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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant. A heart-breaking and thought-provoking novel.
Herta Muller uses delicate imagaery (factory workers making 'tin sheep and wooden melons') to convey the quiet desperation lurking behind the fake, fixed smiles of ordinary citizens in the police state of communist Romania. The narrator leaves her poor country village to go to the city, where she hopes to find some meaning in her life. Instead she finds that no matter...
Published on 27 April 2000

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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What have I missed about the Nobel Prize winning quality of this author?
The theme of the novel is the miasma of the ever-present fear that people felt in Ceauşescu's Romania, particularly the approximately eighteen year old narrator and the three young men who are her friends, "Swabians" (i.e. members of the German ethnic minority) and secret dissidents all, who trust each other enough to share codes by which they report that they are being...
Published 19 months ago by Ralph Blumenau


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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant. A heart-breaking and thought-provoking novel., 27 April 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Land of Green Plums (Paperback)
Herta Muller uses delicate imagaery (factory workers making 'tin sheep and wooden melons') to convey the quiet desperation lurking behind the fake, fixed smiles of ordinary citizens in the police state of communist Romania. The narrator leaves her poor country village to go to the city, where she hopes to find some meaning in her life. Instead she finds that no matter how hard she tries, she cannot stop the fear and despair that comes to infiltrate her every waking moment ('In this county, we had to walk, eat, sleep and love in fear'). Muller wonderfully evokes the harsh reality of the totalitarian state were, in having their freedom and ability to make their own choices taken away from them, human beings are reduced to zombies. A bleak and heart-rending story, but one which nonetheless has to be told.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing experience, 26 Feb 2010
By 
G. Chambers - See all my reviews
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I read the book after the author won the Nobel Prize and I knew a bit about her and about the subject of her writing .Being Romanian myself I had my doubts about enjoying it . Well , I was in for a huge surprise ! I can't say what was most enjoyable , the story itself with episodes that seamed so real and so easy to identify with the life experience of probably 90% of the people that lived in Romania at that time (not necessary the one related to fear and surveillance) or the way the poetry is felt underneath every sentence trying to mellow the crude experience of the characters . My only regret is that she writes in German and I do not have any knowledge of German - but even though , definitely the best modern book I read for a long , long time !
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Experiencing fear, 19 Jan 2010
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This review is from: The Land of Green Plums (Paperback)
This book by 2009 Nobel Prize winner is well worth reading to obtain an ever heightening feel as to what it must have been like in Ceaucescu's Romania especially if as in the case of Muller herself you were a part of a minority (especially the German minority. The book is easy to read as it is divided into short 'paragraph' like chapters, I think the most impressive bit for me, was a meeting in college to deselect from the Party a student who had committed suicide, and the unilateral need to be counted on the right side. How would I have responded in a similar position, is a very difficult question to answer.The Land of Green Plums
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wooden Melons & Tin Sheep., 7 April 2013
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This review is from: The Land of Green Plums (Paperback)
I wasn't too sure about this book to begin with but I soldiered on with it & came to love it by the end. I think it's a book that takes time to sink in. It's split into small segments, which switch between the narrator's memories as a child & her life in the then present day, which makes it easy to dip in & out of.
The description of life under Ceausescu is mesmerising. The everyday struggles & terror of the ordinary people: the constant searches, whispers in the street & the man with the dog who always seems four steps behind you are conveyed in an almost poetic way.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read, 18 April 2010
By 
Colin Nicholson (St Leonards, NSW Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Land of Green Plums (Paperback)
I could not put this book down. Herta Muller at the height of her powers.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astounding, atmospheric portrait of Romanian Communist life, 3 Jan 2010
By 
Daniel Bor (Cambridge, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Land of Green Plums (Paperback)
The Land of Green Plums follows in the tradition of books like Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being in capturing the subtle, yet brutal psychological torments that build up under normal life within a Communist dictatorship. This semi-autobiographical novel concerns the seemingly simple story of a woman growing up, but never fitting in. Part of this alienation reflects the narrator's refusal to allow the Romanian state to control her every thought and action. Reported in a numb, symbolic way, like punctuation marks throughout the novel, are those that the state callously murders or forces to an early grave. Eventually, after persecution in a myriad of ways, the protagonist manages to escape to Germany, to freedom, but somehow little seems to have changed.

The haunting, bleak plot of The Land of Green Plums is only a tiny proportion of what makes this novel exceptional. Told by a combination of dream sequences, bitter twisted songs, and a time-fractured narrative that's addicted to childhood details, there is poetry in almost every line. There is an incredibly rich symbolic language here. There are mountains of furious, suppressed emotions hidden behind the cold, externalised sentences.

This is a novel to savour, to read slowly in order to fully absorb the intense richness of the atmospheric language. There are ideas in here so starkly ripe with meaning that I couldn't help but be in awe of the skill on almost every page. Modern literature doesn't get much better than this.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful... Astonishing, 20 May 1998
By A Customer
This novel is one of the most powerful ones I have ever read. The author has a wonderful way of making us feel for the characters, and it is written in such a compassionate and moving way. This is right up there on my list of great books along with Byatt's Possession and another book that reminded me of this one: The God of Small Things.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great book!!, 17 Oct 2013
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This review is from: The Land of Green Plums (Paperback)
This book was used in a course i was studying and I'm so glad that it was introduced to me. The book is complicated at times as it jumps from memory and reality however Muller's main theme's are portrayed so well that you can't help wanting to know more. I loved this book but it may not be for everybody if your into European literature then this is a book I highly recommend!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Language and Control, 28 Jan 2012
This review is from: The Land of Green Plums (Paperback)
A book of stunning description, metaphor and a study how language can be and is used to control individuals and populations. The author takes us to darkest Romania where to speak "truth"becomes "unbearable". Fear and hate consumes Romanians and the power of this is illustrated in the words of the central character when she speaks of her father (ex. Nazi SS) keeping his knowledge "deep in his throat between his collar and his chin". This deeply pessimistic world destroys so much human contact that individuals become psychological exiles, culminating in characters literally seeking exile in the West. But even their the scars of dictatorship remain. As I say it is a profoundly depressing portrayal of dictatorship but such is the strength of the language and the intricate elucidation of characters-institutions that the novel grips the reader. It does take work to stay with it but in the end it is well worth it. A book of insight and literary force.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What have I missed about the Nobel Prize winning quality of this author?, 6 Dec 2012
By 
Ralph Blumenau (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Land of Green Plums (Paperback)
The theme of the novel is the miasma of the ever-present fear that people felt in Ceauşescu's Romania, particularly the approximately eighteen year old narrator and the three young men who are her friends, "Swabians" (i.e. members of the German ethnic minority) and secret dissidents all, who trust each other enough to share codes by which they report that they are being followed, searched, interrogated, or otherwise endangered. And they have plenty of occasions to avail themselves of these codes: there are informers everywhere, and the wording of a mere folk song is regarded as having a hidden or subversive meaning. One Captain Pjele knows all about the friendship between the narrator and the three young men, and she is called in many times for interrogation and humiliation. Each occasion ends with Pjele saying "You're lucky you've got me" before he lets her go - but she feels that he is playing with her and one day he will not let her go. Eventually three of the four friends are dismissed from their jobs. Pjele than accuses them of parasitism. If you try to flee the country, you are likely to be shot - but you can get a passport to emigrate. (It is not clear in the novel why, if you can get a passport, people try to flee without one.)

The story is quite swamped in the morass of the manner of telling it. I totally fail to understand how the Nobel Literature Prize Committee and several of the Amazon reviewers can praise this pretentiously-written novel so highly. What do you make of a passage like this:

"Anyone who makes graveyards just because he walks, eats, sleeps and loves, said Edgar, is a bigger mistake than we are. A mistake of the first order. A master mistake.

The grass stands tall inside our heads. When we speak it gets mowed. Even when we don't. And then the second, and the third growth spring up at will. And even so: We are the lucky ones."

Or this:

[In the evening light] "the houses became smaller than the people who were passing by them. The bridges smaller than the trams that were driving over them. And the trees smaller than the faces that, one by one, were walking beneath them."

And there are dozens and dozens of other passages that as weird or even more so.

The book drips with repeated references to green plumbs, provinces in people's faces, barbers, nail-clippers, sacks, heart-beasts [sic], wooden melons, tin sheep, sheep with red feet, etc - they doubtlessly stand for something, but most of them left me mystified.

Many of the incidents in the book seem to me inconsequential, and some are surrealist (a child reaches into a bowl of broken alarm clocks and "swallows the smallest cog, the shortest rod, the thinnest screw. Then the next smallest cog ..." - and that's one of the milder one of them! Some of them are dreams, but many of them are not) - or do they also have a significance which escapes me? As the novel progresses, I found the incidents and the way they are told increasingly crazy and incomprehensible.

It doesn't help that there are no speech-marks, so that often you have to stop and work out, for example, whether "I" refers to the speaker or to the first-person narrator. I think that such modish gimmicks are authorial arrogance.

It is only because I hardly ever give up on a book that I ploughed on with this one to the end.
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The Land of Green Plums
The Land of Green Plums by Herta Muller (Paperback - 3 Sep 1999)
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