As a retired classics professor, Richard is accustomed to order and routine. His days are cushioned by predictability, that is until one fateful day when he passes a group of hunger strikers in Berlin's Alexanderplatz. He learns that they are African refugees protesting under the slogan "We become visible," a demand that compels him to investigate further. The novel unfolds and the retired professor adapts to a new routine, one that includes regular German lessons at their makeshift housing facility, and sitting with the men to record their stories. He warms to the men, and they to him, and slowly, they gain each other's trust. The details of the stories they share give a face to the policy and numbers that exist for many westerners only in the abstract. Through fiction, Erpenbeck manages to deliver a scathing critique of the attitudes, current asylum laws, and restrictions imposed on the refugees – not allowed to work or travel, this leaves only madness, induced by empty periods of waiting and forced inaction. As Richard undergoes an inner transformation, readers, too, are called to act. Brought to English speakers by the magnificent Susan Bernofsky, Jenny Erpenbeck's Go, Went, Gone promises to stay with you for a long time.— Caroline Froh
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.