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Land of Green Plums, The: A Novel Paperback – November 23, 2010

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Editorial Reviews 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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Five Romanian youths under the Ceausescu regime are the focus of this moving depiction of the struggle to become adults who keep "eyes wide open and tightly shut at the same time." Through the suicide of a mutual friend, the unnamed narrator?a young woman studying to become a translator?meets a trio of young men with whom she shares a subjugated political and philosophic rebelliousness. The jobs the state assigns them after graduation pull each to a different quadrant of the country, and this, as well as the narrator's new friendship with the daughter of a prominent Party member, strains their relations. The group manages to maintain its closeness anyway, through coded letters bearing strands of the sender's hair as a tamper-warning. As the friends begin to lose their jobs and grow weary of being followed, threatened and pulled in for semi-regular interrogations, each one thinks increasingly about escape. Terrifyingly, the narrator finds herself changing into a stranger: "someone who keeps company with misery, to make sure it stays put." Making her American debut, Muller is well-served by the workmanlike translation; though her lyrical writing falters badly at times (such as the baffling, repeated metaphor that gives the book its title), it also soars to rarefied heights. Most importantly, few books have conveyed with such clarity the convergence of terror and boredom under totalitarianism.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (November 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312429940
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312429942
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #170,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Friederike Knabe VINE VOICE on November 22, 2009
Format: Paperback
Four students, Edward, Georg, Kurt and "I", the narrator, develop a close friendship in the aftermath of the alleged suicide of Lola. She had shared a room at the student dorm with the narrator and four other girls. Lola came from the south of the country and was in many ways different from the majority of students. "I", the other outsider among the girls, was entrusted with Lola's diary, and tried to hide it in her suitcase. However, there were no safe places for secrets anymore; suspicion and intrigue was palpable. The friendship of the four young people was in part born out their lives' otherness: they were members of Banat-Svabian (German) minority in Romania; their fathers had been SS officers, their mothers were eking out a living as seamstresses in different small communities away from the university town. They feel connected through their language and different upbringing. Speaking through the narrator, Herta Müller weaves an extraordinarily rich and haunting portrait of daily life under the totalitarian Ceausescu regime of the 1980s. Exemplifying the novel's central theme - to bear witness to the open and hidden horrors - the author depicts the individual experiences of the four central characters and their interactions as they are increasingly caught in the net of the security police and its ever observant helpers. After leaving town, being sent to different work places, they invent a special undercover language or terminology to communicate by letter...

"HERZTIER" (1993) -published in 1996 under the English title "The Land of Green Plums" - transcends the usual definition of a 'novel': it has been called a "prose poem" by some commentators.
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109 of 124 people found the following review helpful By Irena Jakobsdatter on April 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
Be prepared to be surprised. You probably havent read anything like this before. It is very interestingly written, more like a poetry. But its not a book for everyone, its not an easy reading, where you can send your mind somewhere else. You have to be there completely. All your senses, emotions etc. This is like The Little Prince - but for adults. Herta Muller is telling us a story about living under dictatorship, halfman, halfanimal being, trying to forget about all the hopes and desires we share as humans forming a society. If you reach for the beauty, difference or something simple as love, you are condemned. Not all of us have experienced communism in this way (I am a bit too young), but this is a personal declaration about violation of human rights, being stabbed in the back, betrayed, left alone, dissapointed. Sadly, many of the things, described in this book, are true events. The book fokuses on the group of friends, that have met each other attending university. They soon reach and cross the boundaries of allowed thinking... But dont just give up if you think this is just too sad to read! It offers you a great thinking material you shouldnt avoid! It opens your horizons, sharpens your emotions. Even if you are a rock - do prepare a handkerchief for a tear or two. A book you can give to someone special in your life as a symbol of your friendship.
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78 of 104 people found the following review helpful By Reader on August 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an interesting book. I confess I was drawn to it as much by the beautiful cover art (a Jan Saudek photograph) as by the compelling subject matter. Then, when I had it in my hands, I was annoyed at the bio in the back flap, which stated that the author had been persecuted for refusing to cooperate with the totalitarian regime in Romania. I thought, don't advertise yourself --- let the book speak for itself. And then I started reading.

Well, it's not an ordinary read --- and the things which make it original are also, in my opinion, the ones that cause its major flaws. Muller's prose is extremely lyrical --- indeed it is no coincidence that the translator, Michael Hoffmann, is a poet. The book could (and arguably ought) to be read as a long prose poem. Then it would be downright gorgeous. But, alas, it's supposed to be a novel.

And that's where the book's main problems lie. The narrative is loose and disjointed, too much so for this reader's taste. And some things are scarcely credible --- the main characters seem to be regularly brought in for harsh police interrogations, but they don't seem to consider leaving the country. The fate of people who are killed while trying to escape Romania is often mentioned; but the strange thing is, the narrator and her friends seem to have a much easier option, which is not considered for most of the book. And then at a certain point they just apply for passports, obtain them, and leave. So what was the point of enduring so much? Surely people so harassed and oppressed would have left at the first opportunity, if there was an opportunity at all.

Another problem, relating to the one mentioned above, is that the characters are a bit two-dimensional --- they never really come alive for you.
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29 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 20, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This novel is one of the most powerful ones I have ever read. The author has a wonderful way of making us feel for the characters, and it is written in such a compassionate and moving way. This is right up there on my list of great books along with Byatt's Possession and another book that reminded me of this one: The God of Small Things.
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