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The only optician on the island of Lampedusa in the Mediterranean is an ordinary man in his fifties, who used to be indifferent to the fate of the thousands of refugees landing on the coast of the Italian island. One day in the fall of 2013, the unimaginable scale of the tragedy became clear to him, and it changed him forever: as he was out boating with some friends, he encountered hundreds of men, women and children drowning in the aftermath of a shipwreck. The Optician and his seven friends managed to save 47 people (his boat was designed to hold ten people). All the others died. This is a poignant and unforgettable account about the awakening of conscience: more than that, it brings home the reality of an ongoing refugee crisis that has resulted in one of the most massive migrations in human history.
More than 360 people died in the disaster off the coast of Lampedusa on October 3, 2013. The original interview with Carmine Menna, the basis for this book, can be heard at http://bit.ly/optlamp
Emma-Jane Kirby is a reporter for the BBC, where she has worked as a foreign correspondent since 2001. She is currently a reporter with BBC Radio 4’s the World at One, PM and Broadcasting House, where she focuses on Europe. For the last two years, much of her time has been spent on the migration trail. In 2015, she was awarded the Bayeux- Calvados Award for War Correspondents for her reporting on the Lampedusa disaster. A graduate of Oxford, she lives in London and Paris.