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Haunting tribute to the plight of refugees

By September 18, 2018No Comments

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New Delhi, Sep 17 : International bestselling author Khaled Hosseini’s latest book “Sea Prayer” is barely 48 pages long but in its short span, the authors text and illustrations by Dan Williams capture the modern day tragedy of forced migration, thereby narrating the emotional trauma that its victims face as an unforeseeable future awaits them.

The book opens on a moonlit beach where a father cradles his sleeping son as “they wait for the dawn to break and a boat to arrive”. The young son, or the silent protagonist, inspired by the story of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian refugee who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach safety in Europe, is asleep as his father speaks to they boy about Homs, in Syria, when it was not ravaged by war.

“…in the long summers of childhood, when I was a boy the age you are now, your uncles and I spread our mattresses on the roof of your grandfather’s farmhouse outside of Homs,” says the father, providing a backdrop to the readers.

As one turns the pages, centre spread is a serene illustration of the village that he talks of, full of greenery and alive in its full grandeur. The father then recalls that they woke up in mornings “to the stirring of olive trees in the breeze, to the bleating of your grandmother’s goat, the clanking of her cooking pots, the air cool and the un a pale rim of persimmon to the east”.

He reminds his son that they had taken him to the village when he was a toddler, when his mother showed him “a herd of cows grazing in a field blown through with wild flowers”.

He wishes that his son could remember Homs as “I do”, before arousing profoud imageries of the bustling old city.

“But that life, that time, seems like a dream now, even to me, like some long-dissolved rumour,” he laments. And then the illustrations of protests, the siege, starvation, burials and “the skies spitting bombs” come to fore.

Husseini maps his phrases carefully, and keeps them very short, allowing the illustrator to bring alive the scenes of tragedies in Syria. And then the reader is made familiar with the long serpentine queues of people, escaping their faith and running away from the chaos.

But all he can do is pray.

The book is published by Bloomsbury, which will donate one pound from the sale of each copy of the book to the UNHCR.

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