RaveThe Guardian (UK)In Visitation, allegory is toned down, history intrudes more explicitly, and the narrative canvas is bigger. The page count may still be modest, but the achievement and resonance are massive ... She immerses us so deeply in the worldview of each protagonist that we grow fond of them all, worry about the things that worry them, cease to see the things that they ignore ... Indeed, the amount of emotional engagement Erpenbeck manages to win from us, in a mere 150 pages, is just one proof of her mastery. In marked contrast to the unearned love that inflated novels so often demand, Visitation allows us to feel we\'ve known real individuals, experienced the slow unfolding of history, and bonded unconditionally with a place, without authorial pestering or pathos-cranking ... Erpenbeck\'s German is poetical, almost incantatory, taking full advantage of the portmanteau words and Rubik\'s cube grammar of that language. Bernofsky opts for a smooth style that won\'t come across as bizarre in English, sacrificing some of Erpenbeck\'s verse-like cadences and delivering a flexible, accessible narrative ... an extraordinarily strong book by a major German author, ingeniously translated.
Karl Ove Knausgaard
MixedThe Guardian (UK)A Death in the Family begins with a grand meditation on post-mortem microbes worthy of Jim Crace\'s Being Dead, and ends impressively too, with a profoundly resonant last line. In between, in a Proustian spirit of digression, there are philosophical pensées of varying interest, as well as vivid evocations of adolescent hypersensitivity and confusion. The bulk of the text, however, consists of mundane family life described in microscopic detail. All the dull stuff that most novelists would omit, Knausgaard leaves in ... This merciless specificity, which some readers may find maddening, serves two purposes. It lends an air of unedited truth to the project, and it adds power to the final third of the book, where Karl Ove and his brother Yngve are saddled with the grim job of cleaning the house in which their father drank himself to death ... On the evidence of A Death in the Family, I suspect that Knausgaard\'s lifelong yearning to achieve literary immortality may prove biodegradable too.