“For a time this lake would hold up its mirror to the sky amid the Brandenburg hills, it would lie smooth between the oaks, alders and pines that were growing once more, and much later, after human beings appeared, it was given a name by them: Märkisches Meer.”
Jenny Erpenbeck, Visitation, tr. Susan Bernofsky
The German title of Jenny Erpenbeck’s most recent novel is Heimsuchung, a word that contains the idea of home, of searching, of searching for home, of haunting, of punishment and affliction, all of which echo through the story of a house on the shore of a Brandenburg lake, built on a plot of land with a dark past. The English title Visitation also evokes visits, visitors and being visited, picking up on the ways in which the house is haunted by the passing of people and of time. Time and its passage are also the elusive substance of Jenny Erpenbeck’s collection Dinge, die verschwinden, a book of farewells that explores disappearances of various kinds: of youth, memories, objects, and always, inescapably, of the present. An extract, translated by Susan Bernofsky, is included in the current issue of Sport. Wellingtonians can listen to Jenny Erpenbeck in conversation with Karen Leeder (Professor of German at Oxford University and also an expert on literary spectres and hauntings) at her Writers & Readers Week session on Monday 12 March. Karen will also be chairing a session on the art of literary translation with Jenny Erpenbeck and translators and poets Michael Hulse and Marco Sonzogni on Tuesday 13 March.
PS. Susan Bernofsky was recently awarded the prestigious and princely (15,000 Euro) Hermann Hesse Prize for her translation of Siddharta. Congratulations Susan!