Herta Muller Land of Green Plums

ISBN 13: 9781862072275

Land of Green Plums

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Set in Romania at the height of Ceausescu's reign of terror, The Land of Green Plums tells the story of a group of young students, each of whom has left the impoverished provinces for the city in search of better prospects. Any hope they may have had for themselves and their future is dashed because the city, no less than the countryside, bears the mark of the dictatorship's corrosive touch. In turn, each of the narrator's friends betrays her, commits suicide or both. As they do so we see the way that the totalitarian state comes to inhabit every aspect of life and how everyone, even the strongest, must either bend to the oppressors or resist them and thereby perish. Herta Muller, herself a survivor of Ceausescu's police state, speaks from intimate experience. Scene by scene, in language at once harsh and poetic, she constructs a devastating picture of a society and a generation ruined by fear. In startling images of unsettling power: policemen filling their pockets and mouths with green plums; slaughterhouse workers drinking fresh cow's blood; a docile proletariat making things no one wants - `tin sheep and wooden watermelons' - Muller anatomizes a country and its citizens, and the corruption that has rotted the core of both.

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Review:

Like the narrator of her novel The Land of Green Plums, Herta Muller grew up a German minority in Ceausescu's Romania, which she eventually left to settle in Germany. Her own experience lends credibility to the voice of her young narrator, who inhabits a deprived police state in which minorities such as the ethnic Germans suffer persecution beyond the quotidian oppressions of Ceausescu's regime. The title refers to the young woman's observations of the swaggering policemen who wolf down plums from the city trees, even while they're still green; the act serves as a symbol of greed, arbitrary power and stupidity. Although an element of the story is survival, achieved by clinging to the German culture and language, the novel also confronts the older characters' sympathy with the Nazis. Nevertheless, Muller's fictional heroine finds salvation, as she herself did, in modern Germany. --Alex Freeman

About the Author:

Herta Muller was born in Romania in 1953. After refusing to cooperate with Ceausescu's Securitate, she lost her job as a teacher and suffered repeated threats before she was able to emigrate in 1987. The recipient of Germany's most prestigious literary award, the Kleist Prize, Muller now lives in Berlin.

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