Jenny Erpenbeck set for 2011 Edinburgh Book Festival
Revisiting Germany’s troubled past
This article is from 2011.
‘An extraordinarily strong book by a major German author, ingeniously translated, produced with love by an idealistic publisher intent on doing something about the shamefully small proportion of foreign literature whose existence our country acknowledges.’ The words of Michel Faber writing in The Guardian last year. High praise indeed for Jenny Erpenbeck and her third novel, Visitation. But Faber’s not writing out of turn.
Erpenbeck’s history of a house and the surrounding land by a lake in Brandenburg outside Berlin is incantatory, uncanny and really quite wonderful. The history of the house unfolds through a succession of occupants who oust and are ousted by one another during the course of events in Germany’s tumultuous 20th century.
Erpenbeck’s style is gloriously idiosyncratic, from her eschewing of neat characterisations to her patchwork narrative structure to highly poetic prose. None of which is to say her writing is difficult. In point of fact, it’s so on the mark that in just 150 pages she has the reader hooked on the (largely tragic) lives of the house’s various inhabitants. It even succeeds in elucidating the ‘life’ of the property itself, via the recurring appearance of the mysterious and unknowable gardener, who maintains the dwelling through changing times.
18 Aug (with Michel Faber), 8.30pm, £7 (£5).