Herta Müller: Herztier (The Land of Green Plums)


The latest addition to my website is Herta Müller‘s Herztier (The Land of Green Plums). This is a remorselessly grim story of life in Ceausescu’s Romania, told by an unnamed female narrator. At the beginning of the book, she is sharing a room at college with five other young women, including Lola. Much of what she writes in the titial part of the novel comes from Lola’s diary. We learn that Lola comes from a very poor part of Romania. Her behaviour is often strange, borrowing things from her room-mates without permission. Lola often goes out to the factories at night, and has sex with men coming off the night-shift. She is also having an affair with the gym teacher. When she gets pregnant, she hangs herself. The narrator then becomes friendly with three young men. They have a hiding place in a summer house in the park, where they hide Lola’s diary, mildly subversive poems and photos, including those of the prison bus. After college, all four go to different parts of the country, where they have grim jobs and where they are pursued by Major Pjele, a secret service officer, who suspects them of subversion and harasses them. Life is unremittingly grim for the four but also for most other Romanians and Müller does not hold back in describing it, including the secret service agents at every corner, eating green plums. Eventually, three of them emigrate to Germany but their mental state does not seem to improve that much. This novel, perhaps Müller’s best-known of her novels about the horrors of life under the Ceausescu regime, is relentlessly miserable and humourless but very effectively told.

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