What Is The What

What Is The What

The Autobiography Of Valentino Achak Deng : A Novel

Book - 2006
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In a heartrending and astonishing novel, Eggers illuminates the history of the civil war in Sudan through the eyes of Valentino Achak Deng, a refugee now living in the United States. We follow his life as he's driven from his home as a boy and walks, with thousands of orphans, to Ethiopia, where he finds safety -- for a time. Valentino's travels, truly Biblical in scope, bring him in contact with government soldiers, janjaweed-like militias, liberation rebels, hyenas and lions, disease and starvation -- and a string of unexpected romances. Ultimately, Valentino finds safety in Kenya and, just after the millennium, is finally resettled in the United States, from where this novel is narrated. In this book, written with expansive humanity and surprising humor, we come to understand the nature of the conflicts in Sudan, the refugee experience in America, the dreams of the Dinka people, and the challenge one indomitable man faces in a world collapsing around him.

Publisher: San Francisco : McSweeney's, c2006.
ISBN: 9781932416640
Characteristics: 475 p. : map ; 24 cm.


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Apr 29, 2017

Though cataloged as fiction, this true, personal account of a "lost boy" from Sudan is both heart-rendering and unforgettable.

Apr 18, 2016

I am half way through and am going to stop - goes on and on about mostly the same thing, Dave you can stop, "I get it already"... I read to learn things and to be inspired and somewhat to be entertained. I think I learnt what there is to learn in the first 20 pages, now I heard it five times over... inspired and entertained not working for me either..

Mar 21, 2016

The lost boys of Sudan. A very remarkable story, well told.

jmr1969 Sep 30, 2015

An extremely well-written and important book. It was my first book by Eggers and I was not disappointed! The human rights crisis described in this book through one individual should be required reading for every conscious human who lives on Earth.

Nov 11, 2014

Dave Eggers at his best, crafting a brilliant narrative from real-life events and memories. This novel/memoir has a protagonist you won't soon forget.

multcolib_dianaa Mar 04, 2014

Eggers' narrator, a fictionalized version of a real person, is a Sudanese Lost Boy. Forced to flee his village by government militias, he survives marathon walks, starvation, disease, soldiers, bandits, land mines, lions, and refugee camps before winning the right to immigrate to the U.S. There's so much darkness in this book, but it's not depressing-- it's inspiring.

loonylovesgood Feb 16, 2012

A remarkable book. Hard to read in spots but I found it hard to put down. It certainly makes you stop and think and appreciate what you have...

zavirani Jan 31, 2012

An excellent story from the perspective of one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Eggers writes wonderfully, with a lot of emotion and a great voice that doesn't feel condescending or pandering to a bleeding heart. It's feels like an honest account of the horrors of what these boys went through during the wars in Sudan and their subsequent lives in refugee camps and resettlement in other nations. But be warned, this book is depressing as hell.

mrettig Sep 08, 2011

An incredible book & I recommend it to anyone and everyone. You won't forget the story of the Lost Boys -- they will stay with you.

Harriet_the_Spy Jul 22, 2011

A gripping book, tragic yet hopeful, and a remarkable work of art. American-born Eggers produces a completely believable self-portait of a South Sudanese refugee raised mostly in camps. The real Valentino Achak Deng both provided the material and embraced the opportunity for this novel to do real good in the world. Check out his foundation and its groundbreaking work in rebuilding South Sudan: http://www.valentinoachakdeng.org/

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Dec 23, 2010

"... Now that you are here, on the most sacred and fertile land I have, I can give you one more thing. I can give you this creature, which is called the cow..." God showed man the idea of the cattle, and the cattle were magnificent. They were in every way what the monyjang would want. The man and woman thanked God for such a gift, because they knew that the cattle would bring them milk and meat and prosperity of every kind. But God was not finished. God said," You can have these cattle, as my gift to you, or you can have the What."
..."What is the What?" the first man asked. And God said to the man, "I cannot tell you. Still you have to choose. You have to choose between the cattle and the What?"

notTom Dec 16, 2010

"We refugees can be celebrated one day, helped and lifted up, and then utterly ignored by all when we prove to be a nuisance. When we find trouble here, it is invariably our own fault."

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Jun 09, 2011

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notTom Dec 16, 2010

Based on extensive interviews with Valentino Achak Deng and closely following actual events, this novel by Dave Eggers tells Deng's story with extreme passion and startling honesty. Beginning with the destruction of his home village as a young child and harrowing walk across the war-torn wilderness of southern Sudan with a group of children known as the Lost Boys, to life in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya and the frustration of attending community college in the United States while holding a job which pays little, Deng provides provides a voice for the social underdog. It is with a tone of frustration and cynicism, but not self-pity, that he describes the plight of Sudanese survivors in America, "We refugees can be celebrated one day, helped and lifted up, and then utterly ignored by all when we prove to be a nuisance. When we find trouble here, it is invariably our own fault."

Deng's search for "the What" is compelling, riveting, and provides not only a glimpse of the evil of civil war in the Sudan, but also a unique perspective into our own society.


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