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The Appointment: A Novel Hardcover – September 13, 2001

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; 1st American ed edition (September 13, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080506012X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805060126
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,056,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The hardships and humiliations of Communist Romania are on display in this taut novel by the winner of the European Literature Prize (Müller, author of the well-received Land of Green Plums, emigrated to Berlin after being persecuted by the Romanian secret police). The narrator, an unnamed young dress-factory worker of the post-WWII generation, has been summoned for questioning by the secret police; she has been caught sewing notes into men's suits destined for Italy, with the desperate message "marry me" along with her address. Accused of prostitution in the workplace (and told she is lucky the charge is not treason), she loses her job, and her life becomes subject to the whims of Major Albu, who summons her for random interrogation sessions. Her major preoccupation is holding on to her sanity. This is a nearly impossible feat in a society where opportunity is limited, trust is a commodity as scarce as decent food or shoe leather, and even sinister Party henchmen are shown to be trapped in a ridiculous charade. As she travels to a questioning session, the woman spools out the tale of her past: her attempt to achieve independence after a first marriage, only to hastily fall into a second one with Paul, an alcoholic who fashions illegal television antennas for the black market; and her friendship with the beautiful and doomed Lilli, a fellow factory worker. The sharp generational divide following the war and the dreadful ways in which people learn to cope with the Communist regime are threaded throughout as are some lighter moments, shaky though they may be. Appropriately disorienting and tightly wound, this perfectly controlled narrative offers a chilling picture of human adaptation and survival under oppression.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

A Romanian-born resident of Berlin, Muller, whose novel The Land of Green Plums won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize, here tells the grim story of a woman repeatedly summoned by Major Albu, a government flunky intent on determining whether she is a traitor to the state. Her crime? Sewing handwritten notes into the pockets of the men's slacks she makes at her factory job, listing her name and contact information and imploring the purchaser to marry her so that she can flee the repressive Ceausescu. While the protagonist's pleas are intercepted and ineffectual, Muller's message to her readers is not. Indeed, her depiction of life in Communist Romania forces readers to feel tremendous antipathy for the repressive regime. Palpably bitter, Muller crafts a world in which alcoholism, violence, corruption, and personal betrayal are routine. As the woman's grandfather declares, "Life was wet fart, not even worth the bother of putting your shoes on." This tone permeates the book, making it both bleak and overwhelming. Still, it is recommended for public and academic libraries and for those interested in understanding the effects of government oppression.
- Eleanor J. Bader, Brooklyn, NY
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Born in Romania in 1953, Herta Müller lost her job as a teacher and suffered repeated threats after refusing to cooperate with Ceauşescu's secret police. She succeeded in emigrating in 1987 and now lives in Berlin. She won the IMPAC Award for her novel The Land of the Green Plums, and received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2009.

Customer Reviews

Highly recommended to all lovers of world literature.
There are some very moving passages in this well written book that provides insight into tragic times now mercifully the stuff of history.
It seems like the story is drawn out and diluted to the point where I had to stop reading the book; it simply got boring.
C.W. Jones

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Psotka on December 15, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Ceaucescu's Romania is smothered in paranoiac uncertainty in this chilling novel of friends who must disavow each other in public and lovers who cannot be certain who the other person really is. Identities are obscure; histories untrustworthy; employers witlessly duped by the security forces who are implacable and cunning. This is a dark but very poetic novel of helplessness and struggle to maintain sanity in an insane world. The poetry is a dark shroud over a dead land. The border curtains are not iron; they are lead, guarded by village boys who shoot to win a week's vacation or a promotion and leave dead bodies and suitcases for farmers to plow under. Or else as luck may have it, they are returned to their village in zinc coffins welded shut at the family's expense and guarded so that the ravaged bodies cannot be described. This is a world none of us wants to experience and we can be grateful that Herta Mueller has survived it to reveal what we never want to know for ourselves. She does so with an insight and poetic, surreal vision that is as memorable and chilling as a thunderstorm.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Giordano Bruno on December 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
The Twentieth Century, Herta Müller's and mine! I lived through more of it than she did, but she lived closer to 'ground zero' of social agony. Born in 1953, in Ceaucescu's nightmare police state, she escaped by self-exile to Germany in 1987. Her novels, as many as I've looked at, portray the claustrophobic anxiety of life in the 20th C more excruciatingly than any since Kafka's. I'm somewhat startled to discover that translations of her work into English have been available for at least eleven years, but American readers have utterly ignored her until she received the 2009 Nobel Prize. This time, I'm willing to shout, the Nobel went to the right person.

But back to the 20th Century: colonialist exploitation, Jim Crow lynchings and apartheid, the bloodbath of the Great War, genocide everywhere, fascism/nazism, the gulags, millions of refugees, death camps and dead-end camps, religious fanaticism and the consequences thereof, the Atomic Bomb... and that list doesn't include the spiritual/psychological malaise of anomie amidst throngs. Oh yeah, before the 20th C, life was universally "nasty, brutish, and short." Well, even discounting the decrease in child mortality, life has gotten statistically longer... but it's kept up, alas, in nastiness and brutishness. Want evidence? Read our literature, the novels, stories, poems, and plays we have prepared to bequeath to readers of the 22nd C and beyond. Does the literature of any other century match ours for anguish? For loneliness, depression, frustration, and fear? Not even close! We've mourned our lives so poignantly that our descendants will wonder why we bothered to persist.

Honestly, I've been mostly an observer of the century's misery. Not a bad life, I've had.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne O. Bowler on November 25, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is without doubt the best book I've read this year. It portrays with brutal clarity the challenges of surviving under a corrupt and repressive Communist regime (one of the v. worst in Romania) in which no one -- not even your nearest and dearest friends or lovers can be trusted not to betray you to the authorities for the pettiest transgression from the official "party line." The book reflects the direct experience of the author herself who was ostracized and punished in other ways for refusing to spy on her work colleagues for the "secret police."

The book ends with a shocking denouement that shows that in such a regime, you can only trust yourself - no one else!

Author fully deserved to win the Nobel Prize. Hope she writes more soon!
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Emily Held on May 26, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Beautifully written prose and an incredibly fitting cover photo, this is a fictional account of a Romanian factory worker punished for pinning notes into the pockets of outgoing clothing.
This 'why' quickly takes a back seat to the out-of-sequence internal flashbacks that slowly reveal most of her adult life and routine. Told in a manner both simple and complex, it's not unlike a self-confession, and in this I think it makes its mark. The goings-on of the particular appointment doesn't seem, at the end to matter, for as the speaker tells us, "The trick is not to go mad."
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Felicia Filsdotter on November 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Sounding initially like Kafka's "The Trial," the book is narrated by a woman enroute to yet another mysterious interrogation. We slip between multiple layers of her life, learning of the present tram ride, her past family life and friendships, her previous life in the factory and her boss, and her interrogator. I'm certain some academic will devise a fascinating graphic representation of the patterns by which the novel travels through time and space. For me, the richest parts of the book are the minor characterizations -- among them, Frau Micu, the demented neighbor woman -- portrayed in such acute and poignant detail. There are touching and terrifying portrayals of the ways in which people come together and apart, love and hate -- that are certainly connected to the historical context, but the dynamics of which are not limited to that frame of reference. In fact, for a more "historical" portrayal of the effects of the Ceausescu regime's effect on relationships and trust, I recommend "Train to Trieste" by the Romanian writer Domnica Radulescu. Although also fiction, it demonstrates more directly the constant suspicion that permeates personal relationships in that era. For both books, though, I have problems with the endings: Muller's for its ambiguity and Radulescu's for its neatness. Maybe that's because the story's not really over.
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