To begin at the end is perhaps to begin at the beginning, with this powerful work by Armin Greder. Greder has once again taken a subject that is powerful, emotive and occurring on a daily basis, depending where you live and in what section of the of the Mediterranean coastline; that of the refugees who board a boat, full of hope and despair, seeking a better life somewhere in Europe.
On the first page the words ‘After he had finished drowning, his body sank slowly to the bottom, where the fish were waiting’ highlight, with the spare use of words the fate of so many, who have for many more years than is on record, attempted the crossing from Africa to Europe, paying dearly with their lives.
It is known widely throughout the region that fishermen have for decades, pulled up the bodies from the deep in their nets and simply returned them to their watery graves, moving on with their lives.
Greder has in stark black and white, with sweeping, powerful images created the cycle that did, and does, exist for so many people living in war torn and politically destructive countries, who sacrifice everything in the hope of being able to begin again. They pay the smugglers with more than they own to take them to a better, safer place.
Sadly in this day and age the people who do make it, along with the people who do not, are rapidly becoming the faceless, the nameless displaced or dead, in countries that can no longer cope, or hold out hope for their future.
Death, life, war, peace, hope and despair march across the pages, giving form and shape to the people, which according to the Afterword, written by Alesssandro Leogrande totals more than 12,000 deaths in the last three years.
Who were these people, these bodies, which mount up and then ironically become fish food, which as is succinctly pointed out in the storyline, eventually return to the tables of the fishermen who threw them back? Cynical, bitting and hard hitting by the end of the book the lines become blurred as to right, wrong, fact, whitewashing, and responsibility: to ask or raise the question, who eventually has or owns the responsibility.
The Mediterranean is not a comfortable read, but is certainly a book which evokes discussion, and in some small way, addresses the issues we all like to repress when we read in the newspapers of the world, the cold statistics of the numbers of people who have latterly or recently drowned in the Mediterranean.
There is a beginning and there is an end, but as said, to begin at the end is to begin once again, to begin at the beginning!
Publisher: Allen & Unwin Childrens
Book reviewed by Jan Mawdesley from Bluewolf Reviews,