Posted by: koolwine | August 14, 2011

Romania: The Land of Green Plums

Four friends suffer unceasing fear and deprivation in communist Romania.

Country Focus: Romania

The Land of Green Plums
by Herta Müller
translated by Michael Hofman
Originally published as Herztier by Rowohlt Verlag in 1993.
My edition: Picador, 1996.  242 pgs.

Acclaim: Nobel Prize Winner, 2009; winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

Genre: Fiction

Time period: Never explicitly stated but sometime during the 1967-1989 rule of  Nicolae Ceaușescu

Summary:  Lola, a university student, hangs herself using the narrator’s belt and leaves her diary in the narrator’s suitcase.  She is posthumously expelled from Romania’s Communist Party in a public ceremony during which hundreds of people applaud.  Moved by her deceased roommate’s words and shaken by the callous response to her suicide, the narrator shares the contents of the journal with fellow students Edgar, Kurt and Georg.  Bound by their mutual fear of the secret police who relentlessly search dorm rooms for anything (like Lola’s diary) that could be construed as threatening to the state, the four form a close friendship. They keep their spirits up by indulging the forbidden: reading books, writing poetry and taking photographs.  After graduation, the narrator remains in the city but the young men leave to take jobs in other towns.  The foursome send each other letters,  placing a single hair inside each envelope to prove its authenticity and using coded language to inform each other of interrogations, searches and  danger.  They make plans to flee the country, but the persistent Captain Pjele makes their escape unlikely.


Because we were afraid, Edgar, Kurt, Georg, and I met every day.  We sat together at a table, but our fear stayed locked within each of our heads, just as we’d brought it to our meetings.  We laughed a lot, to hide it from each other.  But fear always finds an out.  If you control your face, it slips into your voice.  If you manage to keep a grip on your face and your voice, as if they were dead wood, it will slip out through your fingers.  It will pass through your skin and lie there. You can see it lying around on objects close by.



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