An Afghani boy’s courageous journey

2011-11-02 00:00

AT the age of 10, Enaiatolla Akbari is smuggled by his mother out of Afghanistan and into the relative safety of Pakistan. A few nights later, she whispers three pieces of advice to him as he is drifting off to sleep. The next morning, she is gone.

Enaiatolla is safe from Taliban attacks, but he’s alone in a strange country, penniless and unable even to speak the local language. So begins the true story of the boy’s five-year journey in search of a new home, which he eventually finds in Italy where he is taken in by a family and is granted asylum.

He survives by dint of hard work and smart thinking. As he makes his way westwards, first to Iran, Turkey, then Greece, he hooks up temporarily along the way with what seem to be a steady stream of other Afghani boys, who like him are seeking a safe place to call home.

In Italy, Enaiatolla also meets author Fabio Geda who works with children in difficulties and who brings Enaiatolla’s story to the world, first in Italian and now in English.

At times, Enaiatolla’s experiences are harrowing and upsetting — one of his friends is drowned during a dangerous sea crossing, for example.

But as narrator, Geda never overplays his hand and produces an authentic and emotionally controlled script which does justice to the age, courage and open-heartedness of his young subject.

The result is a moving book about an extremely worthy subject, executed in a highly engaging, sensitive and edifying way.

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