The Land of Green Plums, by Herta Muller

Herta Muller won the Nobel Prize for literature and, well, she does deserve it, is what I can say after reading this book. You only need to read through the first three pages and you understand why. It doesn’t take longer than that. I don’t know about her other writings, but The Land of Green Plums is much more than a novel. Almost each and every sentence is intense, deep, drills deep tunnels in your mind. Nothing is easy or common. It is not a story but a whole new world that is being build on the page. A new mind that the reader needs to enter and inhabit in order to be able to explore from the inside, from a new self.

I admire her because she writes with a cause. Her writing is not entertaining, but troubling. I am not saying that all writing should be like that, but having a purpose as a writer, having something you fight for gives a lot of weight to the little black words on white paper. It appears that most (if not all) her work deals with struggles under communism. She obviously had been marred by her experiences and she draws her creative energy from that space. It is a dark place to enter, let me assure you. People die left and right. Three of the main characters commit suicide. They carry these sacks of death with them. People are tied to chairs for their hair to be cut. Young and old. There is fear, there is grotesque imagery and tension in every word. I cannot image how one could write an entire book with so much intensity. The beauty (and trouble) with writing a novel I thought was in the fact that not every page needs to be brilliant by itself. The whole carries the all its parts. I thought. There is no need to make every sentence a memorable one, I told myself mistakingly. For Herta Muller obviously each word in the book is important and carries both style and meaning. It is a beautiful and haunting read, which easily makes you love it and detest it.

As intense and beautifully written as it is, it leaves the reader drained, insecure, afraid and without words. Just like the two surviving characters who begin and end the novel by not being able to say a thing. The book kind of has this effect. it never lifts you back up from the depths of despair and fear, death, disease and hair. Of characters who seem to be broken and dead all along, and moving around in the novel’s world by means that must belong to some dark forces. This is the most distressing: people escape the land of green plums but never leave it behind. They live in exactly the same way and kill themselves just as successfully.

I forced myself to read this book and as much as I admired the writing I hated the experience while in the middle of it. It is not a comfortable place to be, but then comfort is not something one should always seek.

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