Saturday, 13 January 2018

{Review by STELLA}

Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck is an insightful exploration of the refugee crisis seen through the eyes of Richard, a recently retired academic in Berlin. Adjusting to the end of work, widowhood and the days endlessly stretching in front of him, Richard finds himself contemplating his past more than his future. What was his purpose after all? A post-war child, he carries the stories of last century, the trauma of the war and the guilt of his parents' generation. Berlin, a city divided by a wall, has been his constant adult companion until 1990. He understands borders, and the impact they have when they exist and when they supposedly don’t. After a tent city at Alexanderplatz is demolished, Richard’s interest is piqued. Tracking down the African refugees at a temporary facility, he starts to record their stories, stories of poverty, violence and desperation. What the refugees want is to work, but until they are assessed and granted asylum they don’t qualify to work in Germany. In his attempts to help, he comes up against bureaucracy and legal loopholes, reminiscent of his own past in East Germany, which make him question the compassion of his contemporary homeland and meaning in his own life. In this exceptionally well-written and compelling novel, Erpenbeck explores race, identity and the notions of nationhood and ​borders, both personal and geographical.​

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