Garry's Reviews > Visitation

Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck
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's review
Nov 20, 2011

did not like it
bookshelves: abandoned
Read from November 20 to 22, 2011

I'm embarrassed that a short book of only 150 pages should be in my pile of shame - the books that I just couldn't bring myself to finish reading. I got to page 100, so nobody can say I didn't try. It probably says something that I couldn't bring myself to sit through the last 50 (although I did cheat and look at the last few pages to see whether I missed anything... I don't think I did...)

The main character of Visitation is an East German house: each chapter is devoted to an episode that occurs in its life, starting just before the start of World War II, moving through to Russian occupation, and then Communism. I presume it goes on to the fall of the Wall, and into more modern times, but that would be after page 100 and I can't be sure.

I like to be immersed in a book. I like to imagine that I'm one of the lead characters, and experience the world through their eyes. It's hard to do that when the lead character is a house.

I also found that I was constantly wading through incredibly long-winded descriptions of minute details. That wouldn't have mattered if they had helped me to feel and see and smell the environment, to experience it, but I found most of these descriptions nothing but tedious. How is it possible that such a short book could ever be described as tedious?

Maybe it's a shame that Visitation ever got translated into English. According to the blurb on the inside cover, the original German text is "poetical, almost incantatory, taking full advantage of the portmanteau of words and Rubik's cube grammar of that language". I don't know what all of those words mean, and I can't work out what makes grammar Rubik-cubian, but I can only imagine that translation has dulled the impact of the writing.

I did see some grand themes in this. I just didn't care.

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