A life without a shoreline: Tropes of refugee literature in Jenny Erpenbeck’s Go, Went, Gone
Through close engagement with Jenny Erpenbeck’s novel Go, Went, Gone (first published in German as Gehen, ging, gegangen in 2015), this article makes a case for refugee literature as a body of texts by and about refugees which represent migration as part of a shared world. Ostensibly a novel about hospitality, Go, Went, Gone establishes walls, paper(s) and water as tropes of refugee literature, turning them into meditations on habits of thought built into our understanding of language, on the precariousness of foundational narratives, and on what ultimately constitutes a human life. Refraining from offering a solution to the refugee crisis in spite of dramatizing the lessons of ethical hospitality, the novel compels its readers to dwell on the discomfort of a global crisis that requires a political solution which transcends the fatalism of the west’s cultural self-doubt.
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