‘We become visible’ reads a placard held by ten African refugees on hunger strike in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz. Jenny Erpenbeck, who won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for her last novel, The End of Days, wrote Go, Went, Gone in 2015, when the refugee crisis dominated newspaper headlines and political debate across Europe. That was the year when displaced people from war-torn northern Africa and the Middle East became visible. Two years later, however, they have started to disappear from the public mind.
This superb translation of Erpenbeck’s seventh novel into English by Susan Bernofsky feels timely, then. Richard, a newly retired professor of classical philology, becomes interested in the plight of the hunger-striking refugees when he sees them on the news as he eats his supper in front of the