What does it mean to live against a wall? In this ambitious first-person narrative, Marcello Di Cintio travels to the world’s most disputed edges to meet the people who live alongside the razor wire, concrete, and steel and how the structure of the walls has influenced their lives. Di Cintio shares tea with Saharan refugees on the wrong side of Morocco’s desert wall. He meets with illegal Punjabi migrants who have circumvented the fencing around the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. He visits fenced-in villages in northeast India, walks Arizona’s migrant trails, and travels to Palestinian villages to witness the protests against Israel’s security barrier.
From Native American reservations on the U.S.-Mexico border and the “Great Wall of Montreal” to Cyprus’s divided capital and the Peace Lines of Belfast, Di Cintio seeks to understand what these structures say about those who build them and how they influence the cultures that they pen in. He learns that while every wall fails to accomplish what it was erected to achieve – the walls are never solutions – each wall succeeds at something else. Some walls define Us from Them with Medieval clarity. Some walls encourage fear or feed hate. Some walls steal. Others kill. And every wall inspires its own subversion, either by the infiltrators who dare to go over, under, or around them, or by the artists who transform them.
..illuminating, brilliantly composed . . . Di Cintio’s book is a travel book that takes its readers through many countries and gives them a sense of what it is like to live on one side of a wall and to experience the fragmentation and destruction of the landscape of one’s country. He writes with passion and empathy for the victims of those monstrous walls that take no account of how they affect the human beings living next to them.
His wide-ranging narrative mixes geopolitical background with first-hand accounts of dispiriting individual experiences in squalid refugee camps . . . Di Cintio’s journeys successfully articulate the diminishing, humiliating effect of the walls on those who have no choice but to push against them.
What [De Cintio] does do, bravely and forcefully, and with impressive commitment, is to bear witness to the pain and suffering of people who live in the shadow of separation barriers.
He writes well, unpicking some of the world’s trouble spots in spare and lucid prose . . . Di Cintio has a sympathetic ear and an eye on the long, slow melancholy of divided spaces.
[An] intriguing journey around the world’s walls . . . Di Cintio uses his explorations as way of thinking about unresolved conflicts. He is at his best when he makes the trip into an adventure, running the Sahara marathon, collecting smugglers’ stories worthy of the Polish master-traveller Ryszard Kapuscinski.
[Di Cintio] observes and reports tirelessly, then makes powerful and poetic connections between all that he has seen and heard. Walls is a moving and extremely engaging book, a reminder of ’the constant thrum of hope’ amid so many man-made obstacles.
Di Cintio leads a whirlwind tour of the world, looking at the unlikely places where the human mania for erecting barriers has shown itself . . . Solid journalism that takes readers into cheerless, contested places they probably would not wish to see for themselves. An eye-opener.
Di Cintio offers historic perspective from the Great Wall of China to the Roman emperor Hadrian’s wall across what became Britain and from the Maginot Line to the Berlin Wall. An engaging look at the meaning of walls.
What’s it like having a physically massive, politically symbolic barrier for a neighbor? That’s the question posted by this deftly written travelogue, which drops into settlements in Israel, Northern Ireland, Mexico and more to paint stark portraits of life beside some of the world’s most notorious reinforced borders.
As Robert Frost’s front-porch adage has it, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’ Well, not only would Di Cintio disagree, but he also has an honest, compassionate, and expertly written counter-argument. Walls is the kind of non-fiction you might call eye-opening, since it features Di Cintio travelling to all kinds of barricades around the world and interviewing the disparate people who live in their shadows. But he actually engages many more parts of the body than that — the brain and the heart both come to mind.
. . .[A] tour de force of reportage . . . Di Cintio writes vividly, conscientiously, compassionately, and, in his concluding paragraphs, optimistically in spite of all he has witnessed — for he has also witnessed moments of beauty, courage, and art. His readers are the beneficiaries.
An ambitious investigation of the globalized world’s underbelly.
Di Cintio explores eight political hot spots – zones where walls split terrain, people and minds. With admirable legwork and vivid prose, he discovers that these walls and the communities living along both sides of them are sights of fear, illness and suspicion, but also sights of solidarity, storytelling and intense creativity. This journey is his method of engagement, and in reading it he implicates us in the tensions and suppressed ambitions of these divided societies.
I’ve never bought the divisive notion that good fences make for good neighbors. But one thing’s for sure: Walls make for great stories — something Marcello di Cintio richly demonstrates in this energetically researched and beautifully recounted work of reportage.
Di Cintio immerses himself in his chosen locations, providing historical background and rich reportage of the many social and political realities of being walled in (or out). What emerges is a collection of interrelated vignettes full of dense description and fascinating characters that vive the reader a true sense of place . . . it is a deeply humane, honest, and even cautious account of an outsider who seeks as much as possible to understand local contexts.
Marcello Di Cintio is one of the best travel writers of his generation. In Walls, he tells compelling and engrossing stories with his customary mix of vivid detail, a strong sense of history, a lovely sense of humor and, above all, a fascination with the human race in all its contradictions.
. . .A travelogue that takes the Canadian writer along the frontiers, barricades, and ‘peace lines’ that give lie to claims of a more-connected globe . . . Di Cintio is eloquent about the psychology of barriers.