Wednesday, April 25, 2007
What is the What?
After the bizarre and grizzly world of cadavers, I've moved on to a tale of a world few of us will ever know. "What is the What?", by Dave Eggars, author of "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" is relating the story of Valentino Achek Deng, a Sudanese refugee trying to make a new life for himself in the US. The story is only marginally fictionalized; according to the main character most of what you read in the pages of "What is the What" actually happened to Valentino and the other Lost Boys of Sudan.
Valentino's world in Sudan is so foreign, so alien to most of us that relating to his story seems impossible. Only twenty or so pages in, Valentino has told us of being separated from his parents after escaping from Ethiopian refugee camps, watching his friends gunned down by rebel soldiers, and other boys being eaten by lions in the night. There are good stories, too, showing Valentino as a young boy in his village in Southern Sudan, doing things every little boy loves to do.
The stories are heartbreaking, detailing a world none of us could ever begin to understand. But they do belie something we can all relate to: A desire for peace, for hope and security. We all want to love our families, and have our families love us. Lest we ever forget or lose sight of what is important in life - it is this.