These stories are as delicate and resilient as shells washed up on a beach.
I thank Erpenbeck for bringing this story (and the refugee’s stories within) to the world, and in a way that people such as the main character may relate to and be moved by. It’s not an easy connection to make.
I did find the style hard to stay engaged with—a swapping between narration and the stream of consciousness in the main character’s head, sans punctuation, etc. I loved the creativity of this style, but it slowed the pace and made the read hard and less enjoyable than it could have been. I appreciate Erpenbeck was creating realism, context, contrast and mood with the character’s mental wanderings and snippets of his everyday life, but I ended up skipping parts of these to get to the action.
I persevered anyway because the subject fascinated me, and there are many moments the author’s brilliance shines—moments of touching and insightful brilliance that make the read worthwhile.
I wish the refugee’s stories and the feelings Erpenbeck manages to communicate could be shared on a greater scale, so that we would do more for people who have nowhere to go, who escape violence and the sea only to drown in a foreign land’s red-tape, while they cling to the tiny raft of the remains of their dignity.