Dave Eggers

A novelized account of an African nightmare

Boys are forced to walk for miles through Sudan; expected to take up arms to fight the murahaleen, armed raiders who still terrorize Darfur; join the army; or if they’re lucky, begin a life of slavery. Of course, they must survive the lions of Africa first. In a country ravaged by violence, disease, and starvation, the specter of death is commonplace—even an occasionally welcome relief. Valentino Achak Deng survives the marches, the refugee camp, and the violent attacks only to end up the victim of an armed robbery and assault in Florida. One has to wonder if these lost boys will ever be truly found. Dave Eggers chooses fiction to tell Deng’s story in What is the What, allowing him to fill in the gaps to create a larger sense of the Darfur tragedy while breaking your heart over one boy’s story. His writing tends toward a stream of consciousness, creating tension both in the act of reading as well as within the narrative itself, making the book a kinesthetic experience. Eggers is in town for tonight’s “People Talking and Singing” benefit. If those tickets are too steep, head to Elliott Bay Book Company on your lunch break to hear more of Deng’s story.

Thu., Nov. 8, noon, 2007

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