Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish-Iranian asylum-seeker held on Manus Island, Australia’s holding-pen for immigrants it wants to slow-track, has just won the Victorian Premier’s prize for non-fiction and their top award for literature with his book about life on Manus, No Friend but the Mountains. The Guardian reports on the prize award. This morning the BBC carried a report in its World Service Newshour broadcast. Mr Boochani appears to be a cultural phenom: articles, poetry, songs and a movie have all been created. The BBC reported on the film in October. Yes, he has his own Wikipedia page.

Without having read the book, one of the most interesting things one can tell about it about it is the method of composition. Mr Boochani wrote it on his cell phone as a long series of text messages sent via WhatsApp and other messaging services to Omid Tofighian, his translator from the Farsi in which the book was written. The authorities were not ecstatic: his phone was twice confiscated. “The main reason I wrote this book on my phone, and sent it out bit by bit, was really that I didn’t feel safe with the guards and authorities”. But after almost five years of composition the book was completed and was published last July by Pan Macmillan.

Now, of course, the judges for the Victorian Premier’s award are not members of the Australian government, but it does make for an ironical comment that the country’s top literary prize should be given to a writer who the government tried to stifle. Although the detention center on Manus Island has been officially closed it seems Mr Boochani is still there, and was not allowed to attend the prize-giving ceremony.