Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish-Iranian asylum seeker detained in Manus Island, Papua New Guinea has won Australia’s richest and most prestigious literary prize, the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award 2019. The Guardian columnist has won the top prize for his non-fictional work “No Friends But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison” sweeping $100000 for Victorian Prize for Literature and another $25000 for first place in the category of fiction.
Boochani wasn’t allowed to attend the award ceremony which was held on 31st Jan 2019, as he was detained in the Manus Island and has been denied entry into Australia since 2013. The most surprising part of compiling his work is that he wrote the whole book on his mobile phone and sent it to Omid Tofighian bit by bit for over five years to translate it.
Boochani was among 600 refugees who were detained in the Manus Island although Australia had already closed its regional processing center there in 2017.
Speaking to Guardian, Boochani described receiving the award as “a paradoxical feeling” from a country that has kept him locked up for last 6 years. He added, “My main aim has always been for the people in Australia and around the world to understand deeply how this system has tortured innocent people on Manus and Nauru in a systematic way for almost six years.”
The Human Rights Law Center of Australia congratulated Boochani through twitter, calling his novel “an Australian story that as a nation we cannot be proud of, but it’s a story that cannot be ignored”.
Other award winners for 2019 included Kate Lilley for her poem “Tilt”, Kim Scott for Taboo, Elise Valmorbida for her fiction “The Madonna of the Mountains”, and Kendall Feavor for “Drama with The Almighty Sometimes.” Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina won an award in the young adult category for “Catching Teller Crow.” Victoria Hannan’s unpublished work, Komoko, also won the award.