Friday, October 07, 2011

There is no such thing as public opinion. There is only published opinion.

The things that you see when sitting on the toilet. The toilet, Mayfair Plaza, Sandy Bay. October 2011.

I always seem to be finishing books on the Friday and consequently posting the review the following week, so forgive me if I’m a little vague on Herta Müller’s The Appointment. I shall confess that I was not familiar with Müller’s work until she was awarded the awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Müller is a Romanian-born German novelist and poet most noted for her exploration of the effects of violence, cruelty and terror; usually in the setting of Communist Romania under Nicolae Ceauşescu. It is this stifling atmosphere of repression that pervades throughout The Apartment.

The unnamed narrator – a young, female factory worker – has been summoned for questioning by the secret police for a relatively benign crime. From this point, her life has become subject to the whims of Major Albu, who summons her for random interrogation sessions with seemingly little purpose other than driving her mad. As such, the major preoccupation in her life appears to be holding on to her sanity.

Stylistically the book is a challenge. Entirely set during a long tram ride to another interrogation, the narrator unwinds stories from her past; reconstructing how it was she got into her current predicament. Both the style and the tale itself are [suitably] disorienting and taut, offering an unsettling depiction of how people adapt and survive under oppressive systems, and at what cost.

This is a challenging read. I suspect that the unrelentingly fragmented and bleak tone will put many off, but if you think that you can cope I would keenly recommend checking it out.


Roddy said...

An attempt at toilet humour?
What must people think when they see you taking a camera into the cubicle!

smudgeon said...

I found The Land Of Green Plums quite a good read, but it took me a while to get a handle on her style. Sounds like The Appointment has a few things in common.

Kris said...

Roddy, I take my camera everywhere.

Smudgeon, it was a little bit of a slog early, but the tempo fitted the mood.

Roddy said...

You probably need one of those little spy cameras. You know, the ones that fit on the head of a pin.