Review Blog

Mar 08 2018

The Mediterranean by Armin Greder

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2017. ISBN 9781760630959
(Age: all) Highly recommended. Themes: Refugees, Mediterranean Sea, Drowning, Corruption, Civil war, Wordless stories. In a scathing attack on the almost faceless men who sell guns which support war, in turn producing a constant stream of refugees, Greder forces every reader to stop and take notice, to reevaluate, to empathise with those who through no fault of their own, are pawns in the hands of a group of men whose sole aim is to make money; the sharks of our society.
Guns are produced and then shipped in large containers, almost clandestinely to men waiting at the other end. They use the guns to force people to fight for them and people are killed and villages are burnt down in their wake. People stream away from the danger in their midst and find men who sell them a way out, passage on a boat across the Mediterranean Sea. But they do not make it.
The men who sell the guns, then sit down in the most expensive of restaurants to eat the fish that have grown fat on the bodies washed down deep into the sea after their boats have failed to take them to safety. The sharks who sell their guns, or war, or safe passage are no different from the sharks which eat the bodies in the sea.
Greder's breathtaking mixed media illustrations delineate the problem: the making of money overrides everything. We are all at the mercy of the sharks for whom money is king, and it is no mistake that these faces who sell the guns, rouse the people into fighting, sit at the restaurant to eat their fish meal and sell safe passages to the displaced, are all the same.
Greder's illustrations are arresting. The cover shows the sea, black and forbidding, overhung with grey clouds. Opening the book we find a body floating down, down to the bottom of the sea where it becomes fish food. Every page is filled with sombre greys and blacks, white used to accentuate the bleakness of the situation for those trying to survive.
Alessandro Leogrande's afterward tells the tale in all of its horror, the throwing back into the sea of bodies found on the beach, the many thousands which wash up each year, the very dehumanising of these people as we use statistics to define what is happening. And we are all complicit in our silence. This heart wrenching book is not designed to sit on shelves. It must be shared and discussed. Teacher's notes are available on the publisher's website.
Fran Knight

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