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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars surreal love in a dictatorship
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...
Published on December 15, 2010 by Joseph Psotka

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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Disappointment
After reading "The Land of Green Plums" I had high hopes for Herta Mueller. With that in mind, this book is a complete let down considering her previous work. It does not move, it does not go anywhere. 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.

A disappointment indeed.
Published on February 3, 2012 by C.W. Jones


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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars surreal love in a dictatorship, December 15, 2010
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars What a Century of Misery was Ours!, December 4, 2009
By 
Giordano Bruno (Here, There, and Everywhere) - See all my reviews
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. So I'm prepared to be grateful to Herta Müller for sharing her torment with me. This novel, titled "Today I'd Rather Not Meet Myself" in German (Heute wär ich mir lieber nicht begegnet) but translated as "The Appointment" in English, is scarcely cheerful or diverting to read. The narrator, a youngish Romanian factory worker, has been summoned for another round of vicious interrogation by the police, concerning her wish to flee the country. As she prepares her mind for the interrogation while riding the bus, she tells the story of her own life and the lives of others in her world. Her narration is NOT in the style of so-called "stream of consciousness". It's quite simple and straight-forward, as easy to follow as an edited oral history. Reviewers who complain that this novel is 'difficult' must have avoided most of the classics of 20th C fiction. The narration is not written in simulation of the thoughts of an unsophisticated 'prol'. Müller is too honest for that game. It would be hard to doubt that Müller is portraying herself, her own dire anguish in her own disastrous homeland.

Müller writes with lapidary attention to details. Her sentences are beautifully shaped and timed. Her images are stunningly precise and original. In other words, this novel is potent both as a whole and in every clause. Rarely has 'ugliness' been rendered so beautifully! Müller's poetry is completely hermeneutic and untranslatable, composed of words literally clipped and pasted like a dada collage, but her prose is translucent as carbon monoxide. The woman she represents as her narrator breathes the sour gas of repression and harassment, but survives. Translators Michael Hulse and Philip Boehm catch Müller's inflection vividly and render her culturally-specific metaphors and allusions accessible for an English reader. Müller may well be as sour and edgy a person as her narrator, from various accounts, but she is a writer of the highest rank.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of the Appointment, November 25, 2011
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This review is from: The Appointment: A Novel (Paperback)
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
4.0 out of 5 stars beautifully fragmented, May 26, 2002
By 
Emily Held (Pittsburgh, PA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Stream of consciousness in Romania, November 24, 2009
By 
Felicia Filsdotter (San Diego, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Appointment by Herta Muller, October 16, 2009
Muller's The Appointment is more of an experience than a novel. I say that because it has no discernable plot, vague characters, and not the faintest story arc for the reader to track. Instead it is a intelligently-written telling of the thought processes one woman experiences while on the way to an appointment with a tyrannical man who enjoys occasionally browbeating her over the notes she slips in coats at her garment factory, simply saying "Marry Me" with her name and address. The protagonist dreads these meetings, and her mind is already heightened by anxiety and despair. Despair pervades every page of the book, but Muller is a very talented author, and even in the darkest scenes there is presence and a very dry string of humor. As the protagonist's day progresses, and the memories turn more and more enigmatic, the reader is given a simplistic view of life in an oppressive society, where a walnut can bring you joy and alcoholism is excused as a given. It is a testament to Muller's skill that the book is strange yet never dull, with a keen sensitivity throughout. Recommended for any fan of European or challenging literature.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A grim portrait of hopelessness, May 9, 2012
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The framework of the novel THE APPOINTMENT is quite skeletal: A woman, under suspicion by the secret police and summoned to their offices, reflects upon her life in an unnamed communist bloc country as she travels toward her appointment. Her reflections encompass fragments of her childhood and her family, her factory work and affair with a supervisor, the fate of her only friend, and the life she now lives with her alcoholic husband. The actual plot of the novel could be summed up in far fewer words - though not without spoilers - yet that story, while affecting, seems less substantial than the feeling of hopelessness conjured up by the woman's idle thoughts.

There is a distinction I should like to suggest between different forms of hopelessness: there is the personal kind, self-pitying and cloying; another kind which is genuine but wishes to enfold you within its misery; and then the sort which is matter-of-fact, which expects no relief, no sympathy, and no company. THE APPOINTMENT is of this last variety, and it could easily be asked as to why someone should immerse themselves in such an atmosphere. I don't have an answer; in fact, I don't know that one should. But I am convinced that through the artifice and technique of this novel, Ms. Müller has conveyed a credible picture of the damaged psyche resulting from a life lived in Ceausescu's Romania.

There are moments in THE APPOINTMENT that remind me of Orwell's NINETEEN-EIGHTY-FOUR - and although it has been many years since I read of Winston Smith and his problems, one of the impressions that has stayed with me all this time was the despondence of those forced to live in the gloom of Oceania. But rather than capitalize this effect through dramatic events, as Orwell did, THE APPOINTMENT relies on an accumulation of anecdotal evidence: The small cruelties between strangers, the fear of authorities, the petty and insubstantial diversions that masquerade as happiness, and the utter absence of hope for the future.

In THE APPOINTMENT, Ms. Müller makes such a soul-crushing existence credible, and though it is cheerless, to me it seems important that the exact nature of that life be revealed - not only for an example of historical verisimilitude, but as a comparative story to my own circumstances, which didn't arise through exceptionalism, but only through pure luck.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stylistic Account of Life In Communist Romania, February 11, 2004
Well, I might be in a minority here, but I truly enjoyed the book. True, it didn't follow a strict linear format, but then, neither did the protagonist's life ... I thought this one was more clear than her previous book, "The Land of Green Plums." Recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars haunting, February 2, 2010
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THe reviewer who said s/he didn't like Picasso and felt this book was Picasso-esque provided, I think, the most accurate and succinct description of this book. However, unlike the other reviewer, I enjoy Picasso's cubism and expressionistic figures, and I was moved by this book.

I found that it was important to read every word, because if I read to quickly and skipped over words and sometimes sentences, I missed important moments in the book. I had to re-read the last 5 pages to make sense of the ending. Reading every word of a novel can be taxing - and many novels don't warrant a close reading. But this one does.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Disappointment, February 3, 2012
This review is from: The Appointment: A Novel (Paperback)
After reading "The Land of Green Plums" I had high hopes for Herta Mueller. With that in mind, this book is a complete let down considering her previous work. It does not move, it does not go anywhere. 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.

A disappointment indeed.
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The Appointment: A Novel
The Appointment: A Novel by Herta Müller (Paperback - November 23, 2010)
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