READING THE WORLD: Jenny Erpenbeck

  • Posted on: 10 February 2020
  • By: Scuppernong

READING THE WORLD: A weekly series focusing on contemporary international authors you might not have heard of.

Jenny Erpenbeck was born in East Berlin in 1967. She is the author of several works of fiction, including The Book of Words (2007) and Visitation (2010), both translated by Susan Bernofsky and published by New Directions. The End of Days won the prestigious Hans Fallada Prize and the International Foreign Fiction Prize. Erpenbeck lives in Berlin.

Her most recent book, 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 into 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.

 

A stunning novel about a retired classics professor who slowly becomes aware and involved in the plight of refugees from Africa camping out in a square in Berlin….lyrical, absorbing, so accurate as to the ways we resist engagement and then are pulled in.

The New York Times

The best novel to date about the migration refugee crisis, German novelist Jenny Erpenbeck’s Go, Went, Gone (New Directions) felt both urgent and tender, taking on depicting Europe on the brink of its next profound change—as seen through the eyes of a professor from Berlin’s former East, a man who knows something of what it means to lose one’s place in the world.

—Megan O’Grady, Vogue