I have been reading Colm Tóibín’s novel Brooklyn. It is set in the mid nineteen fifties in southern Ireland and in Brooklyn. The story is the story of Irish emigration, at a time when the economy is stagnant and jobs difficult to find. Eilis Lacey’s brothers are in Birmingham in England. Her sister, Rose, does have a good job, but Eilis can only find a Sunday job in a local shop.

Her emigration to Brooklyn, where opportunities are better, is mediated though her sister Rose and the brief return of an Irish priest from Brooklyn. Father Flood organises her employment with Bartocci’s in Brooklyn which enables her to get immigration papers. Her sister has one of the few good jobs around, but by sending her sister away, she is condemning herself to remaining close to their mother and giving up chances to marry.

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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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