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Visitation

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3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  685 ratings  ·  130 reviews
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 madn...more
Paperback, 150 pages
Published by Portobello Books (first published 2008)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,282)
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karen
oh, i love it when i get to review a book that elizabeth has just reviewed. as though i am going to be able to add anything to the discussion except a weak echo of "i agree! this book is good!!"

so i will just quickly relate my experience with this book which is indeed pretty great.

but not at first.

at first it was killing me with boredom. i have been reading too much teen fiction as of late, and there, the pacing is perfect for hot summer and slipping attention span. this book is NOT for those wh...more
Algernon

Perhaps eternal life already exists during a human lifetime, but since it looks different from what we're hoping for - something that transcends everything that's ever happened - since it looks instead like the old life we already knew, no one recognizes it.

Yet, Jenny Erpenbeck demonstrates here that it is possible to capture the universal by examining the particular (like zooming into a Mandelbrot fractal image), amazingly in only a couple of hundred pages of personal histories succeeding eac...more
Greg
This is a book about a small relatively unimportant piece of land in Germany and the people who happen to have some ties to that piece of land for a hundred years or so. It's just a piece of land alongside a lake. Except for some little bits on construction little changes physically on the piece of land, but being that it is in Germany, and in what would be called East Germany for about half of the 20th Century, and being what history is there are quite a few questions that can be explored just...more
·Karen·
Stunning.

A grand summer house on a lake just outside Berlin is the focal point of twelve stories of those who arrest a space there from the turmoil in central Europe between the Weimar Republic and the post Re-unification period, with all the shifts and dislocations as ideologies and regimes pass. Attempts to fix themselves to a piece of earth are fruitless. In between each chapter we have the constant gardener, whose pragmatic planting, pruning and propagating is described in a tone of incanta...more
Fionnuala
Oct 29, 2012 Fionnuala rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Fionnuala by: ·Karen·
Imagine a geologist examining a cross section of a particular landscape. He would point out why this layer of rock is so compressed and why that one is less so, why this layer of gravel was trapped just there and what the shape and age of those fossils indicate. He would read the layers of the landscape as if he was reading a history book with illustrations.
Jenny Erpenbeck reads the layers of twentieth century Germany in a similar way. Just as pockets of petrified sand beneath bedrock can still...more
Jimmy
An instant favorite. What I’m most impressed with is her ability to be so distant and cold in her poetic approach, yet somehow the overall effect is relatable, and very human. Often when I read books that are poetic in nature (see: Maud Martha, Deep North, even Silk) I feel disconnected from the characters by a veil of constructed beauty. But even though this book has all that beauty and construction and a huge bag of tricks to boot, I always felt emotionally involved. And even though she uses h...more
Ben Winch
I think this may be a masterpiece, but it’s not quite my cup of tea. Humble, slim, direct, economical, but also panoramic, experimental, political, all it lacks (unless I’m missing it) is a sense of humour. That and an entry to the world of dreams, which for me is (usually) what fiction is all about. It’s an earthbound book, and generally I like more sky, but it’s as if that weddedness to the earth is a discipline, an act of contrition. I respect that, but sometimes I chafed against the boundari...more
Cheryl
Oct 13, 2013 Cheryl rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cheryl by: ·Karen·
This is a swirling wash of dream-like fragments, memories, anchored by a lakeside home that withstands years of turbulent German history. The mundane, the poetic, the profound, and the tragic mingle together, indistinguishable, as in real life. I wish I could have been able to read this in the original German; the translation was stunning -- I can only imagine how even more stunning the original must have been.

This book perfectly illustrates why I like Goodreads so much. It is translated from th...more
M. Sarki
Jun 19, 2013 M. Sarki rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: serious seekers of great fiction
Shelves: 5-star-wonders
http://msarki.tumblr.com/post/5335709...

In my adult lifetime I have lived in, while remodeling, four different houses. I no longer own any of these homes nor do I have any access to them other than the casual drive-by. But my sweat and brains remain a part of each of them, some rotting away as I am, and others being enjoyed and appreciated for the good work my wife and I did in making the houses aesthetic and hospitable when we were stewards of the properties. But none of these houses will remai...more
Teresa
Jan 16, 2012 Teresa rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Teresa by: ·Karen·
4 and 1/2 stars

I think maybe I would've given this 5 stars if I'd been able to read it straight through rather than in spurts while I was traveling. It's a prose poem of a novel, slim but encompassing the history of Germany, starting with a short prologue of the Ice Age to the building of a summer house in one particular wooded area with much more to follow. If I knew more of German history, I'm sure I would've gotten more out of it, but even without that knowledge, the ebb and flow of the seaso...more
S.

This is a beautifully written book about a piece of land and the home that comes to sit on it, and the house's inhabitants over many years.

The writing (translation) is gorgeous. You can smell the woods, the meadows and the lake. You get an intimate if fleeting glimpse into people's lives and how they're shaped by history, their thoughts and feelings. You never learn anyone's name. The author uses repetition because for everyone so much of life is repetition, and that is also expressed with the...more
Friederike Knabe
"Colourful is only that what she can still remember, surrounded by darkness of which she is at the core, her head [...] carries colourful memories, memories of somebody, who she was. Probably was. Who was she? Whose head was her head? Who owns the memories?" The "Girl ", who ponders these questions, is one of the protagonists in Jenny Erpenbeck's innovative and powerful novel "Visitation". Memories of innocent excitement and happiness of youth, of arriving, settling down, and then having to leav...more
Jill
It is very rare that a book combines a mastery of language and cadence with an assured and innovative vision to redefine the literary landscape. Visitation is such a book. It is, to my mind, a contemporary masterpiece.

It will be widely compared, no doubt, to Simon Mawer’s The Glass House, because its property on a Brandenburg lake outside of Berlin is at the heart of the novel. Yet in that book, Mr. Mawer sacrificed characters to themes. In Visitation, Ms. Erpenbeck does something far more darin...more
Rise
The visitation is of ghosts. Early in the book, they appear matter-of-factly. It must be said that the term 'ghosts' could be applied here to both the living and the dead. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish between the two. Throughout the novel, the haunting of both is persistent.

Halfway up the slope where the earth is no longer quite so dark and the grass is drier, there will surely be a place for her and the fisherman, whose hair is so wet that the water is dripping to his shoulders and runnin
...more
Mmars
So many of my GR friends had rated this highly. I decided to take a chance on it, even though it is written in fragments and translated. The translation didn't mar the book. It was still beautifully poetic. And I also love books in which the house is a main focus. It, too, was wonderfully described. But the story? The book as a novel? I dunno. Should one need to read the book again from the beginning to understand more of who the characters are when being thrown into a new chapter? Names are vag...more
Joan Winnek
Nov 04, 2011 Joan Winnek rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Joan by: ·Karen·
I read this in one day, it completely absorbed me. Unusual construction, beautiful writing--how I wish I had enough German to appreciate this in the original, although the translation seems excellent. Except for the title: Heimsuchung is much more evocative than Visitation. Although I have this from the library, I know I will reread it, probably recommend it to my book club, maybe give it to everyone I know for Christmas. A heart-breaking book.
Steven
Mar 21, 2012 Steven rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: absolutely no one
Shelves: unfinishable
I bought Visitation after after it came up on Whichbook, and I regret the 10 bucks I spent on it. I read the ebook sample and enjoyed the prose, but soon after the first chapter, the book dissolves into an unreadable mess. How atrocities like this get published is beyond me.

This book was originally published in German and so, one would think, must have been good enough to merit translation into English. The problem is not the translation, but the writing itself. There is no plot. Absolutely non...more
Erma Odrach
I thought this was quite a magical book of poetry/prose by Erpenbeck, who was born in East Berlin. Set in a house overlooking a Brandenburg lake, it is the telling of stories by 12 random people, who occupied it from the Weimar Republic to the fall of the Berlin Wall. But almost none of the people have names, rather, they are identified by profession: the gardener, the architect, the Red Army Man. She writes of the gardener, who gives the reader continuity, "...he's always lived there, everyone...more
Jonathan
A Masterpiece - devastating, poetic and perfectly formed. I fully intend to read this again.
Antonomasia
[3.5] Most novels focus on people. The nouveau roman created the novel of objects. Visitation is a novella of place, of a rural site in Eastern Germany and the house built on it.

This is an idea I am so attached to, to the concept of stories being embedded in a place, that my response to a somewhat unsatisfying version of it is akin to someone's rant about what's wrong with the film of favourite book. For most of my life a natural part of being in any place, but particularly anywhere I've lived,...more
Nancy Oakes
Opening with the above epigraphs, Visitation is a rather stunning, although very short, novel of historical fiction that offers the stories of the inhabitants of a lakefront summer house in the woods of Brandenburg through the movement of time and history in Germany. The prologue opens twenty-four thousand years ago with an advancing glacier, then progresses geologically over the years until the Brandenburg lakes began to form. As the land comes to be settled, it too follows a natural progressio...more
Sibyl
This had been recommended to me when I went to a literature festival event about translation. (It had been shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.)

As my maternal family came from Germany as refugees, I was intrigued by the idea of a book that offers a perspective on 20th century history through the story of a house and its occupants.

But Jenny Erpenbeck's book is utterly different from English elegiac novels in which the narrative centres around a property (e.g.Howard's End. Brides...more
Leka

Questo è un libro duro. E anche con una sintassi difficile, che richiede di esserci, di stare dentro le sue storie, il più possibile senza le nostre.
Eppure, nel susseguirsi delle stagioni, ritmate dai lavori che il prato piccolo e quello grande -oltre che il giardino e il pontile che da sul lago- danno al giardiniere e al susseguirsi degli abitanti della casa grande (e poi anche del capanno e del laboratorio) scopriamo qualcosa di noi, della nostra storia, della nostra ansia di radicarci, costru...more
Alison
Visitation reminds us that we’re shaped by natural forces, politics, rules and rituals and war, glaciers, the seasons, marauding armies, our neighbor’s greed, our own memories.
The novel begins with a panoramic view: “twenty-four thousand years ago, a glacier advanced.” (1) Then the story telescopes, bringing us inside the lives and consciousness of its various characters.
I loved the way she plays with scale. We begin with the glacier. We watch the way in which large forces –war, genocide, occu...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘Until the time comes when a different house will be built on this same spot, the landscape, if ever so briefly, resembles itself once more.’

The central character of this novel is not a person, but a place. And through this place, a grand house and its grounds by a lake in Brandenburg, we see a history of 20th century Germany unfold. A succession of inhabitants, each dislodging another, reflects the political upheavals of the times in which it is set. The gardener provides continuity in this sto...more
Georgina Bruce
This is the story of a house. It is the story of the people who have lived in and passed through the house. It's the story of WWII and the Holocaust. And it's the story of history itself - how it is made, what it consists of. Big stories for such a small novel. What makes this novel unique is the writing, which is hypnotically beautiful, drawing you in, closer and closer, by the repetitive tiny details that make up each moment. The reader comes to know the characters through the intimate descrip...more
Hayley Fletcher
This is one of the most moving novels I have read. It is rhythmic, poetic and just a delight to read. The ever present gardner, cultivating, working and caring, provides the much needed stability in the ever changing surrounding circumstances. The very notions of 'home' and ownership are ruptured; we are fleeting spots on an otherwise perfect natural environment. The descriptions are worth giving the luxury of re-reading again and again. Very very powerful and I will seek out further translation...more
Susan_T.
A short, heartbreaking work of fiction. Erpenbeck writes about a lake house near Berlin and its various residents during the last century, including a Jewish family of manufacturers, a Third Reich architect and his wife, and a Communist Party stalwart. Beautifully written and translated; each chapter illuminates another.
Alison
I thought this was a really unique, wonderful novel. I didn't realize until I was done that it was based on so much fact, but looking back I feel like that radiated through it -- it was obvious to me that even if it wasn't based on fact, the author did a lot of research to make it authentic. And it was so in feeling and detail. Parts of it were difficult -- the wife and the Russian soldiers -- and they were presented in a way that was distant but also raw. The language was poetic, almost stream...more
Jane
4****. This book was certainly unusual! It begins with how geologic forces over many thousands of years form a certain lake in Germany. This sets the stage for the main character: a piece of land with many trees and meadows, on the lake. The land is divided and sold to three different owners: The Architect, The Coffee and Tea Importer, and The Cloth Merchant with his family. A recurring figure throughout the novel is The Gardener. He appears out of nowhere and reappears between each section abou...more
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500 Great Books B...: Visitation - Jenny Erpenbeck - Jimmy 7 11 Oct 10, 2014 09:52PM  
  • After Midnight
  • The Oppermanns
  • The Literary Conference
  • The Island of Second Sight
  • The Appointment
  • City of Angels or, The Overcoat of Dr. Freud
  • Funeral for a Dog
  • The Tanners
  • Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman
  • Malina
  • The Blindness of the Heart
  • The Canvas
  • In Times of Fading Light: A Novel
  • The German Lesson
  • How German is It (Wie Deutsch ist es)
  • Broken Glass Park
  • Faithful Ruslan
  • Wonderful, Wonderful Times
The Book of Words Aller Tage Abend The Old Child and Other Stories The Old Child and The Book of Words Dinge, die verschwinden

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“Home. When it rains, you can smell the leaves in the forest and the sand. It's all so small and mild, the landscape surrounding the lake, so manageable. The leaves and the sand are so close, it's as if you might, if you wanted, pull them on over your head. And the lake always laps at the shore so gently, licking the hand you dip into it like a young dog, and the water is soft and shallow.” 5 likes
“... it would be lovely if he and his wife would succeed in dying before the matter of inherited property was finally settled. Then the person giving the speech at the funeral would be able to say that until the very end they had been able to pursue what they loved: sailing. [p. 121]” 2 likes
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