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Visitation Paperback – 7 Jul 2011


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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Portobello Books Ltd (7 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846271908
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846271908
  • Product Dimensions: 37.2 x 1.2 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 19,239 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

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, Guardian

About the Author

JENNY ERPENBECK is author of The Old Child & The Book of Words, published by Portobello. Her fiction is published in fourteen languages.

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER on 1 Sep 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I liked Jenny Erpenbeck's "The Old Child" (see my review), but was often irritated by "Visitation", by the "poetic" prose with its mannerisms (including many commas where there should be full stops) and repetitiveness, by the pointlessly unchronological nature of the narrative particularly pointless, and by the rather arch way in which explanations are delayed or occasionally withheld altogether. Most of the characters are given no names, so it often takes time to work out to whom "he" or "she" refers; and in any case only a few of them are interesting or have any personality.

That said, there are a couple of graphic and powerful passages.

On a plot of land on the banks of a beautiful lake east of Berlin is sold off some time before 1933 in three parcels: one to a Jewish clothmaker who builds a house on it; the second to a Berlin architect who does likewise; a third to a coffee and tea importer. The novel then describes (as I said, it unchronological order), the harrowing fate of the Jewish family; the architect acquires their house, too. (We are never told what happens on the third plot). Then the war breaks out; and by the end of it the Russians reach the area: the architect was away at the time, but his wife was not.

Other tenants and sub-tenants float through the properties, each with their own story of what had happened to them under the Third Reich, the war, the DDR, or after reunification. The only continuity is the natural scenery, represented, I thought, by the taciturn Gardener who appears in every other chapter and whose seasonal activities are described repetitively.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Paul Bowes TOP 500 REVIEWER on 16 May 2011
Format: Hardcover
'Visitation' is Susan Bernofsky's excellent translation of Jenny Erpenbeck's novel 'Heimsuchung', published in German in 2008. 'Heimsuchung' does indeed mean 'visitation' - a formal visit - but also 'plague', 'affliction' and 'infestation'. All these meanings will prove to have resonance. In English even 'visitation' itself, with its secondary meaning of 'haunting', has its premonitory side.

The place that we visit with Erpenbeck is a plot of lakeside ground in Germany that in the course of the novel and nearly a century of recent history passes through a number of hands and is the site of repeated building and rebuilding - the making and unmaking of a succession of homes. 'Heimsuchung' - literally 'a study or investigation of home' - is the underlying theme of the book.

Erpenbeck approaches her subject obliquely, in a succession of short chapters that each focus on a single character or family and their relationship to this piece of ground. In spite of the overt drama of historical events - the two wars, the rise of Hitler, the Russian occupation, the rise and fall of Communist East Germany - and their consequences for those who occupy this place, it is the place itself that emerges as the most powerful character of all.

This preoccupation with the existential relationship between human beings and the places in which they choose to live has deep roots in German thought. Heidegger, for one, seems to lie behind some of the author's patient descriptions of topography and the gardener's tasks and the themes that emerge from this act of attention. The slow rhythmic accumulation of detail, the steady deepening of emotion and the quiet way in which absolute horror emerges from the everyday reminded me of W. G. Sebald, and also of Walter Abish, author of 'How German Is It?'.

This is a book of great but quiet accomplishment that rewards slow reading.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By D. P. Mankin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 2 Nov 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a beautifully written and haunting novella that captures the essence of German history over the last century. The rise of nazism, the fate of Jewish citizens, and the tyranny of the Soviet era rule (in East Germany) is captured in a unique manner by Jenny Erpenbeck. This is a story that lingers on after you've turned the last page. The focus of most of the story is a place, a location ("someone who builds something is affixing his life to the earth"); and apart from one character, the gardener, the story of Germany's 20th century history unfolds in this one place: a wood, a lake and a community. Yet the mood of the writing is so wonderful and evocative that you are drawn into the lives of the characters. Simply stunning.
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By Jane Bushby on 20 Dec 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you like novels that go beyond 'beginning-middle-end' structure and can relax with enigma, this is one for you. A book I felt really sorry to have finished and will have to return to it again and, probably, again.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWER on 29 Nov 2010
Format: Hardcover
Jenny Erpenbeck has written "Visitation", a short book of 12 snippets - almost short stories - but all about the same vacation villa located outside Berlin. Beginning in the 1930's - though with a short section about the mayor of the town the villa is located in and his four unmarried daughters from earlier - and ending in the 1990's after the fall of East Germany's Communist government, the villa provides the meeting point in spirit and flesh of those who've lived there. German Jews, some of whom had emigrated to South Africa when the going was good, have left memories of their lives, along with an architect who lived in the house during the Nazi years with his second wife. The architect was proud that he had paid the emigrees fully half of the value of the house, rather than expropriating it outright.

Erpenbeck's time line is not lateral and neither is the history of the house. The stories are held together by short snippets about "The Gardener", an itinerant who has handled the gardening chores in the villa and several surrounding ones. "Visitation" is not an easy read, but it is a good one. The book I can best compare it to is "The Glass Room", a novel about a real house in Brno, Czech Republic, and the many people and their stories who had lived there since the 1920's.
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