"Secondly, I hope that once you're dead, you're dead. Please don't subject me to some kind of unexpected hereafter where I have to start off by applying for asylum."
This is an interesting short work that grew out of an investigative journalist's experience in an asylum seekers' residential center in Arendonk, Flanders (Belgium). It is most often written from the perspective of an immigrant photographer, Bipul Masli. Masli, like others in the center, is a victim of atrocities perpetrated in his homeland. In Flanders, the asylum-seekers endure a waiting game reminiscent of Catch-22 or (Kafka's) The Trial. The author writes with clear eyes but also with humor and biting irony. Yet there is an inescapable distortion because, although written from the perspective of an asylum seeker, that perspective is refracted through the lens of the European journalist (hence, the photographer metaphor). For example, at times the asylum seeker knows a bit too much about Flemish society or is a bit too hard on Englishmen. But that reminds us that this is a European writing a criticism of European society given force by the experiences and treatment of asylum-seekers as told from their perspective. Some of the anecdotes/stories cut deeply in showing contradictions between expressed values and behavior: we wring our hands and shake our heads at human rights violations abroad, yet we close our eyes and our hearts to the very victims of those violations living in our midst. We may not perpetuate torture, but we certainly don't use our utmost capacity to speed the healing.
Another customer review noted that the writing is choppy. I would attribute this to a deliberate "gonzo" journalistic style that lands a raw punch. (The cover describes the style as "extreme political incorrectness" but from my perspective, that description is very far off the mark.)
I recommend this book especially for those who like to ponder the history and future of Europe. I am an American social scientist who has recently become interested in the social, economic, political, policy and cultural challenges raised by the "current wave" of immigration to Flanders. I found this book to be fascinating and morally challenging.