The Appointment by Herta Müller

the-appointment

The Appointment by Herta Müller

German fiction

Original title – Heute wär ich mir lieber nicht begegnet

Translator – Michael Hulse and Phillip Boehm

Source – Library copy

He’s shining brightly, he can’t be a man
He is the genius of the Carpathians
He’s running checks on his mother’s womb
He’s gonna be reborn real soon

Ciao, Ceaucescu! Ciao, Ceaucescu! Ciao, Ceaucescu!
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye!

Blues for Ceausescu from the irish band Fatima Mansion source

Now I missed this off the end of my women in translation selection,which was a shame as it is one from one of my favourite female writers Herta Müller ,the German nobel prize-winning writer ,she grew up in Ceausescu Romania ,most of her books revolve around that regime and time .I have reviewed Nadirs ,The passport and Hunger angel before on the blog .Her books are always richly textured .

I’ve been summoned .Thursday at ten sharp .

Lately I’m being summoned more and more often ten sharp on Tuesdays ,ten sharp on Saturday ,on Wednesday ,Monday .As if years were a weak ,I’m amazed that winter comes so close on the heels late summer .

The opening lines as she catches the tram to another appointment .

Now appointment is classic Herta Müller ,we follow a young women  who works as a seamstress ,she is on a tram to an Appointment to see the secret police about an integration .She has done this a number of times before as she remembers the times before she has been to this same place ,also her family and friends .Her rural up bringing ,her childhood crush on her father ,to moving to the city .Along the way we see her friends and family all affect by the strict Ceausescu regime ,some have died some are badly damaged and every one is affect .So why has she been called into see them this time ,she has sneakily been sowing secret messages in the linings of  suit she has been working on ,these messages are marriage proposals for any Italian male that might happen to feel them in the suit and find it and her give her and escape from all this  .Does she turn up for this appointment today .

For a whole week ,when summer came and people began running around in short shelves ,Paul and I were suspicious of a man who to this day walks over from the shops every morning at ten to eight ,empty-handed .

You end up trusting no one in a regime like this .

Now this book  is rather like Kafka as we never fully know where or what the name even is off this unknown young women .In the tradition of Kafka there is a large feeling of menace in this book and being under the thumb but never quite sure why  .The young womans previous visits to see the interrogators ,she has been so much she is even given a kiss on the hand when she arrives one time by one of the ,very sinister and creepy .The book is like her other books rich in the detail of everyday life the world jumps of the pages ,the secret sewing she does ,the friends family she has lost her previous visits all bring the brutal communist Romanian regime to life  ,what is it like living under a totalitarian regime where you trust no one and have no idea what tomorrow will bring for you ,The original  German title which basically translates as “Today I would prefer not to met ” says something more than the uk title ,which I felt it  has been given to give a Kafka feel to the book as his novel titles were also short and ambiguous .I ‘ve just land of green plums left to read of her books already translated ,so lets hope she has some more published in English translation soon  .Have you read Herta Müller ?

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the passport by herta muller

the fourth on the around the world is this book from Romania .I first came across Herta Muller about a week before last years nobel prizes were announced when @milestyle Stewart from world lit forum mentioned her as a possible winner .Being the sort person that loves to find out about new writers i google her and looked on amazon for her books to find little or none in print ,then she went on to win this years nobel prize for literature ,and both granta and the lovely serpents tail choose to reissue books from her .

  the book its self is a mere 90 pages long  set in the small german speaking enclave in Romania and follows a small village miller as he struggles for a passport ,but by no means a simple read as there is no real start to end narrative ,other than a thin thread about Windisch the main characters quest for a passport .In parts the book verges in to the surreal with dreams of dry frogs and an owl that settles on roofs as a harpenge of death .In other places you sense the corruption of the Ceausescu regime with Windsche having to bribe officials with corn and flour .also there are deep sexual and religious undercurrents with a tree being burnt for being possessed by the devil .Muller has a wonderful way of describe the surrounding weather it badly painted walls or the smell of the apples exploding in the fire .for the most part this novel is obviously autobiographical as Hertha herself had to wait to travel to west germany ,grew up in a small village in the same area as the novel is based .Windisch and his wife spooky echo millers own parents as her father was a solider and her own mother had spent time in a soviet work camp .

The priest had stood behind the apple tree ,praying loudly .the church choir stood alongside the boxwood hedge, singing the long songs .it was colds and the breath of the songs was drawn in to the sky .the women ad children prayed quietly.

a scene just before they burn a devilish apple tree .

the cover is a green photo of a cyclist the passport is the english title the translation of the german title is “man is a great pheasant in the world ” which is maybe more intriguing .this was published late last year by serpents tail

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