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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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3.0 out of 5 stars Clearly autobiographical and heartfelt, but all a bit wistful ...
Clearly autobiographical and heartfelt, but all a bit wistful and impressionistic. So often one senses that Nobel prizes for literature are awarded for subject matter not for style.
Published 1 day ago by AlbertNW


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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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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars What a load of plums, 16 Sep 2010
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This review is from: The Land of Green Plums (Paperback)
Some books are experimental, allegorical, grim and yet I can read them. This isn't one of them. Situations you can't relate to, not much of an effort to anchor the reader, no moments of humour to relieve you of the unrelenting misery, it is sheer tedium. My reading group chose it and only 1 out of the 5 of us finished it. It certainly wasn't me.
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6 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars confusing, 15 July 2004
This review is from: The Land of Green Plums (Paperback)
Before reading this book I had little knowledge of Ceausescu's dictatorship; this was one of the reasons I in fact read it. To be honest I found it disappointing (in that I did not really discover anything new) and at times confusing. The translation was clumsy and childlike but I can obviously not comment on the original prose as I do not read Romanian. The use of 'sacks' for death (e.g. 'the sack with the rope' for hanging or 'the sack with the window' for suicide by jumping) was unexplained.
However, the dictatorship is an important subject and does need to be addressed; the book caused to me to research more myself on the internet and in history textbooks.
Overall, it is worth reading but best to do as I did and get it out of the library.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very confusing read, 5 Aug 2010
This review is from: The Land of Green Plums (Paperback)
I'm currently reading this book and am at page 75. For the most part I have no idea what the author is referring to. Her use of imagery and metaphors is utterly confusing. Maybe it deserves to be studied rather than read. I am wondering whether I should continue reading.
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10 of 37 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor, 9 Sep 2002
This review is from: The Land of Green Plums (Paperback)
Prose that the author uses is very poor and leaves the reader disengaged with the subject she is trying to portray. Very simplistic, if not deceiving, portrait of life in Communist Romania with too much sympathy for the plight of the author herself rather than a rational description of people's lives. Found the use of methaphors and repeating images (workers drinkig blood) rather pointless particularly in the serious context that the author is trying to give to her book. Very fastidious altogether.
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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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