Prize Fighter

Future D. Fidel

Prize Fighter
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Prize Fighter

Future D. Fidel

Isa Alaki is not from here. At ten years old, Isa’s life in the Congolese city of Bukavu changed forever. The streets were burning. The town was mostly silent, like a ghost town, until the yelling started. At school, Isa knows he has to get home. The soldiers would be looking for his father. The sound of gunfire, the sharp smell of blood and the screams of his sister still echo in his head. Back then, he had a choice to make. Death or a gun. He picked up the gun and became a child soldier, forced to fight for the same forces that massacred his family.

After years of horror, Isa escaped, and he is given a chance of freedom when he travels to Australia. He brings with him papers that grant him refugee status, the hope that he can find his brother, Moise, and the scars of a brutal war. Here, the fighting skills Moise taught him when he was a boy see Isa become a talented young boxer. He spends his days punching away the past, punching away the demons in his mind, literally trying to punch his way to a better life. His powerful left hook promises much, but the demons he is wrestling with have a power all their own. The question for Isa is … will the past ever let him free?

A moving debut novel that packs an emotional punch based on the critically acclaimed play by Future D. Fidel.

Review

Future D. Fidel is a refugee from the Congo. Prize Fighter is based on the acclaimed stage play written by Fidel and it too follows the life of Isa Alaki from the war-torn Congo to life in Australia. The power of this novel is that it takes the cold, clinical term ‘refugee’ and turns the abstract ‘refugee’ into a person with fears, hopes, and a future.

Isa is born to a middle-class family in the Eastern Congo. His father is a politician and when rebels invade their city his family is targeted and brutally killed; only Isa’s older brother and he are spared, forced to join the ragtag band of rebels and become brutalised themselves. Isa escapes and makes his way to Nairobi, where he is taken in by a kindly woman and her adopted daughter. They encourage Isa to seek refuge away from Africa.

Accepted by Australia, Isa arrives in Brisbane alone and disoriented but obsessed with trying to find his brother. When he was little, his brother taught him the rudiments of boxing and in Brisbane he uses boxing as a way to ground himself and also as a way to get enough money to search for his brother. As a boxer he is single-minded and vicious, driven by the demons that haunt him; these qualities bring him success in the ring.

Fidel has written a story of great power that brings to life an experience that would be alien to most of us. It is a wonderful addition to the canon of Australian writing.


Mark Rubbo is the managing director of Readings.

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