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The Land of Green Plums

The Land of Green Plums

3.7 4
by Herta Muller, Michael Hofmann (Translator)

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Set in Romania at the height of Ceausescu's reign of terror, The Land of Green Plums tells the story of a group of young people who leave the impoverished provinces for the city in search of better prospects and camaraderie.


Set in Romania at the height of Ceausescu's reign of terror, The Land of Green Plums tells the story of a group of young people who leave the impoverished provinces for the city in search of better prospects and camaraderie.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Five Romanian youths under the Ceausescu regime are the focus of this moving depiction of the struggle to become adults who keep "eyes wide open and tightly shut at the same time." Through the suicide of a mutual friend, the unnamed narrator, a young woman studying to become a translator, meets a trio of young men with whom she shares a subjugated political and philosophic rebelliousness. The jobs the state assigns them after graduation pull each to a different quadrant of the country, and this, as well as the narrator's new friendship with the daughter of a prominent Party member, strains their relations. The group manages to maintain its closeness anyway, through coded letters bearing strands of the sender's hair as a tamper-warning. As the friends begin to lose their jobs and grow weary of being followed, threatened and pulled in for semi-regular interrogations, each one thinks increasingly about escape. Terrifyingly, the narrator finds herself changing into a stranger: "someone who keeps company with misery, to make sure it stays put." Making her American debut, Mller is well-served by the workmanlike translation; though her lyrical writing falters badly at times (such as the baffling, repeated metaphor that gives the book its title), it also soars to rarefied heights. Most importantly, few books have conveyed with such clarity the convergence of terror and boredom under totalitarianism.
Library Journal
In this new novel by the Romanian-born Mller, winner of Germany's prestigious Kleist Prize, a young woman and four of her friends struggle to maintain some degree of normalcy during the final decay of Ceausescu's regime in Romania. Throughout, the systematic tightening of the dictator's deathgrip, which slowly squeezes out every possible private aspect of individual and family life, haunts unrelentingly. The spare, discordant writing shifts from the stark realities of the present to dreamlike fragments of the heroine's childhood and life in the country, effectively juxtaposing urban and rural, where a semblance of humanity manages to survive. In the country, Grandmother wanders through fields singing and collecting sparrow's feathers; Grandfather spends his days playing chess and visiting the barber for a haircut; and city guards and children gorge on little green plums, which the country folk say is like "swallowing your death," the soft pits "burning your heart up from the inside." Many Western readers should come to appreciate Mller, whose work recalls the writing of Croatian Slavenka Drakulic (e.g., Marble Skin, LJ 1/94). Recommended for both public and academic libraries supporting world literature.- Kathleen Marszycki, Rathbun Free Memorial Lib., Wethersfield, Ct.
Kirkus Reviews
Young lives of quiet desperation under dictator Ceauescu are the poignant focus of Kleist Prizewinner Müller's third novel but her first to be translated into English.

Systematic oppression snuffs first the spirit, then the existence, of those few young Romanians brave enough to dare to think independently. Sharing a college dorm room in the city with Lola and four other women, the narrator inhabits a Big Brotherlike world where loudspeakers blare proletarian music all day, where a longing for privacy is suspect, and personal belongings are regularly searched. Lola, a girl from the provinces, has adjusted to the awful poverty of student life. She joins the Communist Party to gain some small status. She exchanges sex for food to supplement her pinched diet. And she keeps a journal of surrealist observations to lift her spirits. But none of it helps: She eventually hangs herself. Shaken, the narrator befriends a trio of male students, Georg, Edgar, and Kurt, discovering in them a questioning, restless spirit much like her own. Together, they walk, talk, read forbidden books, and ultimately are brought in for police interrogation and intimidation. Graduation throws them back among the masses in the working world, but they stay in touch by letters and visits in spite of ongoing state harassment. When all but one of them lose their jobs, however, the pressure becomes unbearable: Georg, beaten by thugs and deeply depressed, is allowed to emigrate to Germany, where he jumps (or is pushed) to his death from a window in Frankfurt; Edgar, the narrator, and the narrator's mother are also permitted to depart, leaving Kurt, still employed, behind. He soon finds his own release, at the end of a rope.

Not a pretty picture by any means, but, still, a powerful, affecting story—one that makes clear the real value of small triumphs and fleeting moments of happiness when they occur in the context of deprivation and incalculable loss.

From the Publisher

“Unflinching. . . Ms. Müller's vision of a police state manned by plum thieves reads like a kind of fairy tale on the mingled evils of gluttony, stupidity and brutality.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Müller has triumphed in her honesty, and The Land of Green Plums is her testimony. . . .Describes in precisely hewn detail what is was like to live in Romania under communism.” —The Washington Post

“Ms. Müller's rich, harsh, obsessive imagery captures the surreal beauty and the difficulty of Ceausescu-era Romania.” —The Boston Book Review

“This heartbreaking tale is bitter and dark, yet beautiful. . . Stark and telling.” —San Diego Union-Tribune

The Land of Green Plums works hauntingly, disturbingly well.” —The Guardian (UK)

“Impressive, wholly authentic. . . a bleak fable with the flickering intensity of a nightmare.” —International Herald Tribune

“This is a novel of strong, spare poetry in translation. Again and again, its speech startles. Then it quickly sounds just right, and it becomes hard to imagine there might not have been a Herta Müller to transcribe these urgent whispers.” —The Australian

“By paying careful attention to the slightest nuances of life in Romania the book gives an accurate description of what it was like to be alive anywhere in Eastern Europe during the years of communism. . . Müller has triumphed in her honesty and The Land of Green Plums is her testimony.” —The Washington Times

Product Details

Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.76(w) x 8.44(h) x 0.92(d)

Meet the Author

Born in Romania in 1953, Herta 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. The recipient of the European Literature Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, she is also the winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature.

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The Land of Green Plums 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
NaomiNoon More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Naomi Noon, author of "Once Upon Yesterday". In the beginning, I didn't know what this book was all about; but before long, the horror of life under communism in Romania was spread out, in detail, in front of my eyes. The author revealed to us, with scissors-sharpness, how a ruthless and corrupt regime destroyed human beings.
bluhvn More than 1 year ago
Herta Muller's Land of Green Plums is both easy and hard to read. Primarily autobiographical, some say completely, one never forgets that she knows and she tells just what it was like to live under Ceausescu. She writes about her tight circle of friends, and how even they are damaged enough by their life experiences to betray each other to escape. Impoverished, all they want is to get out, a new life. The Nobelist has been accused of exaggerating her treatment under the regime. She did, by her considerable wits, manage to emigrate to Germany. Her work is not literature in the usual sense, but historical and political. Sad, compelling,brave. I haven't read anything more brave. The writing is sharp and beautiful in a gritty, disturbing way that you won't forget.