The Go-Between The story ‘The Go-Between’ is a short story written by Ali Smith in 2009. The story was written for a collection of short stories written to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the United Nations’ adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The story is inspired by Article 13, which stands for the right to freedom of movement. In the story we read about a 33-year-old man who’s name is not revealed. The 33-year old man is a former microbiologist and has worked in a university.
In the text we follow this man who gives the reader a directly insight in how it’s like to be an African refugee trying to cross the border between Morocco and Spain. The narrator of the story has tried several times to cross the border illegally without any luck, only a part of his finger and ear made it to Europe, due to the tall fence with barbed wire at the border. The narrator has for unknown reasons left his homeland Cameroon and writes with a lot of details about how he tried to enter Europe and how the government was treating him.
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The narrator lives in a Spanish town in Morocco in a small hotel room with 3 other people, where they plan their next attempt to cross the border. The narrator works as a go-between guide, referring to the tittle, for these people in the hotel. He is a guide because he speaks a lot of different languages. He contacts doctors in Europe who may be able to help those who need it, when they are past the border. The story gives a good insight in how dreadful the refugees from North Africa are being treated and how they are lacking human rights.
The text ‘The Go-between’ is indeed a story that is critical to the society and it raises some questions about human rights. The themes I found in the story are; being invisible, Africa vs. Europe, limited opportunities, refugees and human rights. The narrator of the story is a well-educated man. He is a microbiologist and has worked in a university “I was a microbiologist, before. I worked in the university. ” (P. 3, l . 32- 33) He speaks a lot of different languages ”The French doctors can be Italian, Spanish, French, English, for in- stance.
I speak these, and also some others. ” (P. 3, ll. 31-32) Even with all these qualifications it is not possible for the narrator to enter Europe. He is simply limited because of his origin and the color of his skin. The narrator feels that he and the other refugees are invisible and not wanted, it’s almost like he doesn’t exist. ”A flower will be planted for every single person in Tangier. But not us. Not me. I’m not here… I’m speaking to you and I’m not really here. ” (P. 5, l. 16-118) The refugees wish so desperately to enter Europe that the narrator describes it as the Spanish blindness. From the coast of Morocco you are able to see the lights from Spain and the Spanish border and all the refugees can think of is how much they want to leave Morocco and enter Europe. The refugees also pay all their money to a Network that promises them a boat, but the Network only takes advantage of the desperate refugees so the boat never arrives. ”All the men in this building suffer from it, Spanish Blindness. All you can see is Spain.
All you can think is Spain tonight, Spain tonight. They have paid all their money to the Network, and the Network has prom- ised a boat, maybe tonight. This boat never comes. ” (P. 4, l. 73-75) The narrator claims that he does not have this Spanish blindness anymore, that belongs to the past and he actually says that he wishes he could go back, but that’s not a possibility, he have to move forward. ”My blindness is for what’s behind me. I would like to go back. But I have to go forward. I can’t go back. Back’s not possible for me. ” (P. 4, l. 6-77) The narrator does not at any point tell exactly why he can’t go back, but it’s clearly because he’s in danger, if he returns to his homeland “Nobody leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark. ” (P. 4, l. 80) Another thing in the story I find quite ironic is that prostitutes have a better opportunity to get into Europe, than a well-educated person like the narrator. ”Girls get to Spain a lot easier. (If they’re not pregnant and don’t have TB). (P. 3, l. 66-67) Is it easier to enter Europe as a girl, if you are not pregnant or don’t have tuberculosis?
I interpret that as it is easier as a prostitute. One thing is sure, human rights have nothing to do with this and it’s actually a really depressing perspective. Human rights in general are a lacking subject in the text. Especially when it comes to the government’s treatment of refugees “They were meant to process us, even if we didn’t have the papers. They were meant to give us new expulsion papers… What they did in-stead, was they chased us with dogs, sticks, electric shock sticks and guns… ” (P. 2, ll. 21-24)
Ali Smith uses a first person narrator in the story ‘The-Go-Between’. This makes the story more intense, and gives you the feeling that you are sitting in front of the narrator. Smith also uses a lot of short sentences, this can also help the story to get more exiting. The short sentences make the story less emotional despite it’s a very serious topic. Ali also uses humor and irony to make the subject less depressing and easier to read, even though there is absolutely nothing to laugh about. ”I landed in no man’s land!
Wise Professor Me. ” (p. 4, ll. 87-88)“The Cameroon swimmer. Philosophical Proffessor Me. Border Crosser Extraordinaire. ” (P. 5, l. 123-124). There are a lot of personal experiences in the story but Ali Smith do not use any names in the story. I believe that Smith have chosen to do so because the persons in the story represent more than themselves. Ali Smith intensions with the short story are to highlight human rights and show the rest of the world that some people are invincible and ‘don’t exist’.