Category Archives: Herta Muller

The Passport – Herta Muller

I found it exceptionally difficult in deciding which book I should read first in 2010. I wanted to start the year well. I had a good selection of four that I kept ‘umming and ahhing’ over until I decided on a book that combined some of this years reading resolutions. The Passport by Herta Muller matches a lot of my resolution criteria in one go. It is a translated piece of work, its short book and she’s a prize winning author winning the Nobel Prize for Literature last year. Short and yet challenging was my thought before reading it, would that prove a correct guess?

I hadn’t heard of The Passport or its author Herta Muller until she won the aforementioned Nobel Prize for Literature last year and so really went into reading this with no preconceptions and maybe this is why in many ways it proved a very interesting and quite different read. The book is set in a German village in the Danube plains of Romania and looks at how the villagers are surviving trapped under the dictatorship of Ceausescu.  It’s a place where people believe that the apple tree is possessed by the devil and that you must always watch the movements of owls. It’s also a place everyone wants to escape from, if only they can get their hands on passports or bribe, beg and steal them. It is through the eyes of the village miller Windisch as he cycles about the village that we the reader observe short sharp scenes of the villagers lives.

“The light is still burning in the joiner’s house. Windisch stops. The window pane shines. It reflects the street. It reflects the trees. The picture passes through the lace curtain. Through its falling posies of flowers into the room.A coffin lid leans against the wall beside the tiled stove. It’s waiting for the death of Widow Kroner. Her name is written on the lid. The room seems empty despite the furniture, because it’s so bright.”

It is through a chapter; though they are more snapshots of two pages maximum, called ‘A Big House’ that we learn about the regime the villagers are all under as Windisch’s daughter Amalie teaches her class. In fact Amalie ends up playing a very important role in how her family end up getting passports in order to escape this trap they have found themselves living in and in quite a disturbing way. She is also the constant worry of her father as he becomes aware she may be sexually active. Along with all that goes on in his village as well as his daughter and the misery of his marriage, which is a union of loss and consolation rather than love, the tale through Windisch’s eyes is quite a bleak and desperate one but I do feel it is definitely one that should be told.

I will admit in parts the book lost me as it’s doesn’t have a rigid pattern and a paragraph or two might need a re-read in order to make sense, in some ways this was part of the books beauty. The true beauty of the book is Muller’s prose which is a delight to read and is so poetic, even if sometimes you might not be quite sure what she is referring to or making a metaphor of. Each tale also reads slightly differently, some being very surreal, some being told through slight repition which differs slightly each time, some even like song and some with short sentences, some with long. It’s like an author trying everything which again makes for very interesting reading. These surreal snapshots with walls that talk and owls that can kill by landing on a roof, that bring to life the village in a way, for example through the villagers dreams, that I haven’t read in a book about the war and its after effects.

An interesting and intriguing book, if 2010 keeps on like this I will have some quite amazing and unusual reading experiences ahead of me which I think could be very exciting, don’t you?

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Filed under Herta Muller, Nobel Prize, Review, Serpent's Tail

Simon’s Bookish Bits #2

I think that this might be the last Simon’s Bookish Bits (and its only the third) of 2009 as next Saturday is of course Boxing Day and I will be doing something a little bit festive and Christmas themed. Well I will if the post sorts itself out as I am awaiting some parcels and yet getting some from November instead… interesting. The week after will be all about Bookish Resolutions and of course be 2010, its getting scarily close.

Now as one year starts another one ends. I am planning to give you a full list or two fo my best books of 2009. You can however have a sneak peak of one of my favourites on the Oxford University Press Blog. I was kindly asked by Kirsty, as one of their favourite bloggers, to give a review of one of my favourites along side the delightful company of Vulpes Libris, Dovergreyreader, Kimbofo, Eve’s Alexandria, Random Jottings and Stuck in a Book. Do have a gander it’s a very interesting selection of choices.

Speaking of Kirsty she has written on her blog the list of festive reading she will be partaking in over the festive period. I have also seen festive bookish posts from Paperback Reader and the aforementioned Kimbofo and Simon Stuck-in-a-Book too. One blogger who I know you can help decide what to read over the season, as you are so good at advising me, is Novel Insights. She wants you to help her choose her holiday reads though none are festively themed she has some corkers to look forward too. I have finally whittled down my festive fiction maybes and they will be…

   

Peyton Place and Great Expectations aren’t festive reads, but they are two reads I have been desperate to read for the last few months and I like the idea of something salacious and something truly classic. The last two choices are some Christmas murder and mayhem from Agatha Christie and Agatha Raisin. Mind you I say first, they haven’t actually turned up though some lovely books sent in November have which is nice…

  • Precious by Sapphire (which I want to start now)
  • The Passport – Herta Muller
  • Doors Open – Ian Rankin
  • Firmin – Sam Savage (whose name is a bit too like mine)
  • An Equal Stillness – Francesca Kay
  • An Elergy for Easterly – Petina Gappah
  • The Confessions of Edward Day – Valerie Martin
  • The Complaints – Ian Rankin

Looks like I have some more crime to go. In the world of podcasts it’s a little out of date in parts but my podcast of the week is from Faber and Faber. I only found it yesterday and there were so many podcasts they had I wanted to listen to by some of their top authors it was a gem of a find. Pop to their homepage, scroll down and you can download them all. 

Now finally something not bookish at all but I had to share with you all a little bit of pre-Christmas joy that I have bought myself. I have been looking for one of these for absolutely ages to go on my new desk and finally I find one…

That’s right an original 1980’s dial phone… for £2 and its been converted for new phone lines already. I was ecstatic. Right that is me done and dusted for now. So what’s been going on in all of your bookish worlds this week? What books have you loved? What are you reading at the moment? What’s news?

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Herta Muller, Ian Rankin, Petina Gappah, Sam Savage, Sapphire, Simon's Bookish Bits, Valerie Martin