Release date: November 2021
Price: £ 14.99
“An unforgettable novel, made cruelly relevant by what has been taking place in Europe.”
Neal Ascherson, writer and journalist; The Death of Fronsac, Black Sea
* * *
“A moving, intelligent story interrogating what it means to be a refugee.”
Julia Bell, senior lecturer creative writing; Radical Attention, The Dark Light
* * *
“Poetic and beautifully rendered, it probes the boundaries between those who have and those who seek.”
Isabel Hilton, OBE, journalist and broadcaster; The Search for the Panchen Lama
* * *
“A Mesopotamian epic of migration. It tells of human experience of dangerous crossings in search of hospitality.”
Fazil Moradi, Faculty of Humanities – University of Johannesburg
* * *
Neal Ascherson, book reviewer for The Guardian, The New York Review of Books, and London Review of Books; author of The Death of Fronsac, Black Sea, Stone Voices, said about The Glass Wall:
This is an unforgettable novel. Its theme is the dark adventure of the refugee, driven to flee from her or his native country, living an isolated half-life of exile between memories of a lost homeland and the calm indifference of the ‘safe’ world around.
As a Kurdish writer, with a full experience of war, flight, uprooting, the kindness of strangers and the hostility of foreign border guards and bureaucracies, Goran Baba Ali has seen and felt the worst of the exile condition. But he has turned it into an almost Kafkan allegory which runs all through the book, the sustained image of a glass wall. Immensely high, transparent and yet impenetrably thick and strong, it divides a scorching desert landscape from a ‘normal’ prosperous world where grass is green, families picnic beside pretty lakes and shops are stocked with food and cool drinks. But the transparency is only one-way. The thirsty refugees who stumble out of the desert and collapse at the foot of the wall can see the happy world beyond. But they can’t reach it, and the inhabitants of that world can’t see them or hear their cries for help.
This is the story of Arman, the young refugee who finds himself at the foot of the wall at first without food, water or shelter from the burning desert sun. His efforts to find a way through the wall (there are certain heavily-guarded crossing points) and to build some sort of refuge for himself develop into a narrative which is never monotonous, a fascinating struggle for survival, a tortuous negotiation with the elderly guard at a crossing point, a slow discovery that his only secure possession is his own past reconstructed in dreams and memories. And, as the novel continues, great dramas arise which begin to shake and transform that complacent world beyond the glass.
The powerful central image carries the book through to its poignant conclusion. But the metaphor of that giant one-way wall of glass, segregating the scattered of this world from the settled, will stay with the reader as long as fear and flight torment this 21st century.
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After a perilous quest through an unforgiving desert, a 19-year-old refugee arrives at a colossal glass wall guarded by an old man. In order to be granted entry to the city, he is told he must recount the story of who he is, where he has come from, and why he should be granted asylum. Having barely survived his journey to the wall, the young man doesn’t welcome having to relive the pain of his past. But then, desperate for another chance, he starts recounting tales from his childhood, encompassing the history of his family and his country, and the prospect of a new life seems closer than ever.
But will his story be convincing enough to guarantee his safety?
A story of struggle and persecution but abundant in hope, The Glass Wall is a clear-eyed, emotionally honest account of displaced people and the very human desire for survival at all costs.
About the author
Goran Baba Ali has written and published various literary and journalistic works in Kurdish, Dutch and English. The Glass Wall is his debut novel in the English language. As an ex-refugee, originally from Iraqi Kurdistan, he has personally experienced some of the protagonist’s hardship in this novel, including a few weeks living in a desert. Since he left Iraq in 1994, he has lived in various countries. He studied sociology in Amsterdam, where he was also the editor-in-chief of exPonto Magazine. After fifteen years living in the Netherlands, he moved to London in 2012 and has since spent most of his time writing, including a part-time freelance job reporting news from Iraq for the English language outlet INSIGHT. In 2019, he completed an MA in creative writing at Birkbeck, University of London.
For more information about the author, you can visit his website: www.goranbabaali.com
This book was sponsored by Simko Dauwdy, Sarwar Gharib, the news outlet INSIGHT, and the Euro Supermarket in Coventry.