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The fake refugee

Vahid
Forfatter: Kristian Husted
Forlag: Lindhardt og Ringhof (Danmark)

Theater man Kristian Husted goes undercover as a refugee, but unfortunately gets too little out of the transformation. 

(PS. This article is machine-translated from Norwegian)

We only know the pictures too well. Of refugees in overloaded, interim boats trying to cross the Mediterranean. Or wandering up through Europe's road network. Tired, worn bodies. Some on the edge of life.

The theater man Kristian Husted has in the works Vahid sat down to go through the situation on their own body. Dressed in identity as an Iranian writer named Vahid Evazi, Husted assumes the role of refugee on the road to a better future in Europe.

Dissension. We follow up with Vahid as he stands in line in the Morial camp on Lesbos. From here, the journey goes up north through Greece, the Balkans, Austria and Germany to finally countries in the Sandholm camp in Denmark, where a large part of the book actually takes place. However, the journey itself is not hassle-free. The worst is perhaps the unreadable. That you do not know who wants a good and who wants an evil. The refugee crisis has created a veritable industry for fraudsters selling fake papers and tickets for non-existent buses. The mafia has settled on parts of this industry, and the most abominable existences pretend to be relief workers and then kidnap especially women, force them into prostitution or sell their organs. It is a completely murky world that springs to life for us on these sites.

The most abominable existences pretend to be relief workers.

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However, much of the first half of the book agrees to stand in line and wait while hunger increases and desperation grows. Vahid, along with the thousands of other refugees, must stand for hours and constantly experience the uncertainty and turmoil. Will he be sent back, or will he be allowed to pass through? And since Vahid is at the same time the theater man Husted, he must also be able to accommodate the possible disclosure. For what will happen if the Greek police find out that he is merely a false refugee? This split is effected in some way, as Husted alternately writes in the first person (ie Husted) and in the third person as Vahid. It gives the text a nice dynamic when, for example, you hear about the disagreement: «We have come into a contradiction, Vahid and I. I'm scared and Vahid is impatient. He wants to hurry, have the bus set up speed so he can reach before Germany starts sending people back. I want to get off, slow down, back out, escape. ”

This doubt and hesitation is a recurring element of the work and reflects in a fine way the duality that comes from the fact that Vahid is not a real refugee.

It's just something, we play. Here we must also round up the ethical. For is it at all justifiable to pretend to be a refugee? One can easily blame Husted for taking a seat in the queue, which could have gone to a man who is truly on the run. After all, he makes it even harder for others – real refugees – to enter. At the same time, we must remember that there is a bigger case at stake. We can sometimes forget that, especially when the theatrical takes over. When he devotes himself to a sad mime. For him, it's just a role he plays. Is it OK? Momentarily you get the feeling that it's all just something we play. But the play is set in the scene for reasons of seriousness and humanism. Husted, after all, is eager to report on the refugees' conditions and lives, and there is also a feeling that he is achieving something special about his migration. Time allows him to reveal some telling details. Vodafone, which has set up a sales van from which they sell international calling cards. The cynical middle of the human. The same goes for the importance of who you are. Identity becomes an important clue in the story. Identity is important both in the queue and during registration. It is identity that determines which queue you enter and which bus you access. At the same time, Husted, with his portrayal, also makes it clear how difficult it is to find out the fates of the people and decide who is truly deserving of asylum and who are rather knights or criminals on the run.

An unfortunate inertia. The bodily performance of wandering with refugees is not just Husted. Others have done the same. For example, in Danish, we have been able to follow Madame Nielsen's refugee migrations, and just think about how the German author Günther Wallraff assumed an immigrant identity and in fact exposed significant knowledge about the immigrants' lives in the 1970's Germany. Husted, as I said, comes momentarily with exciting insight, but he never really reaches into the life of the refugees he surrounds himself with. In addition, he is probably too busy with his own journey and his dual identity. Maybe the theater man is legally filling a lot in that regard.

Husted momentarily comes with exciting insights, but he never quite reaches into the life of the refugees he surrounds himself with.

The work also has an unfortunate inertia. Some of it may come from a slightly unhelpful language. Here, it is teeming with short sentences that get rather annoying to be in the company of over so many pages. Just hear: “Zak? Khalil? The boots? He must pee. People in front of the tents. Mud, garbage, toilets, 'toi toi'. A shit on the seat. The toothbrush in the back pocket. Piss into the soup. Soldiers on Earth. Machine guns. ”These kind of short sentences can give a condensed mood, and in some places it works as well. But many times you are struck by an unfortunate staccato feeling that does no good to the text.

Husted's thought with the book is good. The idea as such is also well executed and he has certainly gone through a myriad of hardships in order to deliver his work. Unfortunately, the thorough and courageous method does not reason in the book, which remains too hollow and skittish.

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Steffen Moestrup
Permanent contributor to MODERN TIMES.

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