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In the Sea There are Crocodiles: Based on the True Story of Enaiatollah Akbari Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 9, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


--O Magazine

" This gripping, strangely sweet tale....captures the young man’s open-hearted tone just right.....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 even when he’s toiling for 90 hours a week at dangerous work in a locked warehouse, crossing the snow-covered mountains from Iran to Turkey on foot, or hiding in the false bottom of a truck “like grains of rice squeezed in someone’s hand.” 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    

"Reminds us that Afghanistan’s current woes did not begin with the American invasion of 2001....And so it goes on, almost unimaginable horrors related with a lack of sentiment and bombast....[a] remarkable story"--
The Financial Times

"Geda does a wonderful job of creating a voice for Enaiatollah that matures subtly, becoming sharper with every mishap but never losing the ability to make the best of a situation....for all the hardship, In The Sea is full of wit and the book is really about determination...moving"
--The Guardian

"An intriguing story.....[and] understated sense of humor, even when he recalls horrible scenes....quite dramatic"
--Boston Globe

"In Geda's hands Enaiatollah's story is 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."
--Daily Herald

"More than stand up as 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. That it is based on reality makes it more than just a compelling adventure story. For here is a frank, revealing and clear-eyed testament of the experiences faced by a young asylum-seeker in the contemporary world.....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

"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

"Fabio Geda has done a fine job bringing Enaiat alive without resorting to novelists' tricks.....Fast read. It presents 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. That world is presented so convincingly"
--The Washington Independent

--The Times UK

"‘Geda’s voice combines the plucky survivor’s determination of his charge with moments of pathos – soaked poignancy and others of joyful laughter...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

"Beautifully told....will inform and inspire"
--The Guardian

"A small book wiht a big story to tell....compelling narrative that maintains the youthful voice of this remarkable boy.....undeniably eye-opening....What makes In the Sea There Are Crocodiles so persuasive is the boy's voice, beautifully captured by Geda."
--Book Page

"A compelling and intimate story....truly incredible....Fabio Geda retells Enaiatollah's story with warmth and compassion, interacting with him in a gentle and intimate manner which brings depth to the story. Although written as a fictional piece the story is recreated from Enaiatollah's memory.  With its simplistic style, the reader is drawn into the world of the child: his thought processes and his perceptions. The story spans five years, Enaiatollah is only fifteen when he arrives in Italy and realizes that this is the place he wants to call home."
--Read Plus 

"A remarkable, heart-warming story of courage and endurance in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles... truly inspirational"
--The Irish Examiner

The core of the story is Enaiat's indomitable will to succeed....revealing....hair-raising....unforgettable....In the Sea There Are Crocodiles is an eye-opening account of human endurance, of overcoming the most difficult obstacles—all for freedom and a better life."
--The Counter Punch

"[A]n authentic, open and marvelous voice of youthful exuberance."
--Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Lyric...the book reads like a conversation...both affecting and unaffected, powerfully delivers one child's story of survival while bringing us close to the horrors....Another Kite Runner? It's certainly a lovely read."
--Library Journal

"[T]here's no shortage of heart-breaking trials to be faced....Enaiat's daring adventure is ideally suited for young adults, but older readers will find in it a deeper layer of investigation of the humanity of strangers and the power of family. If Enaiat's memory eventually seems muddled and fragmented, so that the book must be called fiction, the truth of his experience remains."

"Fabio, the writer to whome he [Enaiatollah Akbari] tells his narrative, has a poetic turn of phrase, but lets events speak for themselves. The result is a moving and eye-opening chronicle of hardships no child should have to endure, mitigated by intermittent kindnesses."
--The Sunday Times (UK)

"The prose is straightforward, engaging, and at times almost conversational. Teens will marvel at Akbari’s courage and resilience"--School Library Journal

"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

 "The personal stories of refugees and their life-or-death battles are usually lost in between the lines of news reports. 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

About the Author

FABIO GEDA is an Italian novelist who writes for several Italian magazines and newspapers. This is his first book to be translated into English. Howard Curtis is a London-based translator of Italian and French texts, for which he has won numerous awards.

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Read an excerpt from In the Sea There Are Crocodiles. [PDF]

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (August 9, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385534736
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385534734
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #959,125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In the Sea There Are Crocodiles is a fictionalized account of Enaiatollah Akbari's journey from Afghanistan to Italy, as he related it to Fabio Geda. Akbari left Afghanistan when he was ten years old, shortly after his mother disappeared. After spending time in Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, and Greece -- sometimes working, sometimes sleeping in parks, sometimes paying traffickers to help him move on -- Akbari ended up in Italy at the age of fifteen. He told his story to Geda when he was twenty-one (ages are approximate since Akbari isn't sure of his birth date) and encouraged Geda to write this book so that readers would better understand people like Akbari.

Akbari's story lacks the intensity and urgency that is a common feature of the best accounts of displaced persons fleeing oppressive regimes. Akbari had a difficult childhood, but his travels and struggles do not seem nearly as vexing as those of many other refugees. Even a month long walk from Iran to Turkey does not seem as arduous in the telling as it must have been. The narrative voice is surprisingly detached from the hardships it relates; it didn't make me feel the pain and deprivation that Akbari undoubtedly endured.

On a few occasions, Geda pauses to insert his own voice into the narrative, as if he were providing the reader with excerpts from a transcript of his interview with Akbari. Geda says things like "I'm interested in everything [you say], Enaiatollah" and "We'll say [this thing you think is important] loud and clear, Enaiat." These interruptions seem designed to portray Geda as an admirable biographer. A couple of the digressions were all about Geda; they did nothing to advance the story. The book would have been better without Geda's intrusions.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Albeit brief, this is a powerful and moving story told in a charmingly unusual style; it feels fresh and immediate, as though the reader were sitting beside the real Enaiatollah Akbari and author Fabio Geda and listening to them talk. The first person narrative is primarily presented as Akbari's memories of events, with occasional digressions and small bits of conversation with Geda. It gives real insight into the perseverence and strength of a young man faced with an unthinkable challenge: abandoned for his own protection without warning or tools to survive in a foreign land where he does not speak the language.

The book is a brisk 211 pages and wastes little time with extraneous detail. At several points, the narrator (the subject?) refuses to elaborate on incidents, insisting that it isn't the description of setting and character that matters, but what happened. I have to say that - for this story at least - I am convinced. His refusal to ground some of the people who helped and hurt him along his journey give the story almost an allegorical feel; as he says, it could have been anyone. They becomes archetypes.

The story of Akbari's survival is quite moving. He was obviously a clever and determined young man caught in a situation that many would not have survived. You can't help but care about him and root for him along the way. Too, as such things go, the story is infectious. I sometimes judge the value of a book in its "read aloudability", whether you are compelled to share bits and pieces with family, with colleagues. I mut have read a good quarter of this aloud to my husband (sometimes fighting tears)...and he listened with equal intensity. Really. It's good.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is an amazing account of one young Afghani's life, a life in which childhood is eliminated well before its time. During the Taliban terror, Enaiatollah Akberi's mother removes him to Pakistan for his own safety, abruptly leaving him there so as to return to her village and her two other children. She knew her 10 year old son well enough to know that despite his youth, he would be able to survive. As with Dave Eggars' treatment of the life of Valentin Achak Deng in What is the What, Febio Geda writes in fiction, even though the facts of Enaiat's life presented here are as close to reality as he can remember. Geda also peppers the narrative with injections of conversations between the two of them giving the memoir an even deeper poignancy.

This is a decpetively slim volume, but there isn't a superfluous word and even though there is much hardship endured in this journey, Enaiat never wavers or breaks any of his mother's three cardinal rules (with one exception, necessary for survival). Neither does he indulge in self pity. How he manages to make the journey from Pakistan to Italy, the people he meets along the way who show kindness, the resolution of what he makes of himself when he arrives in Turin -- all this makes for a story as remarkable as the young man who lived it.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In the Sea There Are Crocodiles is a short (maybe about 40,000 words) fictionalized oral history of a remarkable journey by a Afghani boy trying to escape the Taliban and find a new life for himself. The raw story is embellished with novelistic touches by the author, an Italian writer. Heartwarming and eye opening, the novel with its sketchy, visual-filled treatment reads like a screenplay. You get a portrait of just how resilient, intelligent and aware a little 10 year old boy can be.

There isn't much depth of understanding here - after all it's the narrative of a young kid - and I think this book is most suitable for young adults. It's a simple tale, well told. I can see it being read in middle schools and high schools, particularly in classes where the teacher has an interest in exposing students to worlds and lives well beyond the borders of the comfortable USA. Adults may find the story a little too thin.
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