I couldn't imagine the Dave Eggers I knew writing something like this. The author of 'A heartbraking work of staggering genius' was definitely talented and original, but looked too much self-oriented.
At the contrary, 'What is the What' shows us a well grown novelist who succeed in abandoning his kaleidoscopic style becoming factual. Eggers doesn't feel the need to surprise us anymore with his technique. Rather he decides to put himself in the barefeet of Valentino, a Sudanese refugee landed in the US.
The final result is astonishing and extremely sincere. It's like rediscovering the power of oral tales.
This is a must read.
Particularly if all that you know on Sudan is a vague reminiscence of the word 'Darfur'.
Here you can find humour in discouragement and sorrow in salvation. While moments of introspection draw profound reflections on love and hate, history and politics.
Indeed, Dave Eggers actually wrote this book after years of conversations with Valentino. He didn't simply take and swallow the story from him, he felt the story getting more and more involved in it. You will reckon how this attitude is not that common for a successful novelist who could sell millions of books without a big effort.
But the author wants to tell us something true.
And I think this is the actual aim of literature.
Thanks to the marvellous empathy given by 'What is the What' Eggers confirms to stand a couple of steps forward to any other contemporary American novelist.
And being anything but a ruffian which was a hard task writing on such topics.