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3.7 out of 5 stars
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3.7 out of 5 stars
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The main character of this novel is summoned to an interrogation by the Romanian secret police for the crime of `prostitution in the workplace'. She had stitched her name and address in garments ready for export to Italy.

In the tramway which takes her to the interrogation office, she recalls the main events in her life: marriage, infidelities, brief encounters, professional traveling, sexual harassment, the alcoholism of her partner or the continuous monitoring of her private life.

In a melancholic tone and progressing by association, Herta Müller masterfully evokes a demoralized society ('the indifference with which I would have liked to have died down there, I who loved so devilishly life '), dominated by a corrupt bureaucracy ('perfumed communists') and plagued by alcoholism and suspicion (there are spies everywhere). In short, a dictatorship, a prison.
The only way to escape these hopeless living conditions is emigration at all costs to a free country.

The story exposes a system that has paralyzed an entire population in order to consolidate the power of a tiny minority of former revolutionaries, who became cynic tyrants.

Highly recommended to all lovers of world literature.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 February 2013
The unnamed narrator of this work is a young woman working in a clothing factory in Ceaucescu's Romania. From the first sentence we know that she has been 'summoned' for further interrogation on her 'crime' of smuggling out notes in the clothing consignments in the hope of getting an Italian husband and escaping. As she awaits the appointment and then as she makes the tram journey to the place of interrogation, we follow her thoughts and recollections. She thinks of her current partner, Paul; recalls her dead friend Lilli; looks at the world around her:
'The park was a sheer wall of blackish green, the sky clutching at the trees.'
Without Ms Muller giving us too much explicit detail about what went on, she manages to create an immensely chilling book. The constantly watching other people, wondering if they are spies... The way that false crimes could be attributed to you by anyone you upset...An entire society, many members of whom are paying lip service to a regime they don't support, through fear and hope of 'moving up the ladder' if they comply:
'First he was a fascist; later he said he'd been in the Communist underground...Anyone poor became a Communist. So did many rich people who didn't want to end up in a camp. Now my father's dead and if there's a heaven up there, you can be sure he's claiming to be a Christian.'
Absolutely rivetting book which I would say needs a second read to help you pick up on all the symbols and motifs that pepper the pages.
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on 23 August 2013
I picked up this book expecting a narrative of life in communist Romania, in particular around "the appointment" with the security services. It is not that, and it took me a while to realise that it never would be. Rather, it seems to be a mosaic of a life history leading up to that point. As with a mosaic, it is fragmented pieces that make up the whole. The whole proves to be a fascinating inside into life in Romania during that period, not only of the subject herself, but of those she comes into contact with. More than this it gives a sense of the mood of the period and the seemingly inescapabale drudge of life. A good read and one that stays with you well after the last page.
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on 4 November 2012
Romania suffered perhaps more than any other Eastern European country under the brutal repression on the Ceaucescu regime. I work in a care home with several Romanians, who have hinted at the things that they saw and experienced during this time, so I suppose I was hoping that reading this book may help me to understand, if one ever really can.

This is for me a difficult book to review, as I found it difficult to understand. It seemed to flit between different scenes, as the narrators mind flitted around her own thoughts and experiences. In many ways it can be seen as the narrators life story, at least of her adulthood, as it contains so many different underlying threads. The main thread is however fear, fear or others and what they may say to incriminate you if you do anything deemed to be out of the norm. This may seem a small and insignificant fear to us, but under the notorious Ceeausescu regime, it carried with it the real fear of interrogation and death. That then is the narrators fear as the story unfolds.

As the blurb suggests, she has been summoned to appear before her inquisitors, the notorious Secret Police. This is not her first interrogation, and is not likely to be the last. As she sits on the tram en route to her appointment, her thoughts begin to wander to what brought her to this point and everything that has happened in her life up until now. The one person that she can rely on is her husband Paul, but this too turns out to be a sham, as when she misses her stop, she sees something that sheds light on tne nature of her relationship and brings her fear into sharp focus witn an almost chilling perspective.
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on 29 April 2014
Found a review of this on Amazon while I was actually looking for something else.
Thought it would be something I would like. I can't read this sort of thing all the time, just too, too dark but I very much like the work of East German author Jenny Erpenbeck and The Appointment is similar in tone to VISITATION.
It has an interesting structure and as a published author, I found myself frequently impressed with Herta Muller's rigour. Never once loses control.
Why not five stars? Well, it isn't perfect, I suppose. While I don't mind the plot meandering a bit, it should be to some purpose and occasionally I felt that characters and situations had been included without thinking through what they added [or subtracted]. All in the name of a broader canvas, I guess.
I don't want to say too much about the story; the Amazon summary covers it but in any case this novel isn't really about what happens next. It is about life in a police state, on a daily basis.
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on 11 November 2011
As in 'The Land of Green Plums', Muller graphically relates how, living under the deadening effect of the relentless repression of Ceausescu's regime,people could barely remain human. Barren and sordid relations characterise lives that are wasted by drink,with superstition offering the only means of survival for some. The defiant and vital are snuffed out with only the craven left, half-alive, just waiting. Women,using their wits,are more resilient; the men just drink. Deceit and betrayal breed suspicion and spawn political and personal disillusionment, leading to withdrawal and isolation. The system is oiled by corruption, pilfering and profiteering, sexual favours and exploitation. Strutting collaborators and officials are sadistic in the exercise of their powers. Muller's device is the continuous,internal monologue of the female protagonist,with her mind going back to the past,turning it over, piecing different times and places together,gradually and ingeniously constructing the characters, ultimately arousing and resolving the reader's speculations.Illuminated by a dead-pan and ironic humour, Muller communicates poetically and viscerally the surreal state of being under constant surveillance. Detachment and an encroaching 'madness' become a form of escape from the terror and panic induced by interrogations and threats of death. This 'tour de force' can stand alongside the similar works of Solzhenitsyn, and both authors have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for their exploration of the human soul as it suffers and struggles under tyranny.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 November 2013
Herta Muller never tells us specifically that the setting is Communist Romania under Ceausescu's brutal dictatorship, so this could be the model for any repressive regime. From the opening words, "I've been summoned" to the concluding "The trick is not to go mad", this novella traces a woman's tram ride, largely given over to her stream of internal thoughts. Her mind flits from the sinister Major Albu who always start his interrogations by giving her hand a wet kiss, to her partner Paul who drinks too much, memories of her childhood, her first marriage, her beautiful friend Lilli who has died and observations of the other passengers. Gradually, we learn the reasons behind recent events.

The rambling quality of her thoughts detracts from their dramatic impact. Some points are a little repetitive, such as the fact that there is a touch of teenage incest in the lives of both Lilli and the narrator. The narrator sometimes seems amoral and calculating, but can you blame her in view of the experiences which have shaped her? The novella is generally bleak and unrelenting, yet it is salutary to be reminded how the lives of an individual and those close to her may be blighted by a single abortive attempt to escape to a freer life abroad.

Although some passages are very powerful, such as the suppression of Paul's attempts to produce aerials, an illegal activity since it assists the forbidden process of free communication with the outside world, I suspect the quality of the writing has suffered a good deal in translation. Also, Muller builds up a sense of anticipation which is not borne out by the ending as is the case with, say, "The Reluctant Fundamentalist".
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on 23 July 2010
Herta Muller describes the day to day difficulties of existence in a suppressive environment with a beautiful poetic prose. Absorbing.
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on 5 March 2015
Intriguing and easy to relate.
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VINE VOICEon 20 October 2011
In communist Romania, we follow the thoughts and memories of a factory seamstress as she takes a tram ride to an interrogation.

Creative symbolism and sparkling prose develop a portrait of a difficult life haunted with loss, betrayal, oppression and failed escape. Occasional poignant details recall normality and contentment, but are often undermined. And the final scene forces everything in to a crushing claustrophobic perspective.

An illustration of the more subtle, personal devastations inflicted by totalitarian regimes.

Style: 8/10

Structure: 7/10

Depth: 7/10

Originality: 6/10

Unputdownability: 6/10
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