Picador has signed an “extraordinary” memoir in a four-way auction from Iranian Kurdish refugee Behrouz Boochani, which he secretly wrote on WhatsApp while being held in a detention centre.
Kishani Widyaratna acquired UK & Commonwealth rights in print, ebook and audio from Sarah Lutyens at Lutyens and Rubinstein in association with the Jane Novak Literary Agency in Sydney. No Friend but the Mountains will be published as a paperback original on 18th April with an audio edition to follow.
It was originally published by Picador Australia in 2018, winning the country’s most valuable literary award, the Victorian Premier’s Prize for Literature, in January. Boochani was unable to collect the prize because he has been kept in a detention centre on Manus Island in the Pacific by the Australian government for six years.
In his acceptance speech, made via videolink, Boochani said: “Literature has the power to give us freedom. I have been in a cage for years but throughout this time my mind has always been producing words, and these words have taken me across borders, taken me overseas and to unknown places. I truly believe words are more powerful than the fences of this place, this prison.”
Boochani, a journalist, writer and film-maker, wrote the book via hundreds of text messages, which were painstakingly organised into a manuscript and translated from Farsi to English by Dr Omid Tofighian.
The publisher explained: “The result is an astonishing account of what it is to be a refugee today as borders close around the globe. It opens with a deadly boat journey from Indonesia to Australia and then depicts daily life in cruel imprisonment on the island, battling for survival, sanity and dignity in degrading conditions.”
Widyaratna said: ‘This is the first work of literature to emerge from one of these immigration detention centres which exist the world over and also right here in the UK. This is a book that simply shouldn’t exist and yet it does, thanks to the determination of Behrouz Boochani and everyone involved to shine a light on this struggle. Gripping, moving, profound and heartbreaking, it makes for extraordinary reading. It is a testament to the humanity of all people, even in the most extreme of circumstances. We could not be more proud to publish this important book and want get it into as many hands as possible.”
Lutyens said: “It brings the horrific and Kafkaesque experience of a refugee so shockingly to life and does so in the most beautiful way, captivating in its use of language. I think it is a book which will continue to be read for a very long time and I am delighted Kishani and Picador will be publishing it with such passion.”