Tuesday, 7 January 2020

#BlogTour Two Blankets, Three Sheets by Rodaan Al Galidi

Today it's the BlogTour Two Blankets, Three Sheets by Rodaan AlGalidi translated from the Dutch by Jonathan Reeder.
About the Author
Rodaan Al Galidi is a poet and writer. Born in Iraq and trained as a civil engineer, he has lived in the Netherlands since 1998. As an undocumented asylum seeker he did not have the right to attend language classes, so he taught himself to read and write Dutch. His novel De autist en de postduif (‘The Autist and the Carrier Pigeon’) won the European Union Prize for Literature in 2011—the same year he failed his Dutch citizenship course. Two Blankets, Three Sheets, already a bestseller in the Netherlands, is his most successful novel to date.

Follow on GoodreadsBuy Two Blankets, Three Sheets

About the book
'You have to take care, Mr Karim,’ she said, ‘this is your future.’ With the word ‘this’ she picked up the report from the first hearing. I was amused at the idea that my future would be determined by a few sheets of paper, and not by my health, my happiness or my dreams. Or a never-ending barbeque on the beach, or travelling the world on a legitimate passport.'

Amsterdam Airport, 1998. Samir Karim steps off a plane from Vietnam, flushes his fake passport down the toilet, and requests asylum. Fleeing Iraq to avoid conscription into Saddam Hussein’s army, he has spent seven years anonymously wandering through Asia. Now, safely in the heart of Europe, he is sent to an asylum centre and assigned a bed in a shared dorm—where he will spend the next nine years.

Taking its title from the ‘two blankets, three sheets, a towel, a pillow, and a pillow-case’ that constitute the items Samir is given on his arrival at the Asylum Centre, and are the only things he owns during his nine years there, this book is the story of how Samir navigates his way around the absurdities of Dutch bureaucracy while trying his best to get along with his 500 new housemates.

Told with compassion and a unique sense of humour, this is an inspiring tale of survival, a close-up view of the hidden world of refugees and human smugglers, and a sobering reflection of our times.
The full title of this book is Two Blankets, Three Sheets, a Towel, a Pillow and a Pillowcase. It may seem arbitrary, and it is certainly a mouthful, but the importance of the title becomes clear as the author tells the story of his main character, which is not unlike his own story. Those items are one of the few consistencies throughout his time in the Dutch asylum and refugee system.

At the beginning of the book Al Galidi includes an interesting paragraph about the way this story should or could be perceived. To the author this is fiction based in fact, and hopes it will be perceived as such by those who read it, however for those to whom the category of nonfiction is too difficult to digest - let it be fiction. It's all too easy to deny any humanity to refugees or asylum seekers, and deny that there is any wrongdoing on the part of the regimented law and rule-abiding Western world. I can imagine there are plenty who find it easy to disparage the accounts of refugees when they complain about mistreatment, abuse, lack of interest and keeping thousands of people detained in a state of limbo for years and decades.

I lived on the German/Dutch border for many decades and am well acquainted with certain quirks of the Dutch and the Germans. Every nationality has them, and there are specific attitudes that are evident especially in countries that border on other ones, perhaps more so when there has been conflict. On the surface the Dutch persona tends to be laid-back, pleasant, multi-cultural, open, multilingual and a pleasure to interact with. However, when you fall into the category of dislike that aura of the pleasant Netherlander is replaced by another persona altogether.

I can say that having experienced it as legal alien, as a person who was confronted with their complete and utter bureaucratic idiocy, despite EU law. I can imagine the same can be said for many other countries that have opened their doors to refugees. This story goes back a few decades and the new waves of refugees bring different concerns with them, due to the very real danger of a world filled with terrorists. Unfortunately the refugees who genuinely seek sanctuary and shelter from war and hunger-torn countries, and want to live in peace - they are forgotten in the midst of all the uncertainty and fear.

It's a poignant fictional story, which could be an account consumed by anger and frustration, and yet it isn't, despite everything the author has actually been through. This voice is one of a forgotten time in a way, because life moves so quickly and we are confronted with such violence on a daily basis that many people simply in fall between the cracks of the systems.

Buy Two Blankets, Three Sheets at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: World Editions Ltd, pub date Paperback 1 Jan. 2020 - digital copy 7 Jan 2020. Buy at Amazon com.

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