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In the Sea There Are Crocodiles

In the Sea There Are Crocodiles

3.8 17
by Fabio Geda

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What would you do if, when you were ten, you were left to fend for yourself, and, in order to survive, you had to undertake a harrowing journey all the way from Afghanistan to Italy?
In early 2002, Enaiatollah Akbari’s village fell prey to the Taliban. His mother, fearing for his life, led him across the border. So began Enaiat’s remarkable


What would you do if, when you were ten, you were left to fend for yourself, and, in order to survive, you had to undertake a harrowing journey all the way from Afghanistan to Italy?
In early 2002, Enaiatollah Akbari’s village fell prey to the Taliban. His mother, fearing for his life, led him across the border. So began Enaiat’s remarkable and often publishing five-year ordeal—trekking across bitterly cold mountains, riding the suffocating false bottom of a truck, steering an inflatable raft in violent waters—through Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, and Greece, before he eventually sought political asylum in Italy, all before he turned fifteen years old.
Here Fabio Geda delivers the moving true story of Enaiat’s extraordinary will to survive and of the accidental brotherhood he found with the boys he met along the way. In the Sea There Are Crocodiles brilliantly captures Enaiat’s engaging voice and humor, in what is a truly epic story of hope and survival, for readers of all ages.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
O, The Oprah Magazine

“Extraordinary. . . . A gripping, strangely sweet tale. . . . Reading of Akbari’s efforts to find a better life—alone and at an age when children in our country can’t even drive yet—will leave you shaken, but his resilient joy leavens the story. . . . The lovely rapport between Akbari and Geda comes across now and then when the journalist interrupts to prod him for more detail, gently reminding him just how extraordinary his experience is.”
The Washington Post

“A remarkable story.”
The Financial Times
“Chilling. . . . Beautiful. . . . Heart-warming”
The Times (London)
“A riveting and fast read, one that dips into emotional and physical violence but surfaces in a splash of redemption and humanity and hope. Adult readers will be gripped by the tale, as will young adult readers.”
Denver Post

“Remarkable. . . . Exquisitely rendered and completely free from pride or self-pity. This book will break your heart at the same time that it is lifting your spirit and opening your understanding to a very different kind of life in our very same world.”
The Daily Herald (London)
“A page-turner that makes you care about its hero from the outset and willingly accompany him on his often perilous journey from Afghanistan to Italy. . . . Salutary and humane, In the Sea There Are Crocodiles, as its international bestseller status indicates, deserves to be read widely by young and older readers alike.”
The Guardian (London)
“As the reader, you have to wonder what you were doing circa 2005, while Enaiat was traversing the mountains of Turkey. Geda’s frank, unembellished prose captures the voice of a brave boy who never loses hope—and who is lucky to be alive to tell his story.”
The National
“A contemporary look at a world that Americans have become increasingly a part of and from the point of view of persons who usually have no voice. . . . Geda has done a fine job bringing Enaiat alive.”
The Washington Independent Book Review
“It’s sobering and heart lifting to see the stoical determination and achievement of someone who makes our world look like paradise. This little gem, beautifully and unobtrusively translated, will raise tears of sorrow and joy.”
The Independent (London)
“Undeniably eye-opening. . . . A small book with a big story to tell. . . . What makes In the Sea There Are Crocodiles so persuasive is the boy’s voice, beautifully captured by Geda.”
“A remarkable, heart-warming story of courage and endurance in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. . . . Truly inspirational”
The Irish Examiner
“Hair-raising. . . . Unforgettable. . . . An eye-opening account of human endurance, of overcoming the most difficult obstacles—all for freedom and a better life.”
“An authentic, open and marvelous voice of youthful exuberance.”
Kirkus (starred review)
“A moving and eye-opening chronicle of hardships no child should have to endure, mitigated by intermittent kindnesses.”
The Sunday Times (London)
“Every so often a book comes along that is an absolute gift to the world. This is one such book.”
—Laura Fitzgerald, author of Dreaming in English and Veil of Roses
“In direct and undecorated prose, Fabio Geda beautifully delivers the human experience of Enaiatollah, a ten-year-old Afghani boy, whose will for survival is more than remarkable. In the Sea There Are Crocodiles will make you laugh and cry, and it will also make you a better person. Everyone should read this book.”
—Marina Nemat, winner of the inaugural Human Dignity Award and author of Prisoner of Tehran

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.86(h) x 0.68(d)

Read an Excerpt


The thing is, I really wasn’t expecting her to go. Because when you’re ten years old and getting ready for bed, on a night that’s just like any other night, no darker or starrier or more silent or more full of smells than usual, with the familiar sound of the muezzins calling the faithful to prayer from the tops of the minarets just like any- where else... no, when you’re ten years old—I say ten, although I’m not entirely sure when I was born, because there’s no registry office or anything like that in Ghazni province—like I said, when you’re ten years old, and your mother, before putting you to bed, takes your head and holds it against her breast for a long time, longer than usual, and says, There are three things you must never do in life, Enaiat jan, for any reason... The first is use drugs. Some of them taste good and smell good and they whisper in your ear that they’ll make you feel better than you could ever feel without them. Don’t believe them. Promise me you won’t do it.
I promise.
The second is use weapons. Even if someone hurts your feelings or damages your memories, or insults God, the earth or men, promise me you’ll never pick up a gun, or a knife, or a stone, or even the wooden ladle we use for making qhorma palaw, if that ladle can be used to hurt someone. Promise.
I promise.
The third is cheat or steal. What’s yours belongs to you, what isn’t doesn’t. You can earn the money you need by working, even if the work is hard. You must never cheat anyone, Enaiat jan, all right? You must be hospitable and tolerant to everyone. Promise me you’ll do that.
I promise.
Anyway, even when your mother says things like that and then, still stroking your neck, looks up at the window and starts talking about dreams, dreams like the moon, which at night is so bright you can see to eat by it, and about wishes—how you must always have a wish in front of your eyes, like a donkey with a carrot, and how it’s in trying to satisfy our wishes that we find the strength to pick ourselves up, and if you hold a wish up high, any wish, just in front of your forehead, then life will always be worth living—well, even when your mother, as she helps you get to sleep, says all these things in a strange, low voice as warming as embers, and fills the silence with words, this woman who’s always been so sharp, so quick- witted in dealing with life... even at a time like that, it doesn’t occur to you that what she’s really saying is, Khoda negahdar, goodbye.
Just like that.
When I opened my eyes in the morning, I had a good stretch to wake myself up, then reached over to my right, feeling for the comforting presence of my mother’s body. The reassuring smell of her skin always said to me, Wake up, get out of bed, come on...But my hand felt nothing, only the white cotton cover between my fingers. I pulled it toward me. I turned over, with my eyes wide open. I propped myself on my elbows and tried calling out, Mother. But she didn’t reply and no one replied in her place. She wasn’t on the mattress, she wasn’t in the room where we had slept, which was still warm with bodies tossing and turning in the half-light, she wasn’t in the doorway, she wasn’t at the window looking out at the street filled with cars and carts and bikes, she wasn’t next to the water jars or in the smokers’ corner talking to someone, as she had often been during those three days.
From outside came the din of Quetta, which is much, much noisier than my little village in Ghazni, that strip of land, houses and streams that I come from, the most beautiful place in the world (and I’m not just boasting, it’s true).
Little or big.
It didn’t occur to me that the reason for all that din might be because we were in a big city. I thought it was just one of the normal differences between countries, like different ways of seasoning meat. I thought the sound of Pakistan was simply different from the sound of Afghanistan, and that every country had its own sound, which depended on a whole lot of things, like what people ate and how they moved around.
Mother, I called.
No answer. So I got out from under the covers, put my shoes on, rubbed my eyes and went to find the owner of the place to ask if he’d seen her, because three days earlier, as soon as we arrived, he’d told us that no one went in or out without him noticing, which seemed odd to me, since I assumed that even he needed to sleep from time to time.
The sun cut the entrance of the samavat Qgazi in two. Samavat means “hotel.” In that part of the world, they actually call those places hotels, but they’re nothing like what you think of as a hotel, Fabio. The samavat Qgazi wasn’t so much a hotel as a warehouse for bodies and souls, a kind of left-luggage office you cram into and then wait to be packed up and sent off to Iran or Afghanistan or wherever, a place to make contact with people traffickers.
We had been in the samavat for three days, never going out, me playing among the cushions, Mother talking to groups of women with children, some with whole families, people she seemed to trust.
I remember that, all the time we were in Quetta, my mother kept her face and body bundled up inside a burqa. In our house in Nava, with my aunt or with her friends, she never wore a burqa. I didn’t even know she had one. The first time I saw her put it on, at the border, I asked her why and she said with a smile, It’s a game, Enaiat, come inside. She lifted a flap of the garment, and I slipped between her legs and under the blue fabric. It was like diving into a swimming pool, and I held my breath, even though I wasn’t swimming.
Covering my eyes with my hand because of the light, I walked up to the owner, kaka Rahim, and apologized for bothering him. I asked about my mother, if by any chance he’d seen her go out, because nobody went in or out without him noticing, right?

Meet the Author

Fabio Geda is an Italian novelist who works with children under duress. He writes for several Italian magazines and newspapers and teaches creative writing at Scuola Holden, the Italian school of storytelling in Turin. This is his first book to be translated into English.
Enaiatollah Akbari graduated from high school in the spring of 2011 and plans to attend university in Italy while continuing to support his mother and siblings, who are now living in Pakistan. He dreams of having the chance to return one day to a democratic and peaceful Afghanistan.

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In the Sea There Are Crocodiles 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
TemeculaMomma More than 1 year ago
What a remarkable story told by a remarkable young man! In the Sea There are Crocodiles is joining my mental list of all-time favorite books! It is the true story as told by Enaiatollah Akbari to author Fabio Geda, although it must be classified as fiction because parts of it had to be reconstructed (it must have been difficult for a 10 year old with no watch or map to remember geographical/time-sensitive details). The story recounts Enaiatollah's 5 year journey to find a home after his mother selflessly leaves him in Pakistan in the hopes that he will find a better life than the one he has in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Although it may strike the reader as cruel at first blush, it would have been heartbreaking for Enaiatollah to have fallen victim to slavery or recruited into terrorism had he stayed in Afghanistan. Even at his tender young age, he seems to understand the depth and importance of his mother's decision. One of the things that I liked so much about this book is how Enaiatollah's sincerity just flowed right off the pages. I felt as though I was sitting in the same room listening to him tell his story. I also appreciated the life lessons that he learned along the way and his overall lack of bitterness. Don't get me wrong though -- his story is not sugar-coated in any way. He does feel a gamut of emotions, from anger to confusion to desperation, however his ability to experience joy may have been his best coping skill. A couple of the lessons that touched me the most were about the importance of friendship and that something that may seem to be a small act of kindness to me or you could mean the world to someone in need. Although I would love to elaborate, I will hold back so that individual readers can glean their own interpretations from Enaiatollah's experiences. In the Sea There are Crocodiles is a very quick read, partly because of its short length, but mostly due to its tight grip on the reader from start to finish. I really think this book would be very valuable in the educational setting; it would make a great summer-reading assignment and surely evoke some insightful essays from students! (It should also remind students how fortunate they are to have the freedom to attend school rather than work 14 hour days in a stone factory!) I am confident that Elaiatollah's story will touch many, many readers. I will be recommending it to my family and friends. Please note that I received a complimentary copy of In the Sea There are Crocodiles from the publisher which has in no way influenced my review.
sarahbrooke37 More than 1 year ago
This book was very well a very life changing read. I look back to everything that I have and all the blessings and advantages that I am so very lucky to have, and I realize how ungrateful I am. So often I don't realize everything I have and I don;t realize that others around this world don;t have what I have. When I think about this young boy, at the age of 10 who has to fend for himself after his mother leaves, I cannot even grasp the thought. He had to cross life-threatning borders and cross freezing mountains, alone. I depend on my mom for EVERYTHING and I know I couldn't live without her. He has to cross through 3 different countries alone and work and find himself his own jobs and work himself to make money to keep himself alive. I can't grasp the thought because I live where things are just handed to most kids and they don't need to lift a finger. Most haven't gone through the emotional pain of being left alone by somebody you thought loved you more than the world. I can't imagine emotionally what this boy had to go through and experience and to hear that he has graduated high school this past year and is planning and attending a university in Italy is amazing. This book helped me realize that I have it easy and my trials compared to some that others are going through are very very small. I need to be more grateful towards my parents and for all that I have. I highly recommend this book because no matter the situation you are in, it will find a way to touch your heart. I loved the book and I'm not really one to read.
Bluestone551 More than 1 year ago
The story was very true and well written. For those that live in America, you should feel very blessed and be quite thankful. He's quite lucky to have met a special lady who helped him. A good story for a rainy day.
sangreal More than 1 year ago
In 2000, when Enaiatollah Akbari was ten years old, his mother took him from their home in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, over the border into Pakistan, and ultimately left him there. This seeming act of abandonment was in fact a desperate attempt to hopefully save the life of her second child. His mother felt he had become too big to hide from the Taliban who targeted families in their area, mostly for being Hazara. Enaiat had to learn to fend for himself over the next five years, traveling from Pakistan to Iran, Turkey, Greece and finally Italy where he was finally given political asylum. In Italy, he told his story to the book's author, Fabio Geda, in hopes that his story could be of help to someone else in a similar position. The book is told in very straightforward, sparse prose which worked to make me feel as though I was listening to Enaiat tell his story, rather than reading what someone else wrote about it. While there was a lack of detail about the people and places that Enaiat encountered, there was sufficient about those persons who impacted strongly on his daily life during his journey. I found myself caught up in his sense of loss of various friendships that he had to leave behind at one time or another. Interspersed throughout the story are italicized passages which seemed to be transcripts of actual conversations between Enaiat and the author, and these served to give an even deeper insight into the difficult journey that Enaiat was forced to undertook, and how it impacted his thinking and on the principles by which he lives his life. This was a very easy read, but the power of the message behind the simple words carried a strong impact indeed. While Geda pointed out that one must read the book as fiction because it is a recreation of Enaiat's memories, again this in no way undermined the sense that this young boy faced a harsh, dangerous and often frightening ordeal that many an adult would not have survived.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
l_manning More than 1 year ago
Enaiatollah Akbari has lived a fairly normal life in Afghanistan, that is until one day when he finds himself being rushed away from his village by his mother. The Taliban has taken over, and Enaiat's mother does not want him there. She leaves him in Pakistan, and Enaiat must learn to take care of himself. Constantly wanting a better life, he finds himself trying to find ways to improve his living conditions. This often involves trusting human traffickers to get him from place to place. Enaiat will travel to Iran, Turkey, Greece, and finally Italy where he seeks asylum. Of course, his path is never easy. However, Enaiat will not rest until he has found a way to make his life more like what he wants it to be. This was a very interesting story on a couple levels. The first thing that struck me was the things a mother will do to protect her child. Enaiat's mother knew the life they were going to experience in Afghanistan was not the one she wanted Enaiat to have. The only way to try and improve thing for him were to smuggle him out of the country. However, she did have other children and family. So she leaves Enaiat in Iran. I can't imagine how hard this must have been for her, not knowing whether Enaiat would survive all this. She was willing to give him a chance though, and this was probably the best she could do for him. I'm glad she eventually gets to discover that her efforts were successful. Of course Enaiat's story after getting to Iran is equally amazing. He survived with some good instincts and a lot of luck. It was so sad to see him and so many people trying to get themselves smuggled to new countries just to try and live a good life. I found it interesting how Enaiat seemed to keep running into people he knew. They clearly have some ways to communicate back to their friends in other countries. The story is told in a very interesting way. It feels very much like you're sitting listening to someone tell their story as opposed to reading their words. This book made me appreciate my life greatly, but it also made me want to help other people like Enaiat. His story was incredibly moving, and I hope that he continues to have a wonderful life where he is now. Galley provided for review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
bookhimdanno More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book! When Enaitollah Akbari was about ten years old, his mother takes him from Afghanistan over the border to Pakistan away from the Taliban. It is there where he wakes one morning to find his mother gone and he is alone. He has to make his own way and figure out what to do with his life. It is the story of his journey through many countries, finding jobs, being deported and making friends, seeking the help of strangers and showing us what it is like to be an illegal in a foreign country. It pulls at your heartstrings as this young boy overcomes, hunger, fatigue, border patrols, freezing, drowning and even death to eventually become a political refugee in Italy. It is a short read, but well worth it. It is interesting to see what life was like for a 10 year old boy as he struggles to find a safe, happy life somewhere out there. It is a unique book that shows the resilience of the human spirit. He sees many others fall along the way, but he somehow makes it despite overwhelming odds. It is a good read and you should definitely pick it up. Thank you to our guest reviewer - Heather - Thanks for the great review Heather.
BaltimoreReads More than 1 year ago
When I saw Fabio Geda's In The Sea There Are Crocodiles on the shelf it attracted me for two reasons. The striking cover design by Edel Rodriquez alone was enough to convince me to pick it up; once it was in my hands, the story did the rest. Anyone with an interest in those heart-wrenching, inspirational stories of ordinary people overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds would enjoy this novel based on the life of Enaiatollah Akbari, an Afghan boy who escaped the horrors of the Taliban and fled through four countries before finding peace in Italy. Geda writes in a simple, straightforward fashion that allows Akbari's story to take the spotlight rather than get lost amidst overly descriptive and embellished writing. As I read In The Sea There Are Crocodiles, I could almost picture Akbari and Geda sitting at a table, discussing Akbari's journey over a cup of tea and a few cookies. Akbari seems to fly through five countries in the span of a week because he is so sparse with detail; it was hard to believe his ordeal was five years long. It is obvious that these experiences have made an impact on Akbari that are so strong he barely has words for them. Geda feeds off Akbari's reluctance to delve into details by painting a picture of Enaiatollah as a forgiving and strong young boy wise beyond his years. While this style was an interesting way to tell Akbari's incredulous tale in a manner that wasn't too over-the-top, it did leave me wanting a little bit more. One of the main points that Akbari makes as he describes his experiences is that there is no need to go into detail about the people he encountered or the places in which he lived - they existed in that particular point in his story, and that was that. As Akbari explained, "It's what happened to you that changes your life, not where or who with." This is certainly an admirable point of view to take on life, especially when you are a fifteen-year-old boy recounting your five-year search through city slums, snow-capped mountains, and migrant hostels for a safe place to call home. And yet, this lack of focus on intimate details made it hard for me to truly connect with anyone besides Akbari himself. I wanted to so badly to care for Sufi, Akbari's comrade in Pakistan who stuck by him during their dangerous journey into Iran, or the Grecian woman who found Akbari sleeping in her garden and gave him food, clothing, and money for a train ticket. But Sufi gradually fizzles out without even a goodbye, and the kind old woman is only afforded three paragraphs. A major reason why Akbari was able to make it to safety in Italy was due to the sometimes unbelievable kindness of family, friends, and strangers. Akbari in no way undermines this kindness by being reluctant to talk about these individuals - his gratefulness is evident in his few words - but I wonder if Geda could have done a little digging himself to provide the connections that Akbari shied away from. In The Sea There Are Crocodiles represents not only Akbari but all the young children of Afghanistan and the neighboring Middle Eastern countries that face violence and poverty every day. For a book that only takes a few hours to read, it speaks quite powerfully about love, courage, and friendship - attributes on which any ordinary reader can always afford to reflect. Check out more reviews on Baltimore Reads' blog on wordpress!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
WilliC More than 1 year ago
A book of facts however it did not give a good feel for the culture of Afghanistan or any of the countries he traveled to. The book was way to short it left me feeling rather cheated given the price. Overall it was OK but nothing I would recommend. Another thing you need an Afghanistan-English dictionary to understand portions.
BookHounds More than 1 year ago
Born in Afghanistan and smuggled out by his mother, he left in Pakistan at age ten to fend for himself, Enaiat manages to make his way to Italy and obtains status as a political refugee. This should be a sad and serious tale, but the story telling comes alive and provides a humorous and winning look on life. Yes, his harsh life is harrowing, but as a young boy, Enaiat finds that he can survive and even thrive through the hardship. I was cheering for him the whole time! The author did a wonderful job translating this boy's story without losing the voice of the subject. I really thought the interspersed translations were direct and inspiring. Just when you think your life is bad, there is a tale that comes out to teach an important lesson.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not the type of book I would normally read. Can't stop thinking about it. Could'nt put it down
VishVD More than 1 year ago