Felicity Plunkett on ‘Truth in the Cage’ by Mohammad Ali Maleki

As part of her review of No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison by Behrouz Boochani in Australian Book Review, Felicity Plunkett says of Truth in the Cage:

Maleki tends a garden on Manus Island, yet his poems evoke images of the natural world thwarted or gone awry – ‘the autumn leaf grows green’, ‘the moon implodes’, ‘the butterfly flies back to its cocoon’. In an allegory of refoulement, everything in ‘Silence Land’ is turned back: the tree to its seed, the sea to its source, the river to its spring. In the more surreal ‘Myself’, groans swell the sky, the sea becomes stormy and fish ‘[scatter] in fear’.

The book’s first poem, ‘Dream of Death’, begins by addressing readers as ‘my dears’, and implores: ‘please, I ask you, listen’. Both Boochani and Maleki evoke the experience of there being absolutely nothing to do and the impact this has on the mind. Each writer has endured this year after year.

Although Maleki writes of blankness and weariness, in ‘Where is My Name?’, he affirms ‘I won’t neglect to report on these days’. From the ‘cursed city’ of Manus, he writes tender works of witness and consolation commemorating others people’s deaths – Hamed Shamshiripour, who died by hanging, and Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian asylum seeker whose body was washed up on a Turkish beach. Yet for all their gentleness, these are steely poems, refusing silence and namelessness

The complete review of No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison can be read athttps://www.australianbookreview.com.au/abr-online-exclusives/5072-felicity-plunkett-reviews-no-friend-but-the-mountains-writing-from-manus-prison-by-behrouz-boochani, and, in the context of contemporary Australian culture and politics, this is an important review about a very important book. It is pleasing to see Maleki’s work linked with Boochani’s.

Truth in the Cage is available from https://rochfordstreetpress.com/rochford-street-press-titles/
No Friend but the Mountain, by Behrouz Boochani, is published by Picador and is available from https://www.panmacmillan.com.au/9781760555382/ 

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