Amsterdam Airport, 1998.
This book is utterly gripping and very hard to describe as it’s so unique. The fact that it’s fictional fact – or fact based fiction kept me totally engrossed as I felt wholly drawn into this tale of asylum seekers that does not shy away from some harsh truths about the world that we live in
“The narrator of the book is not me. It is someone I’ve called Samir Karim. This way I can still be the writer, and not the main character. People might ask me if this is my story, to which I will say: no. But if I am asked if this is also my story, then I will say wholeheartedly: yes.”
Two Blankets, Three Sheets gets its name from the list of items that gets issued to every asylum seeker – two blankets, three sheets, a towel, a pillow and a pillowcase – and these things were the sum total of everything Samir owned while living in the centre
This is a semi-autobiographical novel by Rodaan Al Galidi, whose own experiences mirror some of Samir’s exactly , but this moving and affective book also vividly depicts the stories of the other asylum seekers he encountered in his own journey to safety in the Netherlands.
It explores these stories whether they were pure of motive or not – and this is one of the most fascinating aspects of this book – it does not merely seek to show all asylum seekers bathed in a golden light. It is a warts-and-all story of the many kinds of people who give up everything and set off in search of a new life – and you will find all human life here.
It is a tale of what it is to be a refugee which will make you think and blends humour with pathos extremely skilfully in order to bring all the highs and lows of their experiences – and some of these experiences are very low indeed.
It was incredible to lose myself in such an unusual and thought provoking tale which definitely gave me a new insight into the truth about asylum in all its manifestations – I think it’s so important to get a change of genre every now and then and this winter, I’ve been mostly reading contemporary writing and gothic reads. It’s funny that I get drawn to books in waves, and after reading Two Blankets, Three Sheets I’m now on a real Non-Fiction mission and have been drawn to more political and controversial reads – which is pushing me right outside my reading comfort zone…
The hugely contrasting characters and their vividly-depicted journeys allowed me to travel through their experiences right there alongside them through its pages. I really loved the way that Rodaan Al Galidi draws the reader in and keeps them connected with the characters’ journeys through love, despair and a sense of resignation as we see the way that being stateless affects everyone differently and the uncertainty and despair can wear even the most determined and focussed individuals down.
I loved the juxtaposition of the individual stories as they interweave and coincide through their differing experiences. This was the perfect January read – and got my year off to a more thought-provoking start. If you love an unusual and inspiring read with plenty of resonant and compelling characters then you’ll love it as much as I did.
I absolutely loved this book and enjoyed the fact that this freezing bout of weather meant that I could really dedicate some serious hours of reading to it. I enjoyed the feeling of being immersed in his world where humour and despair rub shoulders and you’re never far from another bleak realisation about the way our world is going, even though it might be portrayed through dark humour and going where other writers might not dare.
Treat yourself to Two Blankets, Three Sheets on Amazon right now!
Writer On The Shelf
RODAAN AL GALIDI is a poet and writer. Born in Iraq and trained as a civil engineer, he has lived in the Netherlands since 1998. As an undocumented asylum seeker he did not have the right to attend language classes, so he taught himself to read and write Dutch. His novel De autist en de postduif (‘The Autist and the Carrier Pigeon’) won the European Union Prize for Literature in 2011—the same year he failed his Dutch citizenship course. Two Blankets, Three Sheets, already a bestseller in the Netherlands, is his most successful novel to date.
“In all its tragedy of miscommunication, loss of identity and meaning of life, humiliations and incapacity to truly connect, it is also a very light and humorous book.” —Literair Nederland
“A challenging portrait of Dutch hospitality. Absolutely recommended.” —The Correspondent
“You can write emails about refugees until you’re blue in the face, but you can also, thanks to the unique power of literature, spend a few hours inside the mind and soul of one of them. By reading this tragicomic masterpiece. It will do you good.” —De Limburger
“‘The asylum center, ‘ Al Galidi writes, ‘is a grave where the time of a few hundred people is buried.’ For this grave he has erected a memorable monument, that functions as both a complaint and a mirror. And I, for one, was ashamed of what I saw in it.” –Tommy Wieringa, author of Joe Speedboat
“Essential reading” —Trouw
“A stunning novel about the experiences of a refugee in a heartless regime: polder-bureaucracy thick as mud. Al Galidi holds up a mirror to us. A mirror that we should all look into.” –Adriaan van Dis
“Two Blankets, Three Sheets is a valuable and rich novel about fear, uncertainty, arbitrariness and hopelessness, written by someone who was, thankfully, able to use his new language as a lifebuoy.” —Tzum
“Confrontational, but also humorous, Galidi provides a very complete portrait of what years of waiting in an asylum center can do to you as a human being. This is a book of absolute urgency in a time of humanitarian catastrophe that hopefully raises questions and will bring about change in our current systems. A must-read that you do not want to let go.” –Mirjam Burger, Hebban