It is 1988, the year before the Berlin Wall came down. Jonathan Fabrizius, a journalist living in West Germany, is asked to travel to the contested lands of former East Prussia - where the Nazi legacy lives on in buildings and fortifications - to write about the route for a car rally, and come face to face with his painful family history, and devastating questions about ordinary Germans' complicity in the war.
Homeland, first published in Germany... in 1992, now out in English for the first time, remains fresh, wise, very funny and intuitive ... Kempowski’s laconic, all-knowing voice, so brilliantly effective in the masterful All For Nothing (2006) and conveyed flawlessly in the late Anthea Bell’s 2015 translation, is impressively in evidence here in Charlotte Collins’s nuanced, ironic translation — particularly in the dialogue and the sequences concerning the protagonist’s inner thoughts ... Poised and well observed, Homeland is remarkable, a very human narrative featuring a likeable Everyman. For all the robust humour, there are moments of dazzling clarity capable of turning the heartiest laugh into a sudden gasp of empathy.
Homeland is less ambitious than All for Nothing, Kempowski’s previous novel to be translated into English ... Nevertheless, it is a superb minor-key performance. Kempowski’s stylish prose evokes an atmosphere of serene normality, which is craftily punctured every so often. This novel asks whether there can really be anything normal about a society that murdered six million Jews only a few decades previously.