Jenny Erpenbeck: Visitation


Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck novel main character is a house and its grounds in Brandenburg. As you read on through you discover the history of the house and the people that once lived there in the 20th century particularly the political calamities. The Jewish who own the property in the 1930s are forced to sell while they wait for a visa to escape the area. An architect renovates the house, and then has to flee for having done illegal business with the West. At the end of the Second World War it’s requisitioned by the Russian Army.

This novel in unique and striking in so many ways. Mainly because the main focus of the novel is based on the house and not people. It’s a very calming novel and shows no dramatic meetings nor intense conversations between the Architect and the Jews. Jenny Erpenbeck builds her characters well to insure the reader feels an emotional connection and fondness towards the characters. So much so that you as the reader worry about the things that the characters worry about. Inevitably as the reader you want the characters to hold to their home.

The main narrator throughout this novel is the ‘Gardener’ and is the longest servicing at the house known to all the owners and occupants that ever lived there.  I find it intriguing how Jenny Erpenbeck developed and brought this character in to the novel as he kept us update ever so often in the novel of his daily duties in the garden.  I couldn’t help feeling warmed to his character as he brought a sense of cheerfulness every time he appeared in the novel. It might seem unnecessary to include this character, but as the novel goes through the decades the reader realizes just how important his character really is. Especially so when the garden becomes misused and starts to decay. The gardens patient labours become unexpectedly moving. As a reader no word is ever heard from him and Erpenbeck allows us no access to his mind. As a reader we feel a great relief whenever he reappears but also sadness as his fragile figure does what he can to restore the garden and house.

Jenny Erpenbeck has brilliantly mastered how to emotional engage her reader in such a short story. This is an astonishing and extraordinary book and I’d recommend anyone to read it as it opens your eyes to a different, foreign style you may never have come across before. I encouraged people not to just to read British & American books which we are most familiar with. But to look out in to the world.


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