Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck


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.

In a nutshell:

I read it in: German

I liked it:  x  Yes and  x   No  The book was a DNF for me.

For people who like: historical topics, clean and cold language without a word too many, modern German literature

My thoughts: 

I wanted to like this book, and in a strange way I did and then again I didn’t. It is the story of a house at a lake in Germany and its inhabitants over the course of time (see my Book beginnings on Friday post). The language is very clean, detached and cold. There is not one word too many and everything is made very clear to the reader. I could picture everything perfectly, the house, the gardener, the lake, the bathhouse, the inhabitants.

However, I decided to stop reading it. I haven’t come very far, so it could be that my decision was entirely wrong, but I just don’t want to spend my time reading stories that are too depressing for words. In the few chapters I read there were Jews getting murdered in a concentration camp, a little Jewish girl getting shot after hiding in a box on her own for a long time, a German woman getting raped by Russian soldiers. Well, you might say that that is what that time was like so I can’t expect anything different. True! It may well be that the following period with the house being in the German Democratic Republic would have been a cheerful read, but seriously, I couldn’t imagine that.

Somehow I think that the German title “Heimsuchung” (which has a somewhat sinister and terrifying connotation) refers to the dreadful misfortune that befalls the house’s inhabitants. As brilliant the book might be, I just found it neither entertaining in a relaxing sort of way nor captivating enough for me to read on. Maybe this was just not the right time for me to read it. If you are looking for a light read that leaves you ready to go to sleep happily, this is not the book for you.

Location: Scharmützelsee, Brandenburg, Germany


Image from wikipedia

Product info and buy link :

Title Visitation
Author Jenny Erpenbeck
Publisher New Directions
ISBN 978-0811218351
I got this book my German swap site
Buy link Buy Visitation
More info English page on the German publisher’s site


Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.

A very good review in German at “der Freitag”

2 Comments Write a comment

    • Kasumi, it is very well written, but, yes, the topics were so sad, I just didn’t want to read on.


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