Overview

A bestseller in Germany, Visitation has established Jenny Erpenbeck as one of Europe’s most significant contemporary authors.


A house on the forested bank of a Brandenburg lake outside Berlin (once belonging to Erpenbeck’s grandparents) is the focus of this compact, beautiful novel. Encompassing over one hundred years of German history, from the nineteenth century to the Weimar Republic, from World War II to the Socialist German Democratic Republic, and finally reunification ...

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Visitation

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Overview

A bestseller in Germany, Visitation has established Jenny Erpenbeck as one of Europe’s most significant contemporary authors.


A house on the forested bank of a Brandenburg lake outside Berlin (once belonging to Erpenbeck’s grandparents) is the focus of this compact, beautiful novel. Encompassing over one hundred years of German history, from the nineteenth century to the Weimar Republic, from World War II to the Socialist German Democratic Republic, and finally reunification and its aftermath, Visitation offers the life stories of twelve individuals who seek to make their home in this one magical little house. The novel breaks into the everyday life of the house and shimmers through it, while relating the passions and fates of its inhabitants. Elegant and poetic, Visitation forms a literary mosaic of the last century, tearing open wounds and offering moments of reconciliation, with its drama and its exquisite evocation of a landscape no political upheaval can truly change.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this original and evocative novel, Erpenbeck (The Book of Words) charts the history of a property in the Brandenburg hills through snippets--temporarily opened windows offering brief, tantalizing glimpses before slamming shut. There is a Jewish girl murdered during the Holocaust; a disillusioned Communist activist who leaves Nazi Germany and returns after WWII; an architect who collaborated with Albert Speers on the Germania Project; two hard-partying structural engineering students who try to escape to the West, and so on. Amid all these protagonists, there is the recurring figure of "The Gardener," who goes about the bucolic business of maintaining the property with unwavering application. Erpenbeck's elliptical style, rife with naturalistic descriptions of landscape and geology, is better at describing the physical world than the emotional life of her characters, but in so doing, she hammers home her basic point--that people are part of the same continuum as the trees and glaciers that come and go over eons, and that "eternal life already exists during a human lifetime." (Sept.)
Playboy
“Love, death and passion, from the Weimar Republic to the Fall of the
Berlin Wall. Wonderful German prose.”
Nicole Krauss
“The brutality of her subjects, combined with the fierce intelligence and tenderness at work behind her restrained unvarnished prose, is overwhelming.”
Cosmopolitan
“Jenny Erpenbeck is the rising star of the German literary scene.”
Washington Post Book World
“Erpenbeck will get under your skin.”
Jewish Book World
“Bernofsky's translation vividly captures the rhythm of Erpenbeck's original and allows us to experience this stunning parable of cahnge and brevity in all its beauty and wonder.”
Frederike Knabe - Mostly Fiction
“Inspired by and based on her family's summer house, the author sensitively mixes her own memories and those of people she knew with the wide-ranging fictional reality of her novel…Erpenbeck's voice is fresh and independent and very convincing.”
The Nation
“Visitation adds to her compact scenarios something intangible and enormous, which works on them from outside their modest frames with a force eroding human history and its claims to establish durable meaning.”
Mostly Fiction - Frederike Knabe
“Inspired by and based on her family's summer house, the author sensitively mixes her own memories and those of people she knew with the wide-ranging fictional reality of her novel…Erpenbeck's voice is fresh and independent and very convincing.”
Library Journal
This brief novel, the translation of a best seller in Germany, covers the sweep of the 20th century through the story of a small piece of land bordering a lake outside Berlin. The tale's origins seem folkloric but begin only 100 years before, when one of the landowner's daughters goes mad and wanders shoeless along the shore. An architect purchases the property and builds a unique home with intricate closets, a painted antique door, and stained-glass windows. The house next door is owned by a Jewish family; caught up in the nightmare of the Holocaust, some escape, some do not. The house survives invading Soviets, but the Communist takeover, the moribund economy that results, and ownership disputes that leave the house empty and unmaintained for years finally destroy it and the family connections it forged. VERDICT In personalizing historical events, Erpenbeck (The Old Child & Other Stories) introduces themes reminiscent of some of W.G. Sebald's novels, especially The Emigrants, but her detailed, dreamy descriptions are more poetry than prose, full of repetitions that evoke the polishing of fine handiwork. Highly recommended.—Reba Leiding, James Madison Univ. Libs., Harrisonburg, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780811219310
  • Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 9/30/2010
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 256,668
  • File size: 297 KB

Meet the Author

Jenny Erpenbeck was born in
1967 in East Berlin. After finishing high school, she trained as a bookbinder and then studied drama and music theater direction. Erpenbeck has won various awards, including most recently the prestigious Swiss
Sothurner Literature Prize, and her works have been translated worldwide.

Susan Bernofsky is the acclaimed translator of Hermann Hesse, Robert Walser, and Jenny Erpenbeck, and the recipient of many awards, including the Helen and Kurt Wolff Prize and the Hermann Hesse Translation Prize. She teaches literary translation at Columbia University and lives in New York.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 19, 2011

    Mediocre Novel

    The theme was highly original, but not fully developed. The tumultuous changes in German society were not really explored in their full depth. Character development was poor and the ending disappointing.
    Not recommended for book clubs, although it is an easy read.

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