Summary and book reviews of Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck

Go, Went, Gone

by Jenny Erpenbeck

Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck X
Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck
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    Sep 2017, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Chris Fredrick
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Book Summary

An unforgettable German bestseller about the European refugee crisis: "Erpenbeck will get under your skin" (Washington Post Book World)

Go, Went, Gone is the masterful new novel by the acclaimed German writer Jenny Erpenbeck, "one of the most significant German-language novelists of her generation" (The Millions). The novel tells the tale of Richard, a retired classics professor who lives in Berlin. His wife has died, and he lives a routine existence until one day he spies some African refugees staging a hunger strike in Alexanderplatz. Curiosity turns to compassion and an inner transformation, as he visits their shelter, interviews them, and becomes embroiled in their harrowing fates. Go, Went, Gone is a scathing indictment of Western policy toward the European refugee crisis, but also a touching portrait of a man who finds he has more in common with the Africans than he realizes. Exquisitely translated by Susan Bernofsky, Go, Went, Gone addresses one of the most pivotal issues of our time, facing it head-on in a voice that is both nostalgic and frightening.

Go, Went, Gone: Excerpt

The ghosts, Karon says, only come as far as the Italian coast. They don't cross over into Europe. Immediately after his arrival in Lampedusa, he had three more dreams and he hasn't had a single one since. The ghosts also demand their tribute on the crossing, he says. For this reason, it makes no sense to stop a person who loses his mind during the crossing and jumps into the water. One single time, Karon says, a miracle occurred. A man had fallen from the boat into the water, and the captain didn't want to lose time turning the boat around, but he at least turned off the motor for a minute. A few men called out the man's name, all of them looked to see whether he might still be keeping his head above water somewhere, but you couldn't see him anywhere. Then everything became quiet for a moment. The sea grew calm and looked as smooth as a mirror, and suddenly two dolphins came swimming up close together, and between them they were ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

In Go, Went, Gone, Richard gives of himself, choosing to see, to better understand, and to sympathize with people who, on the surface, seem so much different from himself. Without Richard, we may not meet someone like Apollo who speaks Tamasheq, Hausa, Arabic, Italian, and French in addition to the German he's learning. The new immigrants' stories make the abstraction of the refugee crisis more tangible. They remind us that borders are arbitrarily drawn lines of power and that we all belong to the same humanity.   (Reviewed by Chris Fredrick).

Full Review (639 words).

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Media Reviews

Vogue
Dreamlike, almost incantatory prose.

The New Yorker
Erpenbeck's prose, intense and fluent, is luminously translated by Susan Bernofsky.

The New York Review of Books
Wonderful, elegant, and exhilarating, ferocious as well as virtuosic.

Publishers Weekly
The narrative emerges as an insightful call to conscience and an undeniable argument for our common humanity.

Library Journal
Occasionally slow-moving but a stunning and intimate look into the refugee crisis; refreshingly, the characters don't finally embrace sentimentally but inch toward understanding.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. A lyrical, urgent artistic response to a history that is still unfolding.

Reader Reviews

Tom Matamoros

Exceptional literature.
Exceptional literature.

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Beyond the Book

A 2015 Snapshot of the Global Refugee Crisis

Go, Went, Gone is set in Berlin during the thick of the ongoing international refugee crisis. Germany and many other countries have become a destination for those who leave home for reasons of violence, conflict, persecution, human rights violations, poverty, and war.

The historic event, now termed the Global Refugee Crisis or European Migrant Crisis, refers to the millions of people forcibly displaced in and around 2015. According to the UN Refugee Agency "By the end of 2016, 65.6 million individuals were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations... and the world's forcibly displaced population remained at a record high." Of these, 22.5 million were refugees at the end of ...

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