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Go, Went, Gone

by Jenny Erpenbeck

A retired academic befriends a group of African asylum seekers in Berlin as a personal humanitarian project to counteract his loneliness. This is the story line behind a meditation on the randomness of fate and the precariousness of human culture and society, with the global displacement crisis as the central moral question of our time. It is not a comfortable read but a powerful challenge to our sensibilities, for an issue with no easy answers.

Extract

Could these long years of peacetime be to blame for the fact that a new generation of politicians apparently believes 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?


Translated by Susan Bernofsky

Parallels

The Enigma of Arrival by V S Naipaul
 

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