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Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck

Go, Went, Gone (2015)

by Jenny Erpenbeck

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3262450,658 (4.22)165
  1. 10
    Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (charl08)
    charl08: Similar rif on current refugee 'crisis' - but in a very different direction.
  2. 00
    Assommons les pauvres ! by Shumona Sinha (Philosofiction)

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English (18)  German (4)  Catalan (2)  All languages (24)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
„An einem Donnerstag Ende August versammeln sich zehn Männer vor dem Roten Rathaus in Berlin. Sie haben beschlossen, heißt es, nichts mehr zu essen.“: Wir begegnen Afrikanische Asylsucher, die es nach Berlin verschlagen hat. Was bringt sie her? Was begegnet sie in die Fremde? Wie begegnet die Fremde sie? Im Präsenz, in Erpenbecks einzigartiger Sprache, begegnen wir, was es heißt, human zu handeln, im besten Sinn des Wortes, aber auch in dem Sinn, der im Sprachgebrauch ausgeklammert und den Wölfen unterschoben wird (lupus est homo homini), eine Beleidigung der Wölfe! - kein Wolf würde jäh einem anderen Wolf antun, was Menschen fähig sind, anderen anzutun. Auch hier, wie schon in ihren früheren Büchern, stößt man auf die ‘Zeit’; hier kann sie sich endlos dehnen in der Ungewissheit und oft nur mit Schlaf auszufüllen, hin und wieder, selten, unterbrochen von Sprüngen.
Dem Buch liegt der Flüchtlingsprotest auf dem Oranienplatz 2014 zu Grunde. Es wurde ein Bestseller. Gut! (III-19) ( )
  MeisterPfriem | Apr 2, 2019 |
Could these long years of peacetime be to blame for the fact that a new generation of politicians apparently believes that we've now arrived at the end of history, making it possible to use violence to suppress all further movement and change? Or have the people living here under untroubled circumstances and at so great a distance from the wars of others been afflicted with a poverty of experience, a sort of emotional anemia? Must living in peace - so fervently wished for throughout human history and yet enjoyed in only a few parts of the world - inevitably result in refusing to share it with those seeking refuge, defending it instead so aggressively that it almost looks like war?

This book, translated from German by Susan Bernofsky, was recommended by many LT friends, and I wish it were required reading for everyone. Richard, a widowed classics professor retires in Berlin, and begins to settle into an old man's routine. But the spectacle, protests, and commotion of a group of African refugees encamped in Alexanderplatz catches his attention and his curiosity. He does some research into these men and how they came to Berlin, and soon he is drawn to meet and interview them in person. As they begin to trust and befriend him, they share their stories - harrowing tales of war and terror, helplessness and violence, starvation and forced migration. The men all ended up in Italy, and after living on the streets, have made their way to Berlin. They want to work, they want to learn German (in many cases their fourth or fifth language), and they desperately worry for family left behind, but are stuck in this awful legal limbo that blocks them at every turn while ordinary Germans grouse about criminals and freeloaders and worse. Richard's deepening understanding of what these men have gone through is interspersed with reflections about his own experience - a young child during WWII, and then the years on the east side of the Berlin Wall, and the strange beginning/not beginning when the Wall fell and Germany was reunified. The history he has lived through is honestly not too different from the refugees' experience. The book is a very moving, very personal examination of the human experience, of borders of all kinds, and of the awful web of political and legal vicissitudes that ensures that the most helpless and most vulnerable can never be helped. Highly recommended.
  AMQS | Feb 2, 2019 |
Richard, a widowed, childless and recently retired professor of philology, becomes interested in the plight of a group of migrants living in a tent-city, (pro-immigration) protest camp in Oranienplatz in Berlin. The camp is about to be shut down by the authorities. At loose ends and with a great deal of time on his hands, Richard creates a new project for himself: interviewing, recording the stories, and teaching English to some of the African migrants, some of whom are moved to vacant space in an old-age home near Richard’s lakeside home and later to a facility in Spandau in West Berlin. It doesn’t take long for Richard’s involvement with the group to become more than an intellectual pursuit. He forms relationships with several of the men, all of whom arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean. The stories of the men are compelling and moving, although, like the character Richard himself, I sometimes had trouble keeping their individual narratives straight. For me, one of the most interesting aspects of the novel was Erpenbeck’s juxtaposition of modern German history (the persecution and extermination of the Jews, the division and reunification of Germany) with the story of contemporary migration. The novel is eminently aphoristic and quotable, and provides food for thought on many levels: historical, political, economic, religious, philosophical, social, and psychological. ( )
  fountainoverflows | Jan 1, 2019 |
A man living in Berlin has just retired from academic life and has been widowed in recent years. Finding himself with a lot of time on his hands, and noticing a protest of African refugees taking place in his city's square, he finds himself curious to learn the stories of these men. One by one, he asks them to simply tell him their stories, and they do. Naturally, the more he learns, the more he becomes involved in their lives. We too become wrapped up in their stories, and ultimately his. ( )
  Tytania | Oct 13, 2018 |
What is it like, to be forced from the only home you have ever known by some force or event beyond your control: armed conflict, famine, fear of persecution? What is it like to leave your family behind with no idea of the fate that awaits them, or, indeed, to barely escape with your own life after seeing them murdered? What is it like to embark upon a journey that offers no guarantee of survival and makes no promise that once you reach your destination, you will be allowed to stay? Though we see or hear news reports about the refugee crisis almost daily, most of us in the West have no concept of the hardship, humiliation, and discrimination that displaced people must endure, and the official intransigence, obstructive bureaucracy and psychological scars that stand in the way of making a new life in a new country. In Go, Went, Gone, German author Jenny Erpenbeck addresses this gap in our knowledge, depicting what happens to a group of immigrants in Berlin who have arrived there from a variety of African states. The novel is narrated from the perspective of Richard, a widowed professor of Classics who, when we meet him, is cleaning out his office after retiring from his long-standing teaching post. Richard, self-sufficient, emotionally reticent, philosophically inclined, and finding himself with time on his hands, is pulled into a chaotic situation that local bureaucrats are making a botch of when he hears of new immigrants to the city staging a hunger strike—their demand: that they be permitted to work. Curious about their plight and embarrassed by his own ignorance, he begins his inquiry as any academic would, by reading, before approaching the men, in groups and individually, in order to speak and connect with them. Gradually, over many months, his empathy awakened, he inserts himself into their midst, learns their stories, their interests, their ambitions, and welcomes them into his home and his life, which becomes all the richer for it. Erpenbeck’s profound and unsentimental novel (ably translated by Susan Bernofsky) puts a face on a 21-Century human tragedy. For Richard, and for us, the lessons these young men can teach are indispensable to understanding the world we are living in as well as our own humanness. ( )
  icolford | Sep 10, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jenny Erpenbeckprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bernofsky, SusanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ptok, FriedhelmNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schippers, EllyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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God made the bulk; surfaces were invented by the devil.

Even if it's driving me crazy, I have to really force myself to kill an insect. I don't know if it's out of pity. I don't think so. Maybe it's just a matter of getting used to certain states of affairs and then attempting to find one's place among these existing states, an acquiescence.

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends. -- Martin Luther King, Jr.
For Wolfgang

For Franz

For my friends
First words
Perhaps many more years still lie before him, or perhaps only a few.
In truth, what the refugees want from the Senate isn't a four-person room, a shower with individual stalls, or a bus stop just a short walk from the facility where they're housed. What they want is to be allowed to look for work, to organize their lives like any other person of sound body and mind.
And an instant later, just as forcefully, Richard is seized by the hope that this young man's innocence might transport him once more to the Germany of before, to the land already lost forever by the time he was born. Deutschland is beautiful. How beautiful it would be if it were true. Beautiful is hardly the word for it.
In the pause that now ensues, Richard considers what to say as a resident of a country that has seventy thousand vacant apprentice positions with no one to fill them, a country that suffers from a shortage of trained workers but is nonetheless unwilling to accept these dark-skinned refugees; these people can't just fly over Italy, Greece, or Turkey like birds in springtime without setting foot on the wrong soil—they can't be accepted as applicants for asylum, much less taken in, educated, and given work.
None of the men here ever drinks alcohol. None of them has his own apartment or even his own bed; all their clothing comes from donations. There's no car, no stereo, no gym membership, no outings, no travel, no wife, no children, or even the prospect of having a wife or children. Indeed the only thing that each one of the refugees owns is a phone, some have a phone with a broken display, some a recent model, some with internet access, some without. Broke the memory, Tristan said, when he told Richard how soldiers rendered the captives' cell phones inoperable back in Libya.
On every visit Richard notes that the men feel more at home in these wireless networks than in any of the countries in which they await their future. This system of numbers and passwords extending clear across continents is all the compensation they have for everything they've lost forever. What belongs to them is invisible and made of air.
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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.… (more)

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