It’s always a bit unpredictable which books are going to capture the imagination of the reading public. Sometimes a book I was confident would make a big splash (such as Yoko Tawada’s multi-layered cinematic parable of East-West multiculturalism The Naked Eye) winds up getting shockingly little exposure. And other times, a breathtaking flurry of positive reviews blows in, with praise for a book coming so thick and fast it’s difficult to remember who said what where. That’s just what’s been happening this month with Jenny Erpenbeck’s novel Visitation, which appeared in my translation this past September from New Directions in New York and Portobello in London. I was expecting people to like this book, and apparently they do. I was expecting this book to get some good press, and it has
. . . in England. For some reason, most of the major book reviewing organs in the United States have yet to notice the book was ever published,* but in England it’s been a veritable love fest. Just this morning, The Independent published their second review of the novel; an earlier one appeared one month ago. After The Guardian published their rave review at the end of October, the novel spent two weeks fluttering between positions 2 and 4 on their bestseller list. And James Copnall, writing in today’s TLS—which is unfortunately not available for internet perusal but I just cheated—calls the book “an important work by a novelist of great talent” and praises the translation as well. Visitation was also recently picked up in the Daily Mail, PRI’s The World (BBC) and the Financial Times. That’s a lot of attention for one little novel; on the other hand, Visitation is clearly the most ambitious and successful book to date by one of Germany’s foremost younger novelists, so I am thrilled to see it getting its due.
*My publisher just reminded me that I somehow forgot all about the interview with Jenny in Vogue (!), and that Visitation was featured in Time Out Chicago, Publishers Weekly, Bookmark Magazine and The Daily Beast, as well as in the Canadian journals Border Crossing and The Edmonton Journal. Three Percent also picked up the interview Katy Derbyshire did with me on translating the novel for Love German Books. I’m still waiting for The New York Times to ante up, but I do stand corrected. Talk about ingratitude—shame on me!