Africa,  Book Reviews,  FICTION,  FOUR STARS ****,  Immigration,  Memoir/Biography

What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng by Dave Eggers **** (of 4)

It’s hard to comprehend how anyone survives what Valentino had to in escaping Arab militiamen in southern Sudan and comes away only with excrutiating headaches. Moreover, Eggers is brilliant in retelling Valentino’s story as a novel that treads the line between despair and hope, being neither too depressing, nor too optimistic. I’m told that Valentino (who came to Allegheny for a semester) and Eggers went with the novel because the true story is even more difficult than what is printed here and because so many people were involved that the two of them figured it was easier to combine a few stories rather than ask readers to keep a surfeit of characters straight. Like a novel it’s a page turner, but in the back of every reader’s mind is the knowledge that the story of thousands of young boys walking for weeks across Sudan’s deserts chased by lions, bandits, militiamen, and hunger is all to true. July 2007.