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The Wall by John Lanchester

It’s cold on the Wall. You look for metaphors. It’s cold as slate, as diamond, as the moon. Cold as charity – that’s a good one. But you soon realise that the thing about the cold is that it isn’t a metaphor.  [....] Time has never passed as slowly as it did that day. Time on the Wall is treacle. Eventually, after you have put in enough hours on the Wall, you learn to cope with time. You train yourself not to look at the time, because it is never, never, ever, as late as you think and hope and long for it to be. You learn to float. You become completely passive; you let the day pass through you, you stop trying to pass through it. But it takes months before you can do that.

In what's supposed to be a dystopian novel (although it feels like little more than a variation of what one might expect to soon see in the news), young people are sent to guard a border against 'others'; every time a migrant gets in, a guard is exiled while migrants themselves (once they're caught) are either made into slaves by the state or deported. The young people know no other way of being. If there's a novel that paints the inhumane humanely, and nudges one to feel sympathy for the oppressor rather than the oppressed, this could well be it, although it isn't clear whether the author intended to legitimise those who enforce ghastly immigration policies or to convey a stark warning about where those policies could lead, or if he intended to do something else altogether.