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Go, Went, Gone

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  7,222 ratings  ·  1,114 reviews
One of the great contemporary European writers takes on Europe's biggest issue.

Richard has spent his life as a university professor, immersed in the world of books and ideas, but now he is retired, his books remain in their packing boxes and he steps into the streets of his city, Berlin. Here, on Alexanderplatz, he discovers a new community -- a tent city, established by A
Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Published September 7th 2017 by Portobello Books (first published August 31st 2015)
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Carol E. I'm sad that you stopped reading. It does start a little slowly, but it gets better, and I ended up loving this book. It's deep, thought-provoking, an…moreI'm sad that you stopped reading. It does start a little slowly, but it gets better, and I ended up loving this book. It's deep, thought-provoking, and very timely. Give it another chance?(less)
BookLovingLady I know there is a Dutch translation available; it was published earlier this year. Maybe an English translation will follow soon.

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Average rating 3.98  · 
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Where can a person go when he doesn't know where to go?

This book, about the current refugee crisis in Europe (specifically, Germany) asks this question and others - important ones, about what constitutes a border, about what separates us as human beings, about who takes care of whom and whose problem is it anyway? All great questions, and a big part of the reason why I wanted to read this book by Jenny Erpenbeck who is described as one of Germany's most important writers.

She obviously writes
Adam Dalva
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very strong work by Erpenbeck, but I didn't like it quite as much as her extraordinary THE END OF DAYS. The set-up here is excellent - a recently retired professor, Richard, is aimless. He can't go into his nearby lake because there is a dead body somewhere beneath the surface, his wife has died, and he still has never quite adjusted to East Berlin after the wall was brought down and capitalism has arrived. He befriends (by a series of well-done coincidences) a group of migrants seeking asylum i ...more
Nov 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read all of Erpenbeck's previous novels and novellas but I was unprepared for just what a raw and powerful human story this one is, a book which is always vital and engaging and gains power and weight towards the end. I don't think I can write a review that does it justice, so these are just a few initial impressions.

Erpenbeck uses her central character Richard, a widowed retired professor of classics from East Berlin, to explore the lives and stories of a group of desperate asylum seeker
Apr 11, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-read, germany
This book feels like it was written with a translation in mind and to win over prize judges - unfortunately, I have to agree when "Der Spiegel" states that it also illustrates the poor state of political literature in Germany. While Erpenbeck's writing about the plight of the refugees and the dire situation many of them are in is really important and very well done, some of her analysis dwells on a dangerously simplistic viewpoint. But let's start at the beginning.

Erpenbeck tells the story of Ri
Roger Brunyate
Sep 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Novel Writing versus Reportage

I hope Jenny Erpenbeck returns soon to writing novels; this one seems something else. Her Visitation is a poetic masterpiece; The End of Days tells one woman's life over the span of the twentieth century in terms of the many ways it might have ended, but didn't; the earlier Book of Words looks at a totalitarian regime through the eyes of a torturer's child. All are politically engaged. All tackle major issues of our times. But all are also novels. Admitt
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I've had this book on my shelves a few years but it took being stuck at home and a Book Cougars readalong to get me to read it. Translated from the German, it's the story of Richard, a retired academic living in Berlin who encounters refugees and starts to learn about the complexity of issues and bureaucracy surrounding refugees in Germany. He is trying to help, or wants to, but is ill equipped.

I must admit that while Richard as narrator can "explain" the issues better to the reader, it felt wr
Sep 30, 2021 rated it really liked it
Richard, the protagonist, is a recently retired professor living in what was formerly East Berlin. He lives a very orderly life with little excitement nor purpose. He watches the news, but like many, he doesn't feel connected to the issues he views. He is able to separate himself from the problems of others. When he passes a hunger strike in Alexanderplatz, he barely sees the demonstrators; he looks away.

Because Richard is rather bored with his new life of retirement he decides to attend an inte

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
(Martin Luther King)

Words have been used to scare people into pulling up the drawbridge around the bastion of wealthy comfort that is Europe, words like swarm, or horde, or tide; words that de-humanise those suffering squalor and ignominy in Idomeni or Calais, suffering disease, starvation and abuse in Gaziantep or Suruc, suffering trauma, pain, loss.
Words can humanise them again.

Richard is a recently r
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-mbi, 2018
My final job before I took early retirement and stopped working was as the only UK member of a global team. One of my colleagues was a German man about the same age as me. We would often take a few minutes at the end of a business call to discuss the competition we were having (which I won) to see who could retire first. We would also discuss our plans for when we finished our professional careers. Mine were self-centred and based on getting my photography from a hobby to a money-making enterpri ...more
A worthy read but not compelling.

This was the first novel that I have read by Erpenbeck, I judged the book by it's back cover, but the excitement and drama promised there, takes a few pages to appear and then is swiftly tidied away, which is consistent with the title and the narrative drive of the book, but still, it's not very dramatic.

The novel concerns widower and newly retired classical philologist Richard who gets to know (view spoiler) a group of
Erin Glover
A machete to the heart. An ambitious project masterfully completed. This is the kind of novel that could change deeply held convictions on emigration and immigration.

A different kind of refugee story, told from the eyes of a post-war German retiree instead of an immigrant. A fierce comparison of life as the German professor has known it, first on the east side of the Berlin wall then after the fall of the wall, to the lives of the black refugees who first landed in Italy then fled to Germany fo
Canadian Reader
Richard, a widowed, childless and recently retired professor of philology, becomes interested in the plight of a group of migrants living in a tent-city, (pro-immigration) protest camp in Oranienplatz in Berlin. The camp is about to be shut down by the authorities. At loose ends and with a great deal of time on his hands, Richard creates a new project for himself: interviewing, recording the stories, and teaching English to some of the African migrants, some of whom are moved to vacant space in ...more
Paul Fulcher
Mar 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wohin geht ein Mensch, wenn er nicht weiß, wo er hingehen soll?“

Where can a person go when he doesn’t know where to go?

"Citizenship in Western liberal democracies is the modern equivalent to feudal privilege—an inherited status that greatly enhances one's life chances."
Joseph Carens, The Ethics of Immigration

Book 10/13 from the impressive 2018 Man Booker International longlist and another strong contender.

The two previous Jenny Erpenbeck novels I have read, both translated into English by the
Dec 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
It is sometimes argued that, in order to remain attractive, literature must keep far away from current events, from themes that are in the spotlight today. That may be true, but not entirely. Over the past few weeks I have read two novels that focus on the migration theme, the theme that nowadays rivals with that of globalization, identity and the climate crisis to claim our full attention. The result, my appreciation of the books was mixed. Materiaalmoeheid, 'Material fatigue' by the young, Cze ...more
Jul 31, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

With its immediacy of topic, I found myself thinking of Ali Smith’s Seasons (soon-to-be) quartet. At first I wasn’t too engaged with this novella and I wondered if it was "too soon" for a fictional rendering. But, no, my biggest problem with it is that the narration is much more telling than showing. However, there are so many great things about the work, I hesitate to criticize it. I also wondered about the choice of narrator (and his depiction) at times, but I made my peace with that too, a
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Delayed on this review - hesitated presumably for various reasons. So - a very sympathetic portrayal of victims of forced migration - from war-torn African countries to Germany from an initial landing in Italy.

The book tackles the politics of decisions made about refugees: their right to assistance, their right to be heard and the responsibilities of the host country towards these people. Erpenbeck tackles head on what she considers to be a major failing on the part of the German Government, bu
Jenny Erpenbeck is a method-writer. For her first novella, she enrolled as a (pretend) pupil in secondary school for more than a month to write about the trials of adolescence. For her latest novel “Go, Went, Gone”, which tackles the plight of refugees in present day Germany, she spent an entire year talking to local asylum seekers and accompanying them on various appointments. As a result of this commitment, her writing feels like that of a German Sarah Moss – deeply inquisitive, analytical, pr ...more
Go, Went, Gone or Gehen, Ging, Gegangen in the original German version of Jenny Erpenbeck's narrative dealing with the refugee crisis in Germany is a fictional tale enshrouded in a strong non-fiction polemic that argues for a more humane treatment of the countless refugees, most from sub-Saharan Africa that have seemingly overwhelmed the German legal system's ability to fairly & efficiently handle their cases individually.

Not so very long after the gradual assimilation of the former East German
Conor Ahern
I'm glad I went to book club to discuss this with friends who had different perspectives, because I must say I absolutely loathed this book while I was reading it. Not only does very little happen, but the idea is that some privileged white guy just decides to bother a bunch of African refugees who are down and out in Berlin, observing their days in a voyeuristic fashion and questioning his assumptions in the process. And I found it unreasonably tedious for a book that had fewer than 300 pages.

Michael Livingston
The best book I've read this year - a stunning achievement that feels both urgent and timeless. Erpenbeck writes with humanity, clarity and insight about the lives of a community of refugees trying to make something of their lives in Berlin. The narrator is Richard - a recently retired academic who becomes curious about a refugee protest and gradually finds his way into the lives of a small group of men living nearby. The plot is fairly minimal - the inhuman unfolding of bureaucratic responses t ...more
Justin Evans
Nov 19, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Two thirds of this is really solid, but, particularly towards the end, it more or less became a (totally morally justifiable) attack on a specific (and very bad) fact about the world, i.e., the shoddy way we treat refugees. It's very interesting before that, largely because Erpenbeck has an ex-Eastern-German as her focal point, and his encounters with north African refugees. The combination works well because that makes the book one about homelessness and what it does to someone to have their ho ...more
Eric Anderson
May 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes it feels like the frequent news reports about refugees and asylum seekers can turn into just another political debate and so much rhetoric that it diminishes the powerful fact that this is about individuals in a desperate situation. Recently I read “Tell Me How It Ends”, Valeria Luiselli’s utterly gripping and heart breaking essay about working with Central American children seeking asylum in America. In Jenny Erpenbeck’s novel “Go Went Gone” this issue is brought powerfully to life in ...more
Sidharth Vardhan

"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?"

"He sticks his fork in the amply filled salad bowl, t
Erpenbeck takes a thought provoking look at the immigration policy in Germany regarding refugees. This book was really good and it caught me by surprise.

It’s a dour book. A college professor (Richard) is retiring and is going through a bit of a midlife crisis. He's distracted, a little resentful of his age, the lack of appreciation, and his future alone at a house of the lake. There is a dullness and dread that permeates the atmosphere of the story. It felt like eternal winter through most of t
Apr 22, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: translations
I thought Visitation and The End of Days were both brilliant works, but the magic was missing for me in this book. Even though the refugee crisis is such an important topic today, I felt very detached from the story. I think introducing us to a few of the refugees and giving us more of their story may have been more interesting than briefly introducing us to many of them.

Maybe it's the comparison to her earlier books that affected my opinion , but I really missed the originality and the beautifu
Dec 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Finished: 09.12.2018
Genre: fiction
Rating: A+++++++
Reading does not stop when you lay down the book.
It leaves a weight upon our waking thoughts.
Finalist Man Booker International Award 2018
...it should have won, here's why

My Thoughts

With this book Jenny Erpenbeck secures a place on my list of favorite authors. This is the third book of hers that I have read and I have loved them all. Her prose is exquisite (a tribute to her translator for this) and the way she puts her stories together is impressive. Each book as been structured differently but the prose in each was equally impressive.

Richard, a recently retired professor, carries this novel. He is the consistent character. We meet Richard soon after he has retired (seems a
Gehen, ging, gegangen (published in English as Go, Went, Gone) by Jenny Erpenbeck is longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize, and was shortlisted for the German Book Prize in 2015.

Richard seems to have fallen out of time. He is a windower and a retired university professor, and even a quarter century after the reunification of Germany he still has not fully arrived in the new federal republic. He lives alone in eastern Berlin in a house by a lake in which a person has drowned – somethi
Joy D
In this novel, the author takes a unique approach in highlighting the plight of African refugees fleeing to Europe. Set in Berlin, our protagonist, Richard, a widowed and recently-retired classics professor, attempts to create a new routine. He is not particularly observant but likes order and “doing things the right way.” He is intellectually curious. Twenty-five years later, he is still adjusting to capitalist Germany after having lived in East Germany for many years. After seeing the African ...more
Mar 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Go, Went, Gone, longlisted for last year International Man Booker, is a valiant attempt at tackling the most changeling issue of our time: the refugee crisis. It is also, in my view, a profoundly European novel that really is much more about European identity and values than about any of the countries the refugees hail from. That’s why Richard is a professor of Classics. Greece and Rome: the cradles of Western and European civilization. This book is Richard’s journey into the realization that th ...more
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Jenny Erpenbeck (born 12 March 1967 in East Berlin) is a German director and writer.

Jenny Erpenbeck is the daughter of the physicist, philosopher and writer John Erpenbeck and the Arabic translator Doris Kilias. Her grandparents are the authors Fritz Erpenbeck and Hedda Zinner. In Berlin she attended an Advanced High School, where she graduated in 1985. She then completed a two-year apprenticeship

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“How many times, he wonders, must a person relearn everything he knows, rediscovering it over and over, and how many coverings must be torn away before he's finally able to truly grasp things, to understand them to the bone? Is a human lifetime long enough? His lifetime, or anyone else's?” 6 likes
“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?” 6 likes
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