Bestselling author shares inspiration for novel


Kenneth Armant/The chart

Fabio Geda, author of “In the Sea There are Crocodiles” holds a book signing during a two-day visit to Missouri Southern as part of the Italian theme semester on Nov. 7 and 8.

The chance to meet a bestselling author does not come along every day. For Missouri Southern first-year experience students, the occasion was even more unique. Italian novelist Fabio Geda came to Missouri Southern as part of the Institute for International Studies’ themed semester events.

His novel In the Sea There are Crocodiles was the required reader for the UE 100 class this semester, so each student was given the rare opportunity to meet the author in person. There were also several informal Q&A and book signing sessions scheduled throughout the author’s two-day visit.

Geda told the audience at Corley Auditorium how he met Enaiatollah Akbari, the protagonist of his bestselling novel, at a speaking engagement for his first book. As Akbari shared his story with the group that day, Geda knew he wanted to help Akbari share it with a wider audience. In the Sea There are Crocodiles is a breathtaking narrative of a 10-year-old Afghan boy’s five-year journey to a new life in Italy.

Geda’s previous career as an educator and caregiver to orphaned and homeless boys had uniquely prepared him to understand the unusual circumstances Akbari had experienced.

“I already knew this kind of story,” said Geda. “This is not a strange story. It is not only Enaiat’s story; I already heard many of these boys telling their troubles. What surprised me most was this evening while I was listening to him telling his troubles, I found out that he was able to tell his troubles with an incredible light touch, with a surprising irony.”

At the end of the speaking engagement where they met, Geda and Akbari remained friends. After a year, in which Akbari shared the full story of his journey, they made the decision that Geda would write the book. Geda spent nine months working with Akbari, using maps and photos found on the Internet to help the boy remember all that had occurred on his journey.

The book was translated into English in 2011 and has since been translated in more than 30 languages.

Akbari is now a 24-year-old university student in Italy, studying political science. His plans for the future include providing help in some way to his home country of Afghanistan. Although he does not plan to return there to live, he hopes to be reunited with his family when it is safe for him to do so.

The event was filmed for Southern’s KGCS TV 22, and will air at 8 p.m. Nov. 18 as Fabio Geda – From Reality to Novel – The Making of In The Sea There Are Crocodiles.