“Their Skin Is Black”

Invoking and Subverting Problematic Imaginaries of Africa in Jenny Erpenbeck’s Go Went Gone (2015)





Jenny Erpenbeck, Go Went Gone, refugee “crisis”, African refugee, Germany


This article examines Go Went Gone (2015), an award-winning novel by the German writer Jenny Erpenbeck on the plight of African refugees in Berlin in the context of what has been called the European refugee/migrant “crisis.” I interrogate the preponderance of the imagery of racial difference especially at the beginning of the story and explore the narrative roles given to the novel’s main protagonist, Richard, as the story’s main focaliser through which the reader is given access into the minds of the novel’s German characters. Adopting a mostly postcolonial approach, I argue that the narrative reveals the continuing impact of the colonial archive on the European social imagination despite attempts to transcend those problematic imaginaries over the past decades. I also show that although apparently committed to dismantling familiar stereotypes and clichés, Erpenbeck struggles with a larger conundrum related to the dialectic of representation and misrepresentation and the question of how to call up and critique prejudices and problematic ideas without automatically re-inscribing them.


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How to Cite

Akpome, Aghogho. 2023. “‘Their Skin Is Black’: Invoking and Subverting Problematic Imaginaries of Africa in Jenny Erpenbeck’s Go Went Gone (2015)”. Journal of Literary Studies 39:18 pages. https://doi.org/10.25159/1753-5387/14082.



Received 2023-07-08
Accepted 2023-11-14
Published 2023-11-21