Elfriede Jelinek: Charges (The Supplicants)

translated by Gitta Honegger

In recent years, multiple crises in the Middle East and Africa have driven thousands of desperate people to attempt Mediterranean crossings in hopes of reaching Europe, and safety. Many have died en route, and those who have made it face a far-from-certain future, as European governments have proved reluctant to fully acknowledge, let alone commit to ameliorating, their plight.
In Charges (The Supplicants), Nobel Prize-winning writer Elfriede Jelinek offers a powerful analysis of the plight of refugees, from ancient times to the present, in which she responds to the immeasurable suffering among those fleeing death, destruction and political suppression in their home countries. Drawing on sources as diverse in time and intent as up-to-the-minute blog posts and Aeschylus’ play The Supplicants, Jelinek asks what refugees want, how we as a society view them, and what political, moral and personal obligations they impose on us. Looking at the global refugee crisis of our current moment, she analyses challenges to the political, social and psychological realities in safe, comfortable Western countries, exploring what everyday language and media coverage reveal about Western perceptions of refugees. In a world where insecurity seems to spread by the day, Charges is a timely, unflinching account of how we treat those who come to us in need.
German original published by Rowohlt Verlag GmbH, Reinbek, under the title Die Schutzbefohlenen in 2013.