Australian Story: Apr 1

Monday’s Australian Story “The Invisible Man” profiles refugee and author Behrouz Boochani, who won the $100,000 Victorian Prize for Literature, but remains detained on Manus Island.

This episode is introduced by acclaimed author Anna Funder.

The extraordinary story of Behrouz Boochani, a man who won Australia’s richest literary award but remains unable to set foot in this country.

In January, when No Friend But the Mountains won the $100,000 Victorian Prize for Literature, its author was thousands of miles away, fielding calls from the world’s media.

The stateless refugee, who has never set foot on mainland Australia, smuggled out the entire book text by text, sent from Manus island on a contraband phone.

“I sent it text by text because I didn’t feel safe to write it on a paper,” Boochani tells Australian Story.

“Winning the prize would be at once a great joy and the cruellest of torments,” says author Richard Flanagan, “because he’s honoured by the country that keeps him imprisoned.”

Born during the Iran-Iraq war and suffering persecution as a Kurd in his homeland, Boochani fled Iran, seeking refuge in Australia. Arriving on Christmas Island four days after the government toughened its stand on refugees arriving by boat, he was taken to Manus Island where he has remained ever since.

But Boochani doesn’t want to be seen as a victim.

“He doesn’t want to be seen as simply a weak individual in a detention centre,” says his friend and translator Omid Tofighian. “He doesn’t want to be seen as a broken human being.”

This is the story of a man who overcame almost impossible odds to write a book and make a film about life and death on the tiny Pacific outpost of Manus. It’s a story of courage and persistence in the face of mental and physical deprivation.

And it is a story of determination to celebrate life, even when virtually all hope of escaping a hellish situation has been dashed.

Monday April 1 at 8pm on ABC.

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