Mark's Reviews > What Is the What

What Is the What by Dave Eggers
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's review
Sep 04, 2007

really liked it
bookshelves: other
Read in September, 2007

This is a biography of one of the "Lost Boys" who lived through the Second Sudanese Civil War. It is hard not to be sympathetic to a book about deep suffering, but I struggled trying to determine how I feel about this book. I really dislike the "novelized autobiography" format because the book isn't particularly good as a novel, yet knowing that parts are deliberately fictional undercuts its impact as a biography.

I finally decided to trust the book since it does not portray the Dinka as any better than the Baggara attacking them. In fact the book spends quite a lot of time portraying the Dinka as misogynistic, primitive, deceitful, etc. This nicely undercuts any simple good guys vs bad guys formula. Here we have two groups of people who need the same resources yet never formed an integrated society. When one group is supplied with a lot of armaments, the result is sadly predictable.

I wish the book spent a little time on the differences between its conflict and the current Darfur conflict.

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