The Leash and the Ball by Roddaan Al Galidi



The Leash and The Ball by Rodaan Al Galidi

Dutch fiction

Original title – Holland

Translator – Jonathan Reeder

Source – Review copy

As the year is beginning to unfold, there is a theme of migration and being a refugee forming. Here is another book that fits in that box from the dutch Iraqi writer Rodaan AlGalidi he fled his homeland to evade national service. Initially, he failed to get asylum in Holland, so he didn’t have Dutch lessons, but he has taught himself Dutch since the early 200o and published several novels. He has won the EU prize for literature for his book the ausist and the carrier pigeon. This book follows a similar journey to his own life and the narrator in his novel’s life, and that is the tightrope of becoming a citizen that is similar in most western countries.

You cannot compare a Dutch village to an Iragione. Whereas in Irag the dogs lie in wait in order to bite you, in a Dutch village it’s the solitude that lurks. To me, the word village means “factory for fruit, vegetables, meat, eggs, and soldiers” (since village children in Irag do not go to school, the boys enlist in the army at eighteen). In a Dutch village you see tractors and barns, fields of potatoes, carrots, and on-ions, but not a single Dutch person sweating out in the fields, chasing his neighbor’s cattle from his orchard, or struggling to coax more water out of the ground. It’s as though the village runs itself. I was surprised to discover that even the smallest village in the Netherlands has a supermarket, where to my even greater surprise you can buy all sorts of fruit and vegetables without seeing the trees they grow on, or those trees having the climate they need.

Culture shock sinks in with Samir compares his dutch village to his former home at Iraq


The book follows the final part of their journey to become dutch citizens, Samir and his chance to start his new life as a dutch citizen. He like the writer himself tried to escape conscription into the Iraqi Army. He made that journey into Europe via southern Spain and ended up in Holland; he has been there for nine years; he is a qualified engineer like the writer himself. Alongside all this, a failed love affair with a dutch girl called Leda crops up again and again throughout the book. He tries to fit in the village he lives in by wandering with a lead and ball given by Leda and pretending he has a dog to meet people as we see the places unfold the places to places the asylum centre. The villages and places. He is a grafter. He doesn’t want handouts he tries to get jobs here and there (this reminds me of working in a factory in Germany alongside some Kosovian refugees in the early 90s; this couple were a professor of Albanian Literature and her husband worked on the Albanian version of a match of the day, and they were in a factory packing. But he also worked in the local cafe in the evening as our narrator does). as Saamir tries to blend in over time he slowly does, but it shows how hard it can be.

Had Leda also told the Dutch dog that he had to be ready in ten minutes? Could Diesel tell time? Questions only I could ask, and only Diesel could answer. I rocked from one leg to the other, like a stork, until Leda appeared. She had wrapped the leash around her left hand. Her expression showed no surprise that I was standing there after all, she had invited me herself but no enthusiasm, either. It was more the look of someone who thinks, well, I did ask him to join me, but was that such a good idea?

Leda his dutch girl and dog lover.

I loved this book as what makes excellent lit for me has to connect with me on a personal level. Has to be a connection to my own lived experience and here I felt it. I worked with Refugees in the late 90s and felt a connection to Samir. His life and story remind me of those friends I made on a factory floor in Germany. Rodaan Al Galidi captures the comedy and sorrow of being a fish out of the water, trying to blend in but standing out no matter what you do. The freedom he craves is always in his grasp when he lived in the asylum centre. I have another book by this writer I hope to get to later in the year as he is a writer. I’ve a new writer I love. Have you read any of his books? A great book from world editions

Winston’s score – +A one man’s life as a refugee in Holland at the end of the Hussein years he had to escape.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. 1streading
    Feb 26, 2023 @ 10:24:02

    I read this last year and enjoyed it – it really does give an insight into the difficulties of being a refugee.


  2. Trackback: Stu’s February Journey | Winstonsdad's Blog

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February 2023


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