#Review Two Blankets Three Sheets by Rodaan Al Galidi
@worldedbooks #RandomThings #twoblanketsthreesheets
This book is fiction for the reader who cannot believe it. But for anyone open to it, it is nonfiction …’
Drawing on the author’s own experiences as an asylum seeker in the Netherlands – a darkly funny insight into the mind and soul of a refugee
Two Blankets, Three Sheets
By Rodaan AlGalidi
translated from the Dutch by Jonathan Reeder
‘You have to take care, Mr Karim,’ she said, ‘this is your future.’ With the word ‘this’ she picked up the report from the first hearing. I was amused at the idea that my future would be determined by a few sheets of paper, and not by my health, my happiness or my dreams. Or a never-ending barbeque on the beach, or travelling the world on a legitimate passport.
Amsterdam Airport, 1998. Samir Karim steps off a plane from Vietnam, flushes his fake passport down the toilet, and requests asylum. Fleeing Iraq to avoid conscription into Saddam Hussein’s army, he has spent seven years anonymously wandering through Asia. Now, safely in the heart of Europe, he is sent to an asylum centre and assigned a bed in a shared dorm—where he will spend the next nine years.
Taking its title from the ‘two blankets, three sheets, a towel, a pillow, and a pillow-case’ that constitute the items Samir is given on his arrival at the Asylum Centre, and are the only things he owns during his nine years there, this book is the story of how Samir navigates his way around the absurdities of Dutch bureaucracy while trying his best to get along with his 500 new housemates.
Told with compassion and a unique sense of humour, this is an inspiring tale of survival, a close-up view of the hidden world of refugees and human smugglers, and a sobering reflection of our times.
This was a fabulous book, harrowing and sometimes with an element of humour we follow Samir Karim and his time spent in an Asylum Centre in the Netherlands. After fleeing the Iraqi regime and travelling many years through Asia he finally reaches Amsterdam Airport where he request asylum, and finds himself in a perilous long wait as his case is handled through the court systems.
He finds himself sent to an asylum centre and housed with some 500 other people all in the same state of limbo as he is, some newly arrived and other’s who have been there for several years. Your eyes are really opened with the prejudices that asylum seekers face, these are people who are fleeing terror looking for a better life and a chance to live . Most arrive with no means of communication, or very little English and as we see Samir learns Dutch in own way by trading lessons with a farmers daughter at one point. He is thrust into the dutch language in a bid to better understand the many documents, communicate with the centre personnel and generally get by in his new found country.
This is really a tale of survival, part autobiography, part story, Rodaan Al Galidi gives the world an inside look on these centres that he had to spend nine years of life in. It certainly was and eye opening read for me, and the light humour will have you chucking at some of the situations that some of the other characters find themselves in.
By creating the character of Samir Karim, Rodaan has been able to create a brilliant story in which to tell his own experiences, and share the stories of the people he met over the years.
About the Author
RODAAN AL GALIDI is a poet and writer. Born in Iraq and trained as a civil engineer, he has lived in the Netherlands since 1998. As an undocumented asylum seeker he did not have the right to attend language classes, so he taught himself to read and write Dutch. His novel De autist en de postduif (‘The Autist and the Carrier Pigeon’) won the European Union Prize for Literature in 2011—the same year he failed his Dutch citizenship course. Two Blankets, Three Sheets, already a bestseller in the Netherlands, is his most successful novel to date.
Jonathan Reeder, a native of New York and longtime resident of Amsterdam, enjoys a dual career as a literary translator and performing musician.
Critical acclaim for Rodaan Al Galidi
‘Al Galidi holds up a mirror to us all. A mirror that we should look into.’
―ADRIAAN VAN DIS
‘Two Blankets, Three Sheets is a valuable and rich novel about fear, uncertainty, arbitrariness, and hopelessness, written by someone who was, thankfully, able to use his new language as a lifebuoy.’ ―Tzum
‘For all its heavy themes―the tragedy of miscommunication, loss of identity and meaning of life, humiliation, and the incapacity to truly connect―it is also a very light and humorous book.’ ―Literair Nederland