The Naked Don't Fear the Water: An Underground Journey with Afghan Refugees by Matthieu Aikins
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A NYTBR Editor’s Choice
“This is a book of radical empathy, crossing many borders – not just borders that separate nations, but also borders of form, borders of meaning, and borders of possibility. It is powerful and humane and deserves to find a wide, wandering readership.” — Mohsin Hamid, author of Exit West
In this extraordinary book, an acclaimed young war reporter chronicles a dangerous journey on the smuggler’s road to Europe, accompanying his friend, an Afghan refugee, in search of a better future.
In 2016, a young Afghan driver and translator named Omar makes the heart-wrenching choice to flee his war-torn country, saying goodbye to Laila, the love of his life, without knowing when they might be reunited again. He is one of millions of refugees who leave their homes that year.
Matthieu Aikins, a journalist living in Kabul, decides to follow his friend. In order to do so, he must leave his own passport and identity behind to go underground on the refugee trail with Omar. Their odyssey across land and sea from Afghanistan to Europe brings them face to face with the people at heart of the migration crisis: smugglers, cops, activists, and the men, women and children fleeing war in search of a better life. As setbacks and dangers mount for the two friends, Matthieu is also drawn into the escape plans of Omar’s entire family, including Maryam, the matriarch who has fought ferociously for her children’s survival.
Harrowing yet hopeful, this exceptional work brings into sharp focus one of the most contentious issues of our times. The Naked Don’t Fear the Water is a tale of love and friendship across borders, and an inquiry into our shared journey in a divided world.