A bestseller in Germany, Visitation has established Jenny Erpenbeck as one of Europe’s most significant contemporary authors.
A forested property on a Brandenburg lake outside Berlin lies at the heart of this darkly sensual, elegiac 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 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."