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

4.3 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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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 on The Appointment

“A brooding, fog-shrouded allegory of life under the long oppression of the regime of Nicolae Ceausescu.” ―The New York Times on The Appointment

“Müller scatters narrative bombshells across a field of dreams.” ―San Francisco Chronicle on The Appointment

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.

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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: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,045,572 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
... falsch! Grim? You betcha! Grimmer than any Grimm. Depressing? Hey, it probably wasn't the best choice I could have made for carrying around in a golf cart at Pebble Beach, waiting for doddering gazillionaires to play through. Fortunately, I'm not subject to depression by artifice; reality is adequate for my depression requirements. Disappointing? I fear so. And why? because I don't believe it. Careful now! It's not the horrors of Soviet forced labor that I doubt. Herta Müller and/or her research assistants have obviously done their research and depicted the horrors plausibly. It's Herta I don't believe, or rather it's her perverted teenage rebel Leo Auberg whose narrative voice I don't believe in.

Müller's earlier books --The Passport, The Land of Green Plums, The Appointment -- have been painfully true to their single subject: Herta Müller herself. I don't know precisely how much they were autobiographical, but it doesn't matter. They were authentic, the confession/justification of a difficult-to-nasty woman in an even nastier time and place. They were page after page of hard-to-chew bitterness but they were their own antidote, both by the necessity of recognizing our modern societal calamities and by the brilliance of their language. Herta writes sentences beautifully, describes vividly, re-invents the German language with electrifying originality. In The Hunger Angel (Atemschaukel), I fear she writes too well. She's given us crystal chandelier sort of grief, or an Art Nouveau curlicue tableau of a martyrdom. She's gone totally "literary" on us. Am I scornful of "literature"? I suppose I am, when it rings insincere.
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