Herta Müller: Atemschaukel (The Hunger Angel)


The latest addition to my website is Herta Müller‘s Atemschaukel (The Hunger Angel). This tells the story of Leopold Auberg, a seventeen year old German-Romanian. When the Soviets capture Romania at the end of World War II, all those of German origin aged between seventeen and forty-five are rounded up and sent to a labour camp in the Soviet Union for no other reason than that they are of German ethnicity. Most of the novel is about their time there and their struggle with hunger, cold, brutality and missing home and family. Hunger is the driving force as the English title implies and hunger and the need to satisfy that hunger excuses much of their not always good behaviour. Müller describes in some detail the life in the camp, the activities, the deaths, the little victories and the relationships between the inmates and between the inmates and the guards. While the novel is certainly well written and helped bring Müller fame in Germany, we have seen it before though, admittedly, normally about Russian rather than Romanian nationals and I did not really feel that this novel added much new on the subject, though, perhaps, emphasising the brutality of the Soviets is never amiss.

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