Migration and identity in a new German novel

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Go, Went, Gone. By Jenny Erpenbeck. Translated by Susan Bernofsky. New Directions; 320 pages; $16.95. Portobello Books; £14.99.

A RETIRED classicist, Richard shuns strident rhetoric. This reserved and solitary man, the protagonist of Jenny Erpenbeck’s seventh novel, nonetheless comes to a severe judgment on the plight of African refugees in Berlin. “Only if they survived Germany now”, he reflects, “would Hitler truly have lost the war.”

Germany’s legacies of division and exclusion have shadowed debates on asylum policy during the country’s recent election campaign. So Susan Bernofsky’s finely crafted translation of “Go, Went, Gone” reaches Anglophone readers at an opportune moment. Raised in East Berlin, a stone’s throw from the Wall, Ms Erpenbeck has in her fiction told the stories of people stranded on the wrong side of history. Richard, who grew up in the despised German Democratic Republic, brings his own experience as a…Continue reading

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