Go, Went, Gone

Jenny Erpenbeck, trans. from the German by Susan Bernofsky. New Directions, $16.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2594-6
The staid existences of elderly Berliners and the fraught, uncertain trajectories of African refugees intersect in Erpenbeck’s melancholy and affecting novel. The conduit for this intersection is the widowed Richard, a recently retired classics professor, whose search for an occupation leads him to a nearby nursing home where a group of refugees is housed while the government deliberates regarding their right to live and work in Germany. Becoming a regular visitor to the home, Richard befriends Awad, a Ghanaian who had been living in Libya before emigrating to Germany, and Rashid, whose family was violently attacked during a religious holiday in Nigeria and who has not seen his mother in 13 years. Awad, Rashid, and the other young men, with their stories of violence and loss, share the traumatic experience of entering Europe via a perilous maritime route, in which “the passengers below deck had no chance at all when their boat capsized.” Subtly, Erpenbeck (The End of Days) suggests that the refugees and the Germans have in common a history of displacement: Richard and his friends “are post-war children” who were citizens of East Germany, then saw the system “under which they’d lived most of their lives” collapse. The narrative emerges as an insightful call to conscience and an undeniable argument for our common humanity. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/17/2017
Release date: 09/01/2017
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-0-8112-2595-3
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