Dave Eggers — What is the What (2006)

In his latest novel, Dave Eggers undertakes a bold task, presenting a lightly fictionalized account of Sudanese refuge Valentino Achak Deng. Fortunately, Eggers proves himself to be up to the task.

Deng’s wild, tragic journey across Sudan and into refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya is framed around a tale of suffering induced in the one place Deng should allegedly feel safe–the United States. He tells his life story to the audience while lying on the floor of his own apartment, bound and gagged by robbers claiming to teach him a valuable lesson.

The stories of Deng’s hardships in both his native Africa and in America become a compelling–if emotionally draining–yarn in Eggers’ hands. He manages to mix in a measure of lightness into the heavy meditations on death and torment, keeping the book from becoming unbearable.

Eggers successfully presents a picture of the very real suffering of individuals in war-torn Sudan, and he does it without hitting a strident or preachy note. His honesty and earnestness give this novelized autobiography an unimpeachably authoritative voice. “Read this” isn’t quite strong enough a request.

–nc

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One Response to “Dave Eggers — What is the What (2006)”

  1. Victor Bravo Monchego, Jr Says:

    Vic Monchego loved this book.

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