|Courtesy of Penguin
The Boat by Nam Le, page 279
But the mention of land – coming even from her own mouth – cancelled out any joke for Mai. She had been trying not to think about it. From every quarter everyone now discussed, obsessively, their situation: they were on a broken-down junk, stranded in the Eastern Sea – here, or maybe here – an easy target for pirates – everyone knew about the pirates, had heard stories of boats being robbed and then rammed, of women being taken, used, dumped. On top of that they were starving, some of them beginning to get sick. No one, however, gave voice to the main fear: that they might not make it.
The Boat by Nam Le is an amazing collection of short stories which has won a list of awards a mile long, including the Dylan Thomas Prize in 2008 and the Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award in 2009.
Le tackles some tough subjects in the six stories which take the reader around the world from Colombia and the USA, to Japan, Tehran and Australia. It is from the final story that the prose above is taken – a heart-wrenching tale of a group of refugees escaping the Vietcong and drifting out at sea.
Le was born in Vietnam and grew up in Melbourne. The Boat is his first book and has now been transformed into thirteen languages.
The Boat by Nam Le (Penguin, 2008, ISBN: 9780143009610, 313 pages.)