The Go-Between

The Go-Between Essay ”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 writer found inspiration in article 13, which describes the right to freedom of movement. The story follows the 33-year-old former microbiologist who gives us a direct insight into what it means to be African refugees on the border between Morocco and Spain. “I was a microbiologist, before. ” (Page 3, line 32-33)
The narrator is even, for some reason, fled his native Cameroon, and has on several occasions tried to flee across the border to Europe. None of his attempt is successful, and they have cost him part of his ear and a finger. He explains in detail about how flight tests were done and what treatment he has received from the authorities. The narrator has abandoned himself to escape and have now settled in the Spanish city of Ceuta, located in Morocco. Here he lives in a small room with three others, where he works as a guide (Go-between) for newly arrived refugees.
He establishes contact between aid organization doctors and refugees. He speaks several languages ?? and can put the switch in position. “The French doctors can be Italian, Spanish, French, English, for instance. I speak these, and also some others. ” (Page 2, line 31-32) The novel provides a powerful insight into the miserable and tragically conditions refugees in North Africa. The story is told through a first person narrator, who tells the story in the past tense. The narrator seems to be at a distance of the actions he describes.

The narrator is authoritarian by virtue of the fact that he is anticipating the events of the story. Given the fact that the story is told by a first person narrator, there is only one point of view. Obviously we are dealing with an inner point of view; the events are being viewed with inner sight from the narrator’s point of view. We are only told about the narrator’s own thoughts and what he feels and senses. As mentioned, the narrator has several times attempted to flee to Europe, but all the experiments have failed, and he has every time been sent back.
The first time the narrator is trying to reach Europe, his ladder number two breaks, and he gets caught out in nowhere between the two fences that separates Europe and Africa. Here he lives for six weeks, with the help of the workers who are about to put the fence up. Finally prisoners police him and send him back to Africa. The second time the narrator, along with 500 other refugees, tries to jump over the two fences that separate them from Europe. During the trial he, loses a part of his ear, then they all get caught and sent back to Africa.
Before repatriation, they are chased by dogs, beaten with sticks and shot at. They are not officially recorded, as is supposed, but are simply sent back to Africa. The third and fourth escape attempt takes place in the water, but the narrator gets picked up by patrols boats both times. One of those times he loses a finger on one of the barbed wire fence that is set up under water. After the many unsuccessful escape attempts, the narrator helps the African refugees who arrive from Ceuta. “… I help the French doctors. Borders are not always visible!
I can go between people and places. I can go to the bits of the city they can’t, or the buildings they can’t, or the people they don’t know about, or the people who don’t wish to be seen. I can take them with me; I can tell the people its okay. ” (Page 2, line 39-42) The writer uses an unusual writing style in his short story, which starts in medias res with a question; “You know what Spain is? ” (Page 1, line 1) That the story starts in medias res means that there is no introduction or opening, and the reader is not presented to the situation, persons or setting of the story.
So you don’t know what has happened in advance of the situation you are presented to. The most conspicuous feature in the story in terms of writing style is the fact that it is written like if the narrator is talking to somebody. That we can tell by the questions, the informal, the casual language and the missing questions marks. It is almost like you are reading a part of a conversation between the narrator and someone else. We are only introduced to the narrator, which makes him the main character.
The only things we know about him is his former work and his physique. As mentioned before, he is a educated man who speaks several languages. He does also quote the scientist Van Leeuwenhoeck. We are told that he is 33 years old, and in the end of the story he describes himself as a slight man. “I’m a small, slight man. I’m not a big man. I’m lean and slight. My stature is slight. My coat is a bit too slight – here comes the winter. ” (Page 4, line 120-121) The story seems to be critical of the problems concerning freedom of movement in the world.
We’ve been given an insight in a world where freedom of movements is non-existent. To show this, Ali Smith uses irony as a very effective way of calling people’s attention to the problem, which he is perfectly illustrating through the short story. He wants to draw people’s attention to the fact that the human right are not fulfilled, and that politicians all over the world has to look at this problem, because the people who are supposed to register the refugees apparently don’t know how to do their job.
The refugees are injured, humiliated and chased, “… with dogs, sticks, electric shock sticks and gun… ” (Page 1, line 23-24) The short story can be seen as a wake-up call to the world. Instead of celebrating the anniversary, action should be taken. “Now it the time to actually fulfil the rights we have given people and not just be satisfied with the ways things are functioning at the moment. ” – Ali Smith

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