Visitation

Jenny Erpenbeck

Published: 7 July 2011
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 176 pages
ISBN: 9781846271908
£7.99

Translated by Susan Bernofsky

Overview

By the side of a lake in Brandenburg, a young architect builds the house of his dreams - a summerhouse with wrought-iron balconies, stained-glass windows the colour of jewels, and a bedroom with a hidden closet, all set within a beautiful garden. But the land on which he builds has a dark history of violence that began with the drowning of a young woman in the grip of madness and that grows darker still over the course of the century: the Jewish neighbours disappear one by one; the Red Army requisitions the house, burning the furniture and trampling the garden; a young East German attempts to swim his way to freedom in the West; a couple return from brutal exile in Siberia and leave the house to their granddaughter, who is forced to relinquish her claim upon it and sell to new owners intent upon demolition. Reaching far into the past, and recovering what was lost and what was buried, Jenny Erpenbeck tells a story both beautiful and brutal, about the things that haunt a home.


About the author

Image of Jenny Erpenbeck

Jenny Erpenbeck was born in East Berlin in 1967. She has worked on opera and musical productions and her fiction has been translated worldwide. She is the author of The Old Child & The Book of Words, and Visitation. More about the author


Reviews

Visitation follows The Old Child and The Book of Words, similarly enigmatic works that in finely sculpted prose explore themes of memory, history and belonging from unexpected angles.’ Boyd Tonkin

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Reviews

Visitation has the epic trajectory of Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks. This impressive achievement is a deeply engaging panorama of Germany's troubling 20th-century history.’

Visitation is a master-class in the craft and power of short fiction. ... Erpenbeck's language is of a pared back poetry. Simple sentences build in power when reappearing refrain-like and colours reverberate to effect ... The evocative and the restlessness rub shoulders in this showcase of how substantial brevity can be.’ Rebecca K Morrison

‘A minimalist masterpiece in which a story about a lakeside house in Brandenburg, along with its successive occupants, becomes the conduit for a journey through Germany's 20th-century history.’

‘A powerful novel ...in which epic events are contrasted with, and told through, the repetitive, almost rhythmical processes that make up seemingly ordinary lives ... Visitation cannot have been an easy book to translate, but Susan Bernofsky masters its occasional glints of poetry ... Visitation is an important work by a novelist of great talent.’ James Copnall

‘A powerful novel ...in which epic events are contrasted with, and told through, the repetitive, almost rhythmical processes that make up seemingly ordinary lives ... Visitation cannot have been an easy book to translate, but Susan Bernofsky masters its occasional glints of poetry ... Visitation is an important work by a novelist of great talent.’ James Copnall

‘A strangely ethereal fairy tale of the Reich-scarred, Stasi-suppressed era and its lingering hangover... A Brandenburg lake house proves to be a memorable courtroom for this arbitration into the lives of others.’

‘A stunning novel about the illusion of ownership’ Tom Sutcliffe

‘Ambitiously shows the fleetingness of memory, that we are all transient’ Deborah Moggach

‘Essential reading’ Rory Olcayto

‘Fascinating’ John Carey

‘It is hard to say exactly what the secret of this novel is and where its brilliance, impact and eminent drama come from. One thing is certain: Jenny Erpenbeck has created her masterpiece.’

‘It was the cover of this slim hardback that first attracted me to it. A butterfly, bleached of colour, rises up rather ominously against the silhouettes of trees, while a blocky font announces the author and title. Jenny Erpenbeck was born in East Berlin in 1967, and so it is no real surprise that her novella engages with Germany's challenging history of wars and Wall. But what is unexpected, and incredibly powerful, is the fragmented form of the book; the prose that feels more like poetry (Susan Bernofsky has evidently achieved a brilliant translation); and the thoughtful exploration of the importance of place and the meaning of home. It has a strikingly similar storyline to Simon Mawer's The Glass Room - which was shortlisted for 2009's Booker - but Erpenbeck's treatment couldn't be more different, or more stunning.’ Emily Rhodes

‘It's more unsettling than one might imagine for a work of fiction to preoccupy itself with continuity of place rather than of character. When that place is outside Berlin, and the time the past fraught hundred years: even more so. Jenny Erpenbeck's Visitation is one of the most pleasingly disturbing novels I've read in a long time.’ Emily Barton, author of "The Testament of Yves Gundron"

‘Jenny Erpenbeck's small novel is full of human destinies large and small’

‘Love, death and passion, from the Weimar Republic to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Wonderful German prose.’

‘One of the finest, most exciting authors alive... In Visitation, the achievement and resonance are massive... The amount of emotional engagement Erpenbeck manages to win from us, in a mere 150 pages, is just one proof of her mastery. An extraordinarily strong book by a major German author, ingeniously translated, produced with love.’ Michel Faber

‘Over the past 10 years, Jenny Erpenbeck has gained a reputation as one of Germany's most adventurous young writers, exploring personal and national secrets through allegory (The Old Child) and fable (The Book of Words) ... Visitation, her third book, is set on a lake in the Brandenburg forest. A prologue enacts the violent drama of its Ice Age creation ... the book considers what happens to a group of characters who live in or visit this "particular bit of earth located not terribly far from Berlin" from the Thirties through to the recent past.’ Kasia Boddy

‘The writing is beautiful, without so much as a superfluous word.’ Jennifer Lipman

‘This haunting novel beautifully dramatises how ordinary lives are affected by history.’ Kate Saunders

‘This haunting novel distils the strife that tore Germany apart over the last century into the framework of one house in Brandenburg ... Erpenbeck, born in East Germany, based her intensely visual novel on the house in which she grew up and, in the space of 150 pages, concentrates a century of history.’ Clare Colvin





 
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