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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
On Two Feet and Wings
by Abbas Kazerooni
Age Range: 12+
Abbas is almost eight-years-old when he finds himself alone in Istanbul. Abbas’s father had to make the heart-breaking decision of letting his young son travel alone to a strange country when his mother, Marzieh is refused permission to leave Iran. Arrangements are made for a friend of his father to look after Abbas until his mother is allowed to join him in Turkey but he has abandoned him at the airport.
The Iran-Iraq war is at its bloodiest and the ayatollahs have reduced the age of recruitment into the army so Abbas had to escape Tehran to avoid being forced to go to war.
All alone in a strange and often frightening city, Abbas has to grow up fast and become streetwise. Living for twelve weeks in a seedy, rundown hotel, he learns to live by his wits and watch his back. The most important thing, his father tells him, is to apply for a visa to England where his cousin has agreed to take care of him. But as the weeks drag on Abbas wonders if he will ever make it to the UK.
Abbas, affectionately nicknamed ‘Little Man’, is able to survive through his own tenacity but also the kindness of strangers such as Ahmed the taxi driver, Murat the hotel owner and the embassy staff who help him with his visa application.
On Two Feet and Wings is largely an autobiographical account of the author, Abbas Kazerooni’s flight from Iran and his extraordinary courage as he lives alone in Istanbul before finally making it to the UK. It is at times a heart-breaking story, particularly the painful scenes of Abbas’s mother collapsing in grief at the airport when she realises her son must go alone to Istanbul, but there are uplifting moments too, with the kindness of strangers who look out for Abbas and his own determination to make his father proud of him.