Translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky
Richard has spent his life as a university professor, immersed in the world of books and ideas, but now he is retired, his books remain in their packing boxes and he steps into the streets of his city, Berlin. Here, on Oranienplatz, he discovers a new community — a tent city, established by African asylum seekers. Hesitantly, getting to know the new arrivals, Richard finds his life changing, as he begins to question his own sense of belonging in a city that once divided its citizens into them and us. At once a passionate contribution to the debate on race, privilege and nationality and a beautifully written examination of an ageing man’s quest to find meaning in his life.
About the author
Jenny Erpenbeck was born in East Berlin in 1967. She has worked on opera and musical productions and her fiction has been translated worldwide. She is the author of The Old Child , The Book of Words, and Visitation.
Go, Went, Gone tells the story of a recently returned classics professor named Richard who, widowed and childless, seeks focus and meaning in his life. Fate brings him to a group of African refugees who have been camping in Oranienplatz, Berlin. He befriends them and learns the extraordinary, brutal and fragmented narratives of their young lives. The novel dares to ask what becomes of identity and morality in the face of our globe’s radical changes. Erpenbeck allows a crystalline human insight.
Nominated for the Man Booker International Prize 2018, Jenny Erpenbeck took on the current topic of the refugee situation. The main character, a recently retired, self-absorbed professor meeting African asylum seekers in Berlin, firstly approaching them as if they were a project and lateer discovering empathy, learns about two worlds, his society and himself. Shortlisted for the German Book Award 2015.
Erpenbeck focuses on the contemporary refugee crises and our responsibility in its creation. It is a passionate contribution to the debate on race, privilege and nationality and also a piece of written examination of an ageing man’s quest to find meaning in his life.
This is a powerful and moving insight into how displacement – on African migrants – impacts their lives and that of an older man, Richard in the country they move to, Germany. A humane and convincing novel by a woman born in the former East Germany.
The prose is measured and austere while being rich and joyous. Erpenbeck is skilled in conveying situations with simple but highly effective compositions.
The novel reveals an almost forgotten depth of psychological and social insight into the human being in the course and context of unfolding history. The subtle craft of penmanship demonstrated by the author is matchless.
Retired and living in modern cultured Berlin, a former classics professor ponders what to do with his time. When he confronts the African refugee crisis in his city, the professor must deal with his emotional reactions, and a call for action. His academic analysis and training are of little use. Erpenbeck has created layers of tragic stories about the experience of displaced people, and the often misplaced and futile attempts to assist them.