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City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp
Ben Rawlence

Translated from English by Sergiusz Kowalski

Published by Czarne

“Everyone in Dadaab has an original story. A story that has been retold so many times, the narrative worn smooth like a wooden handle.” In this largest refugee camp in the world, on the border of Kenya and Somalia, stories are particularly valuable—sometimes they are the only thing someone possesses. British reporter Ben Rawlence listened to hundreds of narratives and recounted nine life stories that convey the hope and hopelessness of life in the contemporary Panopticon. There is terrorism and humanitarian social engineering, but also a Shakespearean love story set against the background of a conspiracy by Somalian nurses. Ben Rawlence listens beautifully and beautifully passes on the stories entrusted to him. The thorn bushes also blossom beautifully, but they wound painfully.
Katarzyna Nowak

Ben Rawlence

Ben Rawlence – journalist; holds a BA in Swahili and History from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, and an MA in International Relations from the University of Chicago. The author of “Radio Congo. Signals Of Hope From Africa’s Deadliest War” (2012) and “City of Thorns: Nine Lives in The World’s Largest Refugee Camp”. For seven years (2006-2013) he was a researcher for Human Rights Watch, working in Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia and others. His work appeared in „The London Review of Books”, „The Guardian”, „African Affairs”, „The Huffington Post”, BBC Radio 4. He lives in Black Mountains, Wales.

Sergiusz Kowalski

Sergiusz Kowalski (born 1953 in Inta, near Vorkuta, USRR) – mathematician, sociologist, publicist; translator from English, Russian and French. He translated a.o. works by: Isaiah Berlin, Timothy Garton Ash, Scott Turov, George Bush, Wiktor Osiatyński, Dawid Ost, Jan Wacław Machajski, Ben Rawlence.

In the Trap

Juror Katarzyna Nowak writes about Ben Rawlence's “Miasto cierni” (“City of Thorns”), in Sergiusz Kowalski's translation.

"I will be in the White House” one of the characters proclaims. It is not easy for us readers to react to this blustery assertion because we know that “The status quo in Dadaab is dependent upon not recognizing the refugees as humans. Because to do so would be to acknowledge that they have rights.” Ben Rawlence—a British journalist and researcher for Human Rights Watch—returned many times to the Kenya-Somalia border, to the largest refugee camp in the world. He spent a total of about five months there, the result of which is a fascinating, dramatized narrative. Out of hundreds of stories he heard, the author has chosen nine lives that illustrate the hopelessness of the everyday situation of people “confined to the endless present”. The pathologies and paradoxes of camp life, the gigantic fortunes growing on the margins of humanitarian aid, the NGO dress code and the succeeding generations raised in the contemporary Panopticon—without freedom, but at the same time speaking the liberation jargon of the aid organizations. Immersion in this grim world is surely enhanced by Sergiusz Kowalski's translation, which adroitly conveys the colorful polyphony of the original.
Although they are so different from each other, Rawlence's protagonists share one thing: the dream of escaping.“My mind is infected
with resettlement. Sometimes I cannot even remember my name” one of them admits. This book is precisely about our not forgetting either these people or their names. As for the White House - “Let's be realists and demand the impossible.”

Katarzyna Nowak


City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp
Ben Rawlence

translated from English by Sergiusz Kowalski

published by Czarne