passport

The latest addition to my website is Herta Müller‘s Der Mensch ist ein großer Fasan auf der Welt (The Passport). This short novel tells the story of a small German community left in Romania after World War II. The main character is Windisch, the miller. He is eager to get a passport to emigrate to West Germany but, while in theory possible, it requires bribery of the mayor and the militiaman and even the priest, in the form of flour, and sex, with his daughter, Amalie. The price keeps going up. His friend, the skinner, manages to get one but Windisch is left there with his friend the nightwatchman, a man who does not reproach his late wife for her extramarital affair but does reproach her for dying and leaving him alone. Windisch also reproaches his wife, for having slept with various men in the internment camps at the end of the war. Windisch’s first wife and his second wife’s husband both died in the war, and the pair miss their respective deceased spouses. All around them, there is death and decay. The nightwatchman has lost his wife. The Widow Kroner dies. A travelling cooper dies and no-one knows where he is from or even what his name is. All they can hope for is that their passport application will eventually be approved.