books | Political Science | 9780864926630
288 pages
Pub date: September 14, 2012
Rights: Canada
Walls: Travels Along the Barricades

WINNER, 2013 Shaughnessey Cohen Prize for Political Writing

WINNER, 2013 Wilfrid Eggleston Award for Nonfiction

WINNER, 2013 City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize 

Shortlisted for the Dolman Travel Book Award

Longlisted for the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction

Longlisted for the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction

Longlisted for the Alberta Readers' Choice Award

In this ambitious blend of travel and reportage, Marcello Di Cintio travels to the world’s most disputed edges to meet the people who live alongside the razor wire and answer the question: What does it mean to live against the walls?

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 US-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 surround. Some walls define “us” from “them” with medieval clarity. Some walls encourage fear or feed hate. Others kill. And every wall inspires its own subversion, whether by the infiltrators who dare to go over, under or around them, or by the artists who transform them.

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“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.” — Kirkus  

“This is a remarkable book, and Di Cintio is a thoroughly engaged – and engaging – traveller and wordsmith.” — The Globe and Mail

“Di Cintio’s ethnographic method is the perfect approach to his subject. It is a deeply humane, honest, and even cautious account of an outsider who seeks as much as possible to understand local contexts.” — Quill and Quire (starred review)

“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.” — Canadian Geographic

“As a colourful, compassionate tour of hot spots where “nations stake territory in bald concrete,” this beating of the bounds can’t be topped.” — The Independent 

“What he does do, bravely and forcefully, and with impressive commitment, is to bear witness to the suffering of people who live in the shadow of separation barriers.” — The Guardian 

“An illuminating, brilliantly composed book.” — Financial Times

“A beautifully written reportage, part travel, part history, part politics, full of acute observations and analysis. Recognizing that, as an outsider wielding a Canadian passport, he is in the enviable position of being able to pass through walls, Di Cintio makes meaningful connections with people on the ground to understand local contexts. The results are personal stories of living with walls, of subverting them and of defeating them, at once gripping, haunting, humorous and inspiring.” — Traveller 

Walls is a book that follows its thread, that unpompously accepts the haplessness of being an outsider, and that is justly impatient with communities that hide behind a wall rather than ask difficult questions.” — The Times of London 

“Di Cintio brings a fair-minded, maple-baked sensitivity to the madness of dividing lines and barbed wire, but the effect is all the more saddening. If someone as uncholeric and sweet-tempered as Di Cintio found more despair than hope, it’s not a good sign. Still, he writes well, unpicking some of the world’s trouble spots in spare and lucid prose.” — Literary Review 

“Di Cintio’s journeys successfully articulate the diminishing, humiliating effect of the walls on those who have no choice but to push against them.” — Sunday Telegraph 

“What’s it like having a physically massive, politically symbolic barrier for a neighbour? That’s the question posed by this deftly written travelogue, which drops into settlements in Isreal, Northern Ireland, Mexico and more to paint stark portraits of life beside some of the world’s most notorious reinforced borders.” — Time Out UK 

“A perfect mix of fact and vivid first-person narrative leaves you feeling that you’ve witnessed death-defying acts of bravery, and fallen ill with Wall Disease. Walls is a humanizing history of the world’s barricades that we need now more than ever.” — Geist 

“Marcello Di Cintio’s new book is exactly the kind of non-fiction I adore most. It’s ambitious, intensely personal, and uses one basic idea as the jump-off point for tackling all kinds of fascinating issues along the periphery.” — The Edmonton Journal

“When Ronald Reagan exhorted Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall, it was not only a political act. As Marcello Di Cintio discovers, walls divide far more than nations. In this beautifully written reportage, the author brings readers the personal stories — gripping, haunting, humorous, and inspiring — of people living against walls around the world, from the “peaceline” of Belfast to l’Acadie fence of Montreal.” — Shaughnessy Cohen Prize jury 

"Yet another wonderful read from one of the best travel writers of his generation. In Walls, Marcello Di Cintio tells compelling and engrossing stories with his customary mix of vivid detail, a strong sense of history, a lovely sense of humour and, above all, a fascination with the human race in all its contradictions." - Margaret MacMillan, historian and author, Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World

"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." Moez Surani, author, Floating LIfe

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Walls [Paperback]
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