Abdelkader Benali

    is a Moroccan-Dutch writer of Berber background, currently based in Amsterdam. He has written eight novels, several plays and a documentary feature on the war in Lebanon. His debut novel Bruiloft aan zee (1996, Wedding at Sea) has been translated into several languages and he received the Libris Prize for his second novel, De langverwachte (2002, The Long-Awaited). He also writes essays and reviews for De Volkskrant, Vrij Nederland, De Groene Amsterdammer, Esquire and Algemeen Dagblad and has been writer-in-residence at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. He is an avid runner, with a personal record of 2:52:19 for the 2006 Rotterdam Marathon. He has described his running experience in the book Marathonloper (2007, Marathon Runner). “Each and every individual flight and migration represents an existential borderline situation. This great challenge also represents a great opportunity for the receiving countries. I would like to plead for the dreams of the refugee, driven by the hope of a better life. Every flight is an act of resistance. This is what the movie Casablanca is about. The uncertainty of setting out, the fear of not reaching your destination, the melancholy of loss – this is what this refugee film par excellence is about. Flight is like birth and death, no other experience is as momentous. People get a chance to reinvent themselves. The refugees are better off because they have chosen a better world. But the real struggle begins the minute they settle down in the new country. While the media move on, the seemingly endless process of integration begins. To arrive at his or her new destination, the refugee has to take a thousand small steps every day. Initially successes are barely noticeable: they come with time, gradually. The emotional DNA of all refugees carries the conviction that it is all about the secure future of their children. These days I have been watching the images of fleeing young men with a pathologist’s attention. Their strong bodies, their eyes, their attitude to the new world have impressed me. They all have mobile phones so that they can communicate their privations and successes to their families via social networks. What has struck me is that the refugees are all very young, even if their faces have been marked by hardship, aging them visibly. They remind me of my father, who left his Moroccan home village as a seventeen-year-old, hoping to find a better life.”