The reading circuit for 2012 has concluded, and in my case, it’s back to Afghanistan where it started with the story of Enaiatollah Akbari, taken by his mother to Pakistan to escape the persecution of the Taliban.

I have been reading ‘Letters to my Daughters’, written by Fawzia Koofi in collaboration with Nadene Ghouri. It is subtitled ‘between terror and hope, the struggles of the first Afghan women in politics’. Fawzia Koofi was elected to be the vice-president of the lower chamber of the Afghan parliament when it was reformed in 2005 and intends to be a candidate in the 2014 presidential elections.

The book tells the story of her life, with letters to her two daughters and also to her dead mother and father seeded between the chapters. She was born in 1975 in Koofi in Badakhstan, the most northerly and impoverished region of Afghanistan. Her family was important in local politics and her father was a deputy to the first Afghan parliament which was called under the monarchy of Zaher Shah in 1965. Her grandfather had been an important local leader.

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This year I have joined a reading circuit. This is not exactly a book group. The organisers select a number of recently published works which are the circulated round the members of the local group. Each member has about 2 weeks to read the book before passing it and receiving a new book. Fortunately, the first two books I have received have been short.

Nel mare ci sono i coccodrilli (In the Sea there are crocodiles) is the story of  Enaiatollah Akbari, taken by his mother from Ghazni in Afganistan, where his people the Hazzara are persecuted by the Taliban, to Quetta in Pakistan, and there left to make his own life. His story begins around the turn of the millennium when he is 10 years old or so. Using the services of people traffickers he makes his way to Iran, then Turkey, Greece and finally Italy, where he is given sanctuary and later political asylum. The writer Fabio Geda met him later in Turin and Geda, a journalist with experience in education, makes it possible for him to tell his story and allows us to understand, at least in part, the life and motivations of a clandestine immigrant. There are interpolated conversations between Geda and Enaiatalloh, in which the writer seems to be probing for more and to understand further what is being said and also what is not being said.

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