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Maaza Mengiste in NYRB

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From Disquiet Fiction Faculty Maaza Mengiste’s piece, “This Is What the Journey Does“:

“Stories come back to me, told by a friend who crossed the Sahara to get to Europe by way of North Africa. He spoke of horrifying treatment at the hands of human traffickers and police in detention centers and makeshift prisons. He shared what he could and skipped the rest. In moments when several who made the journey were gathered, I would watch them point to their scars to help fill the lapses in their stories. Sometimes, there was no language capable of adding coherence to what felt impossible to comprehend. Sometimes, it was only the body that bore the evidence, pockmarks and gashes forming their own vocabulary. Staring at the busy intersection, I don’t want to consider what this young man might have gone through to arrive in Italy, to be in the street on this day. That he is alive is a testament to his endurance. What he has been subjected to, what might have caused that scar, what was too much for his mind to accept—these thoughts lead the way to far darker realities than I can possibly know. I look back at the first note I took upon seeing him: ‘You did not leave home like this. This is what the journey does.'”

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