ladle can be used to hurt someone. Promise.

    I promise.

    The third is cheat or steal. What's yours belongs to you, what isn't doesn't. You can earn the money you need by working, even if the work is hard. You must never cheat anyone, Enaiat jan, all right? You must be hospitable and tolerant to everyone. Promise me you'll do that.

    I promise.

    Anyway, even when your mother says things like that and then, still stroking your neck, looks up at the window and starts talking about dreams, dreams like the moon, which at night is so bright you can see to eat by it, and about wishes--how you must always have a wish in front of your eyes, like a donkey with a carrot, and how it's in trying to satisfy our wishes that we find the strength to pick ourselves up, and if you hold a wish up high, any wish, just in front of your forehead, then life will always be worth living--well, even when your mother, as she helps you get to sleep, says all these things in a strange, low voice as warming as embers, and fills the silence with words, this woman who's always been so sharp, so quick-witted in dealing with life . . . even at a...

About the Author-
  • FABIO GEDA is an Italian novelist who writes for several Italian magazines and newspapers. This is his first book to be translated into English. Howard Curtis is a London-based translator of Italian and French texts, for which he has won numerous awards.

Reviews-
  • O Magazine

    "Inspiring"

  • The Washington Post " This gripping, strangely sweet tale....captures the young man's open-hearted tone just right.....Reading of Akbari's efforts to find a better life -- alone and at an age when children in our country can't even drive yet -- will leave you shaken, but his resilient joy leavens the story even when he's toiling for 90 hours a week at dangerous work in a locked warehouse, crossing the snow-covered mountains from Iran to Turkey on foot, or hiding in the false bottom of a truck "like grains of rice squeezed in someone's hand." The lovely rapport between Akbari and Geda comes across now and then when the journalist interrupts to prod him for more detail, gently reminding him just how extraordinary his experience is."
  • The Financial Times "Reminds us that Afghanistan's current woes did not begin with the American invasion of 2001....And so it goes on, almost unimaginable horrors related with a lack of sentiment and bombast....[a] remarkable story"
  • The Guardian "Geda does a wonderful job of creating a voice for Enaiatollah that matures subtly, becoming sharper with every mishap but never losing the ability to make the best of a situation....for all the hardship, In The Sea is full of wit and the book is really about determination...moving"
  • Boston Globe "An intriguing story.....[and] understated sense of humor, even when he recalls horrible scenes....quite dramatic"
  • Denver Post "In Geda's hands Enaiatollah's story is a riveting and fast read, one that dips into emotional and physical violence but surfaces in a splash of redemption and humanity and hope. Adult readers will be gripped by the tale, as will young adult readers."
  • Daily Herald "Remarkable....exquisitely rendered and completely free from pride or self-pity. This book will break your heart at the same time that it is lifting your spirit and opening your understanding to a very different kind of life in our very same world."
  • The Guardian "More than stand up as a page-turner that makes you care about its hero from the outset and willingly accompany him on his often perilous journey from Afghanistan to Italy. That it is based on reality makes it more than just a compelling adventure story. For here is a frank, revealing and clear-eyed testament of the experiences faced by a young asylum-seeker in the contemporary world.....Salutary and humane, In the Sea There Are Crocodiles, as its international bestseller status indicates, deserves to be read widely by young and older readers alike."
  • The National "As the reader, you have to wonder what you were doing circa 2005, while Enaiat was traversing the mountains of Turkey. Geda's frank, unembellished prose captures the voice of a brave boy who never loses hope--and who is lucky to be alive to tell his story."
  • The Washington Independent "Fabio Geda has done a fine job bringing Enaiat alive without resorting to novelists' tricks.....Fast read. It presents a contemporary look at a world that Americans have become increasingly a part of and from the point of view of persons who usually have no voice. That world is presented so convincingly"
  • The Times UK "Chilling....beautiful....heart-warming"
  • The Independent "'Geda's voice combines the plucky survivor's determination of his charge with moments of pathos -- soaked poignancy and others of joyful laughter...It's sobering and heart lifting to see the stoical determination and achievement of someone who makes our world look like paradise. This little gem, beautifully and unobtrusively translated, will raise tears of sorrow and joy."
  • The Guardian "Beautifully told....will inform and inspire"
  • Book Page "A small book wiht a big story to tell....compelling narrative that maintains the youthful voice of this remarkable boy.....undeniably eye-opening....What makes In the Sea There Are Crocodiles so persuasive is the boy's voice, beautifully captured by Geda."
  • Read Plus "A compelling and intimate story....truly incredible....Fabio Geda retells Enaiatollah's story with warmth and compassion, interacting with him in a gentle and intimate manner which brings depth to the story. Although written as a fictional piece the story is recreated from Enaiatollah's memory. With its simplistic style, the reader is drawn into the world of the child: his thought processes and his perceptions. The story spans five years, Enaiatollah is only fifteen when he arrives in Italy and realizes that this is the place he wants to call home."
  • The Irish Examiner "A remarkable, heart-warming story of courage and endurance in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles... truly inspirational"
  • Kirkus Reviews, starred review "[A]n authentic, open and marvelous voice of youthful exuberance."
  • Library Journal "Lyric...the book reads like a conversation...both affecting and unaffected, powerfully delivers one child's story of survival while bringing us close to the horrors....Another Kite Runner? It's certainly a lovely read."
  • Booklist "[T]here's no shortage of heart-breaking trials to be faced....Enaiat's daring adventure is ideally suited for young adults, but older readers will find in it a deeper layer of investigation of the humanity of strangers and the power of family. If Enaiat's memory eventually seems muddled and fragmented, so that the book must be called fiction, the truth of his experience remains."
  • The Sunday Times (UK) "Fabio, the writer to whome he [Enaiatollah Akbari] tells his narrative, has a poetic turn of phrase, but lets events speak for themselves. The result is a moving and eye-opening chronicle of hardships no child should have to endure, mitigated by intermittent kindnesses."
  • School Library Journal "The prose is straightforward, engaging, and at times almost conversational. Teens will marvel at Akbari's courage and resilience"
  • Laura Fitzgera "Every so often a book comes along that is an absolute gift to the world. This is one such book."
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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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