A detained refugee held in a offshore campus won two of Australia’s richest literary prizes for a book he typed out via text message.

Kurdish-Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani received two of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, the lucrative Victorian Prize for Literature and the Non-Fiction Prize, CNN reported Thursday.

He was awarded 125,000 Australian dollars, an estimated $90,000.


The awards were for his book, titled “No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison." The manuscript was sent to publisher Picador Australia via text messages Boochani typed on a cell phone.

The judges called Boochani’s book a “stunning work of art and critical theory which evades simple description.”

“Distinctive narrative formations are used, from critical analysis to thick description to poetry to dystopian surrealism,” the judges wrote. “The writing is beautiful and precise, blending literary traditions emanating from across the world, but particularly from within Kurdish practices.”

Omid Tofighian was credited for the translating Boochani’s text messages from Farsi.

In a video acceptance speech, Boochani recalled being laughed out by immigration guards when he told them he was a writer.

“I kept this image in my mind for years, even while I was writing my novel – and even right now, as I’m writing this acceptance speech. It was an act of humiliation,” Boochani said.

He called the award a victory for literature, art and humanity.

“A victory for human beings, for human dignity. A victory against a system that has never recognized us as human beings. It is a victory against a system that has reduced us to numbers,” he said. “This is a beautiful moment. Let us all rejoice tonight in the power of literature.”

Boochani has been detained on the island of Manus, Papua New Guinea since 2013 when he was found attempting to enter mainland Australia without a valid visa, CNN reported.

Australia closed its “regional processing center” on the island in 2017 but 600 refugees, including Boochani, remain in the camps.

Refugees attempting to enter Australia via sea are taken by boat to offshore processing centers and are now allowed to be settled on the mainland, the outlet noted.

The country’s tough border protection policies are necessary to protect those attempted to travel by sea with people smugglers, the Australian government has said.