In the Sea There are Crocodiles
Based on the True Story of Enaiatollah Akbari
By Fabio Geda
(Doubleday, Hardcover, 9780385534734, 224pp.)
Publication Date: August 9, 2011
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.
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.
" 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 Washington Post
"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 Financial Times
"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"
"An intriguing story.....[and] understated sense of humor, even when he recalls horrible scenes....quite dramatic"
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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 Washington Independent
--The Times UK
"‘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."
"Beautifully told....will inform and inspire"
"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."
"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."
"A remarkable, heart-warming story of courage and endurance in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles... truly inspirational"
--The Irish Examiner
The core of the story is Enaiat's indomitable will to succeed....revealing....hair-raising....unforgettable....In the Sea There Are Crocodiles is an eye-opening account of human endurance, of overcoming the most difficult obstacles—all for freedom and a better life."
--The Counter Punch
"[A]n authentic, open and marvelous voice of youthful exuberance."
--Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"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."
"[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."
"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."
--The Sunday Times (UK)
"The prose is straightforward, engaging, and at times almost conversational. Teens will marvel at Akbari’s courage and resilience"--School Library Journal
"Every so often a book comes along that is an absolute gift to the world. This is one such book."
–Laura Fitzgerald, author of Dreaming in English and Veil of Roses
"The personal stories of refugees and their life-or-death battles are usually lost in between the lines of news reports. In direct and undecorated prose, Fabio Geda beautifully delivers the human experience of Enaiatollah, a ten-year-old Afghani boy, whose will for survival is more than remarkable. In the Sea there Are Crocodiles will make you laugh and cry, and it will also make you a better person. Everyone should read this book."
--Marina Nemat, winner of the inaugural Human Dignity Award and author of Prisoner of Tehran