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The Hunger Angel: A Novel Hardcover – April 24, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; First U.S. Edition edition (April 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080509301X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805093018
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #588,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews



“A wonderful, passionate, poetic work of literature...Herta Muller is a writer who releases great emotional power through a highly sophisticated, image studded, and often expressionistic prose.” –Neal Ascherson, The New York Review of Books

“This is not just a good novel, it is a great one… Müller is through and through a stylist. Her novel is written in a taut idiomatic German, which breaks into paragraphs of wrenching, Rilkean lyricism...A masterpiece.” –Financial Times

"Written in terse, hypnotic prose...exquisite." --New Yorker

"Wry and poetic, and Müller's evocative language makes the abstract concrete as her narrator's sanity is stretched...Boehm's translation preserves the integrity of Müller's gorgeous prose, and Leo's despondent reveries are at once tragic and engrossing." --Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"The stunning, exhilarating, heartbreaking culmination of Muller's work as a novelist...A 300-page prose poem of resistance to totalitarian repression, the book is a haunting paean to the human angel--the inventive, imaginative, invincible force that transcends suffering and absement, that defies depersonalization and deprivation to survive, and even thrive." --The Wichita Eagle
“A work of rare force, a feat of sustained and overpowering poetry…Muller has the ability to distil concrete objects into language of the greatest intensity and to sear these objects on to the reader’s mind."—Times Literary Supplement
"A phenomenal, moving and humbling novel."—Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

“A taut and brilliant book.”—Chicago Tribune
“A brooding, fog-shrouded allegory of life under the long oppression of the regime of Nicolae Ceausescu.”—The New York Times
“Müller scatters narrative bombshells across a field of dreams.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Unflinching. . .Ms. Müller’s vision of a police state manned by plum thieves reads like a kind of fairy tale on the mingled evils of gluttony, stupidity, and brutality.”—The New York Times
“Müller has triumphed in her honesty. . . . Describes in precisely hewn detail what it was like to live in Romania under communism.”—The Washington Post
“This heartbreaking tale is bitter and dark, yet beautiful... stark and telling.”—The San Diego Union-Tribune
“Ms. Müller’s rich, harsh, obsessive imagery captures the surreal beauty and the difficulty of Ceausescu-era Romania.”—The Boston Book Review
“Impressive, wholly authentic . . .a bleak fable with the flickering intensity of a nightmare.”—International Herald Tribune

About the Author

Herta Müller is the winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature, as well as the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the European Literature Prize. She is the author of, among other books, The Land of Green Plums and The Appointment. Born in Romania in 1953, Müller lost her job as a teacher and suffered repeated threats after refusing to cooperate with Ceausescu's secret police. She succeeded in emigrating in 1987 and now lives in Berlin.

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

The characters are fully developed and compelling.
Amy Nislow
And yet, this same writing created a novel that's so layered with messages, that every time you read it, you'll find meanings and depths you hadn't the time before.
Lila Gustavus
There is much love of humanity in the forsaken despair of their existence.
Joseph Psotka

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By absurdwordbird on April 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is both an historically important book and an engrossing read.

Leo Auberg is a teenage rebel living with his family in Romania when he is simply swept away along with many of his neighbors. For the next 5 years we are in the labor camp with him, learning to survive.

Herta Müller is such a powerful descriptive writer. She will take a simple item, like a bag of cement, and write about experiences with it so poetically that you feel you remember carrying and working with that cement yourself.

A word about the translation: it is brilliant. Müller plays with language in German and occasionally Russian and translator Philip Boehm keeps right up with her, letting us appreciate the wordplay in English.

What is shocking is that while the rest of the world was was relieved by the ending of WWII, thousands of people of Germanic descent were being snatched from their homes in Romania. In her Afterword, Müller writes that within this group, "all men and women in between seventeen and forty-five years of age were deported to forced-labor camps in the Soviet Union." Why is this not widely known?

In high school I read a lot of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (The Gulag Archipelago). No book has hit me as hard in the many years since then until The Hunger Angel.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Psotka on May 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an English translation of the German version of Atemschaukel (German Edition) by Herta Mueller. The translation is decent and the powerful poetry of self awareness comes through and carries you along on its undulating rhythms. Translating the unusual imagery in this poetic narrative is not easy, since the semantic associations and echos of the implicit meanings of the words Mueller leans on so heavily throughout are so unique they often have no family relatives in English. Atemshaukel,BreathingSwing, the title of Hunger Angel in the German version, focuses on the physical motion of the chest as we breath, swinging in and out, unattended, propelled by inner energy and organs that magically convert the meager sustenance of the camps, wild spinach, acacia flowers, camomile, even grass, into a renewal of spirit. Other metaphors; hungerangel; heartshovel; many more; pit elemental human activities against each other in unexpected contexts with the sparest of mechanical meaning. Life in forced labor camps has been reduced to the barest extreme of mechanical clinging to life. Many die, a few deaths portrayed vividly and repeatedly as memes in the story, but most are unattended in the hard scrabble attempts to stay alive in absolute obeisance to the urgent demands of the all pervasive hunger angel. Mueller brings to life the many hungers that survive even the ravages of near starvation: especially the hunger for human contact. Hunger is so demanding that interests and goals are narrowly shrunk to a laser beam focus on food.Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Patricia VINE VOICE on June 17, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an amazing and shocking book. I was totally unaware of these forced labor camps of Germans deported from Romania just after WWII. Herta Muller makes it live in graphic detail. We follow the main character, 17-year old Leo Auberg, from his discontented home life (hiding his gay tendencies) to the labor camps. At first he is naïve enough to be happy to leave home - until reality hits him and he faces the grim life of forced labor and starvation. We see the world entirely through his eyes. Hunger, cold, exhaustion and the constant threat of brutality and death are the driving forces. The prisoners have their own moral code and survival logic. It is a fascinating study in human nature in the most dreadful of circumstances. The writing is exquisite and original and must have been very difficult to translate.

A particularly heartbreaking part of the novel is how poorly Leo adjusts to release from the camps. He cannot express emotion and his family does not know what to do with him. It is such a letdown since you longed for his freedom throughout his suffering. That seems even more tragic than his five years of suffering. He can never recover. I highly recommend this powerful, haunting novel. Food will never look the same.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Lila Gustavus on June 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover
That which doesn't kill me...doesn't make me stronger either.

No man is an Island, entire of itself...Every man is an Island, entire of itself.
(emphasis and changes are mine)

These two quotes are simply thoughts of two individuals. Nietzsche's quote isn't even accurate ('kill' should be 'destroy'); I suppose it was changed by simply another individual to make the message more powerful And yet, people use these witticisms as guides/mental support for their lives. I really dislike these and many other 'sayings' because they're misleading and untrue. Nowhere is it more obvious than in The Hunger Angel. Soviet Union's regime and its gulags had that absolute power which could and did kill a great number of people; those who had the misfortune to come back from the dead, existed among the living as if suspended between life and death. They indeed survived the camps but returned weaker, conditioned to fear, yearning for the relief of death and not receiving it. They were little islands floating among those saved from the cruel reality of the camps and living entirely of and dependent on themselves. This is the truth Leo Auberg embodies.

When I picked up The Hunger Angel, I didn't know what to expect. I was hoping I would like it and would be able to appreciate the aspects of Herta Müller's writing that earned her the title of a Nobel Prize winner. What I didn't expect was to be stunned into silence by the power of Müller's gift. From page three, when I read

"I carry silent baggage. I have packed myself into silence so deeply and for so long that I can never unpack myself using words. When I speak, I only pack myself a little differently.
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