Across The Sea – why the fate of refugees concerns us all

Wolfgang Bauer
Photo: Hein Heiss Suhrkamp

In April 2016 Wolfgang Bauer’s reportage ‘Crossing the Sea: With Syrians on the Exodus to Europe’ was published in English translation by And Other Stories. The author will discuss his book, and the way Europe has dealt with the fate of hundreds of thousands of refugees, with Daniel Trilling at the Goethe-Institut London and with Alison Phipps at the Goethe-Institut Glasgow.

 ‘I’m a journalist, not an activist. I’m a storyteller and I try to tell these stories so precisely and so authentically that readers can empathise with my protagonists, that they really believe that they have been thrust into these people’s bodies, into their minds’, said Bauer in an interview with Phlipp Ruch and Jakob Schrenk in July 2015. He aims to portray individual stories and to make them understandable, while avoiding a false sense of pathos.  ‘Not all reportage is good.  Sometimes I get annoyed with stories by colleagues who only portray the protagonists as sad victims’.

This palpable focus on individual people is also reflected in his answer to the question of what a journalist can achieve: ‘Everything and nothing.  And mostly something inbetween.  I think it’s great if I sometimes succeed in influencing individual fates.  I’m sceptical about any impact which goes beyond that’.

Major changes start with personal reflection and participation.  Bauer shares this view with his colleague Daniel Trilling who stated ‘Citizens can help to change the direction of government policy,’ in his recent article Perspectives on the Refugee Crisis in the TLS.

Have you read Crossing the Sea by Wolfgang Bauer, or the essays and reportage by Daniel Trilling?  Have you come across similar recent publications?  We would love to hear your comments!