Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

What Is the What

Posted by nliakos on November 27, 2009

by Dave Eggers (and Valentino Achak Deng), Vintage 2006

This book is this year’s First Year Book at the University of Maryland.  It was a difficult read, because it describes such cruelty and human suffering.  It is about the civil war in southern Sudan, told from the point of view of one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan”, who escaped the mayhem of the war only to encounter more mayhem walking across their arid country, wanted by no one, across the border to Kenya where they lived for years in a squalid refugee camp.   I’ve categorized this book as both fiction and nonfiction because I don’t know which it is.  In his forward to the book, Valentino Achak Deng explains that it is his story as he remembers it, but that since he could not remember the conversations as they were spoken when he was so young (it begins when he was seven), Eggers and he had to call it a novel.  As a result, it’s difficult for the reader to know what is novel and what is not.  Some of the events narrated in the book seem impossible–for example, that Achak and his childhood friends keep finding one another, or that any of them actually survived.

I can’t say that I enjoyed this book, but I learned a lot about the terrible situation in Sudan from reading it, so I am very glad I did read it.

 

This is a video (almost an hour in length) of a speech by Valentino Achak Deng.

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