The Pigeon Whisperer
Motaz H. Matar, author
Meet Dabbour, a 25-year-old Syrian refuge and introvert and a pigeon herder. He fled with to Berlin with Yasser, his childhood friend and the two have succeeded in finding a new home using fake passports. Dabbour is trying to learn the ropes in this new country; while trying to learn German he's fallen for his German teacher, Zara. One day, Dabbour jumps on the railway tracks to save an injured pigeon and almost gets himself killed. For this, he gets arrested by the police – and realizes how much he misses home and the birds. Yasser asks Dabbour to use his talents as a "pigeon whisperer" and steal stray pigeons to transport drugs. Dabbour agrees, then realizes it was a big mistake. Dabbour is forced to choose between his loyalty to his friend and the promise of a new "family" and doing the right thing. Dabbour sinks further and further into the world of crime and drug smuggling.
In the fast-paced debut from Palestinian filmmaker Matar, a pigeon breeder and his friend escape war-torn Syria for Germany. Innocent and naive, Dabbour allows Yasser to draw him into the drug trade, jeopardizing Dabbour’s hopes for a fresh start in Europe. When an older Syrian man, Mr. Saleh, offers Dabbour an opportunity to work with pigeons again, it seems that Dabbour can escape the clutches of the envious and manipulative Yasser after all. However, when a tragedy occurs at Mr. Saleh’s, Dabbour’s chance of a fresh start without Yasser is once again threatened. While the swift pacing can lead to a bit of confusion (as when Matar jumps from Syria to a Berlin police station within the space of a few sentences), the author acutely explores themes of home and belonging through the two friends’ opposing reactions to their new country. As Yasser bristles at the prejudice and rejection they face due to their refugee status, using it as justification for his crimes, Dabbour hopes to assimilate as his notion of home evolves, leading him to the epiphany that “home would always live inside me and that I would carry it with me like my mother carried me in her belly.” Though the final product is skeletal, those bones would be a great foundation for a movie. (Self-published)
"It is a magical book which, nevertheless, raises such important issues such as hope, hopelessness, belonging, war, migration, love, and loss." Claudia Cragg. KGNU Radio.