Refugees in Fiction
The Irish potato famine. Pogroms in Eastern Europe. Two world wars. Revolutions in Russia and Cuba. Natural and political calamities have traditionally been the catalysts leading to migrations of people leaving their worlds behind, often in fear for their lives. It’s as true today as ever. Here are some recent novels about refugees.
When the moon is low by Nadia Hashimi . When her happy middle-class life in Afghanistan is shattered by the rise of the Taliban and her husband’s murder by fundamentalists, former schoolteacher Fereiba embarks on a high-risk effort to escape to England with her three children.
The exiles return by Elisabeth De Waal. Herself an exile, Elisabeth de Waal, born into a dynastic Jewish family in 1899, lived a privileged childhood in Vienna, became a writer who moved around Europe and died in 1991. This novel reveals her intelligence and articulateness as it evokes 1950s Vienna, haunted by the ghosts of its distant and more recent pasts. De Waal’s cast of characters, which includes an unrepentant Nazi, presents a tableau of life and class in a ruined, now reconfiguring great city–a place of happiness for some, destruction for others.
The shadow girls by Henning Mankell,. Jesper Humlin is a moderately successful Swedish poet who, after a chance encounter with a Nigerian refugee, wants to expose the plight of international refugees. Hearing their stories ignites Humlin’s passion to do something meaningful, but his lofty ideas don’t align with his subjects, illuminating some prescient issues of the immigrant narrative.