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Go, Went, Gone
Cover of Go, Went, Gone
Go, Went, Gone
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New York Times Notable Book 2018; Foreign Affairs Best Book of 2018; MLA LOIS ROTH AWARD WINNER

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.

New York Times Notable Book 2018; Foreign Affairs Best Book of 2018; MLA LOIS ROTH AWARD WINNER

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.
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Awards-
About the Author-
  • Jenny Erpenbeck was born in East Berlin in 1967. New Directions publishes her books The Old Child & Other Stories, The Book of Words, and Visitation, which NPR called "a story of the century as seen by the objects we've known and lost along the way."
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    July 17, 2017
    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.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from July 15, 2017
    Searching novel of the Berlin refugee crisis by Erpenbeck, considered one of the foremost contemporary German writers."The best cure for love--as Ovid knew centuries ago--is work." So thinks Richard, who, recently retired from a career as a classics professor, has little to do except ponder death and his own demise that will someday come. What, he wonders, will become of all his things, his carefully assembled library, his research notes and bric-a-brac? It's definitely a First World problem, because, as Richard soon discovers, there's a side of Berlin he hasn't seen: the demimonde of refugees in a time when many are being denied asylum and being deported to their countries of origin. His interest awakens when he learns of a hunger strike being undertaken by 10 men who "want to support themselves by working" and become productive citizens of Germany. For Richard, the crisis prompts reflection on his nation's past--and not just Germany, but the German Democratic Republic, East Germany, of which he had been a citizen (as had Erpenbeck). Richard plunges into the work of making a case for the men's asylum, work that takes him into the twists and turns of humanitarian and political bureaucracy and forces him to reckon with a decidedly dark strain running through his compatriots ("Round up the boys and girls and send them back to where they came from, the voice of the people declares in the Internet forums"). Richard's quest for meaning finds welcoming guides among young men moving forth from Syria, Ghana, Burkina Faso, some unable to read, one confessing that he has never sat in a cafe before, all needful strangers with names like Apollo, Rashid, and Osarobo. In the end, he learns from his experiences, and theirs, a lesson that has been building all his life: "that the things I can endure are only just the surface of what I can't possibly endure." A lyrical, urgent artistic response to a history that is still unfolding.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    September 1, 2017

    In this sobering, intellectually acute work, retired classics professor Richard lives alone in Berlin, pottering about his autumnal existence until he sees a news report featuring ten African refugees conducting a hunger strike before Berlin's Town Hall. He's struck by the idea that they have made themselves visible by refusing to say who they are and begins following their plight, finally visiting a facility where several have been moved after an agreement with the Senate. His motivations are initially self-serving; he wants to investigate the nature of time, "something he can probably do best in conversation with those who have fallen out of it." But as the men speak matter-of-factly of their lives and losses, he begins to realize his ignorance, drawing closer and even inviting a man named Osarobo home to play the piano. Meanwhile, Hans Fallada Prize winner Erpenbeck (Visitation), whose East German background informs the narrative, clarifies the wrong-headedness of Europe asylum laws as she reflects on borders that can and can't be crossed and the pain of moving beyond the surface of things. VERDICT 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.

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • James Wood;The New Yorker Erpenbeck's prose, intense and fluent, is luminously translated by Susan Bernofsky.
  • Deborah Eisenberg;The New York Review of Books Wonderful, elegant, and exhilarating, ferocious as well as virtuosic.
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