News ID: 257190
Published: 0243 GMT August 12, 2019

Detained asylum seeker Boochani wins Australia’s National Biography award

Detained asylum seeker Boochani wins Australia’s National Biography award

The Kurdish Iranian writer Behrouz Boochani continued his sweep of the Australian literary prize landscape, winning the $25,000 National Biography award – yet another award the refugee was unable to accept in person, as he enters his sixth year of detention on Manus Island.

Boochani’s autobiography, ‘No Friend but the Mountains,’ tells of his journey from Indonesia to Australia by boat, and his subsequent imprisonment on Manus Island by the Australian government, which continues to refuse him entry, wrote.

The journalist composed the book one text message at a time from Manus. It was translated from Persian into English by his friend Omid Tofiqian.

‘No Friend but the Mountains’ has already won $125,000 at the Victorian premier’s literary awards, the country’s richest literary prize; $10,000 at the New South Wales premier’s literary awards; and the non-fiction book of the year at the Australian Book Industry awards.

At the National Biography award, which was presented on Monday morning at the State Library of New South Wales, the judges praised Boochani’s book as “profoundly important, an astonishing act of witness and testament to the lifesaving power of writing as resistance.”

Boochani appeared at the awards ceremony via WhatsApp.

“I don’t want to talk about literature, I would just like to say that I think the literature community, as a part of civil society of Australia, are part of our resistance in front of this system, and I think it is very valuable, and I do appreciate everyone for recognizing my work,” he said.

He thanked the prize organizers, Tofiqian and his first translator, Moones Mansoubi, as well as his other supporters. “I think history will judge this generation and will judge all of us in this hard and dark period of Australian history,” he said.

In February, after winning the Victorian premier’s literary prize, Boochani said he had created an image of himself as “a novelist in a remote prison,” as a coping mechanism in the face of the brutality of Manus. “This image always helped me uphold my dignity and keep my identity as a human being. In fact, I created this image in opposition to the image created by the system.”

The judges, Margy Burn, Georgina Arnott and Iain McCalman, said Boochani’s writing was “poetic and epic, steeped in the tradition of Persian culture and belief systems” and “compelling storytelling.”

“Collaboration [with Tofiqian] has made this book, which demonstrates how innovative, experimental and creative the work of translation can be,” they said.

Sofija Stefanovic was also awarded the $5,000 Michael Crouch award for a debut work for her memoir ‘Miss Ex-Yugoslavia,’ which the judges described as “finely observed and ambitious.”

Four authors who were also shortlisted for the award will each receive $2,000. They were ‘Do Oysters Get Bored? A Curious Life’ by Rozanna Lilley, ‘One Hundred Years of Dirt’ by Rick Morton, ‘The Trauma Cleaner’ by Sarah Krasnostein and ‘The Wasp and the Orchid: The Remarkable Life of Australian Naturalist Edith Coleman’ by Danielle Clode.


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