Canadian journalist Di Cintio (Poets and Pahlevans: A Journey into the Heart of Iran, 2006, etc.) leads a whirlwind tour of the world, looking at the unlikely places where the human mania for erecting barriers has shown itself.
Take the Western Sahara, for example, all rippling sand dunes and the occasional oasis, formerly known as the Spanish Sahara. When Francisco Franco was dying, he sent up a casual middle finger to his anti-colonial foes by dividing the territory between Morocco and Mauritania, countries that promptly set about squabbling over it. The result? Thanks to endless hard work, a wall now extends into the desert that is “longer than the Great Wall of China”—though it’s not likely to last as long. The wall may make its Moroccan builders feel more secure, but people have a habit of getting over and around such structures, as Di Cintio notes when considering the walls that have gone up on the U.S.–Mexico border and between Israel and the Palestinian settlements. The walls are everywhere: In the last Spanish settlements on the African continent, Ceuta and Melilla, walls proclaim that here stands Europe, while the wall that divides India from Pakistan is permeable precisely because the people who live there aren’t as concerned with being separated as the politicians in Karachi and New Delhi are. Even in Canada, Di Cintio observes, which boasts the world’s longest unarmed border, obstacles divide the wealthy from the poor of Montreal: a structure known as “the Fence of Shame and the Wall of Shame—the same term used for the berm in the Western Sahara.”
Solid journalism that takes readers into cheerless, contested places they probably would not wish to see for themselves. An eye-opener.