It was an icy morning in January 1945 when the patrol came for seventeen-year-old Leo Auberg to deport him to a camp in the Soviet Union. Leo would spend the next five years in a coke processing plant, shoveling coal, lugging bricks, mixing mortar, and battling the relentless calculus of hunger that governed the labor colony: one shovel load of coal is worth one gram of bread.
In her new novel, Nobel laureate Herta Müller calls upon her unique combination of poetic intensity and dispassionate precision to conjure the distorted world of the labor camp in all its physical and moral absurdity. She has given Leo the language to express the inexpressible, as hunger sharpens his senses into an acuity that is both hallucinatory and profound. In scene after disorienting scene, the most ordinary objects accrue tender poignancy as they acquire new purpose—a gramophone box serves as a suitcase, a handkerchief becomes a talisman, an enormous piece of casing pipe functions as a lovers' trysting place. The heart is reduced to a pump, the breath mechanized to the rhythm of a swinging shovel, and coal, sand, and snow have a will of their own. Hunger becomes an insatiable angel who haunts the camp, but also a bare-knuckled sparring partner, delivering blows that keep Leo feeling the rawest connection to life.
Müller has distilled Leo's struggle into words of breathtaking intensity that take us on a journey far beyond the Gulag and into the depths of one man's soul.
"I've been summoned. Thursday, ten sharp." Thus begins one day in the life of a young clothing-factory worker during Ceaucescu's totalitarian regime. She has been questioned before; this time, she believes, will be worse. Her crime? Sewing notes into the linings of men's suits bound for Italy. "Marry me," the notes say, with her name and address. Anything to get out of the country.
As she rides the tram to her interrogation, her thoughts stray to her friend Lilli, shot trying to flee to Hungary, to her grandparents, deported after her first husband informed on them, to Major Albu, her interrogator, who begins each session with a wet kiss on her fingers, and to Paul, her lover, her one source of trust, despite his constant drunkenness. In her distraction, she misses her stop to find herself on an unfamiliar street. And what she discovers there makes her fear of the appointment pale by comparison.
Herta Müller pitilessly renders the humiliating terrors of a crushing regime. Bone-spare and intense, The Appointment confirms her standing as one of Europe's greatest writers.
Romania-the last months of the Ceausescu regime. Adina is a young schoolteacher. Paul is a musician. Clara works in a wire factory. Pavel is Clara's lover. But one of them works for the secret police and is reporting on all of the group.
One day Adina returns home to discover that her fox fur rug has had its tail cut off. On another occasion it's the hindleg. Then a foreleg. The mutilated fur is a sign that she is being tracked by the secret police-the fox was ever the hunter.
Images of photographic precision combine into a kaleidoscope of terror as Adina and her friends struggle to keep mind and body intact in a world pervaded by complicity and permeated with fear, where it's hard to tell victim from perpetrator.
In The Fox Was Always a Hunter, Herta Müller once again uses language that displays the "concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose"-as the Swedish Academy noted upon awarding her the Nobel Prize-to create a hauntingly cinematic portrayal of the corruption of the soul under totalitarianism.
Herta Müllers nya bok utgörs av ett samtal mellan Herta Müller och Angelika Klammer. Men det är långt ifrån någon renodlad intervjubok. Snarare fungerar samtalet som en ingång till det muntliga berättandets snabba rörlighet. En exakt men ändå fri associationsteknik som låter författaren berätta om sin barndom, om sin uppväxt, om de tidiga åren som författare i Rumänien, om genombrottet i Tyskland med debuten Flackland, och om hur hon sedan, efter att hennes tillvaro i hemlandet blivit alltmer outhärdlig, lämnade Rumänien och bosatte sig i Berlin.
Den som har läst hennes böcker känner kort sagt igen sig, men detaljerna är nya, infallsvinklarna något förskjutna och slutsatserna skärpta. Med lätthet, humor och inte minst charm utmejslas efterhand ett slags biografi över författarens liv, och denna berättelse blir också en vägvisare genom det litterära, eller textuella, landskap som utgör hennes författarskap fram till dags dato.
Översättare: Madeleine Gustafsson,
Omslagsformgivare: Annika Lyth
Herta Müller (f. 1953) er opvokset i en lille landsby tilhørende det tysksprogede mindretal i Rumænien. Hun bor i dag i Berlin.