Thoughts on a book club book
The Land of the Green Plums by Herta Müller and translated by Michael Hofmann.
Seen through the eyes of a group of students this is a bleak and distressing exploration of Ceausescu’s reign of terror in Romania. The book is set in a world inhabited by the author. It isn’t imagined, it is felt and the distance that the writing evokes between author and reader is also in every relationship. The poem that is repeated throughout haunts the story:
“Everyone had a friend in every wisp of cloud
that’s how it is with friends where the world is full of fear
even my mother said, that’s how it is
friends are out of the question
think of more serious things.”
There is no trust, there is only fear. In leaving the provinces for the hope that the city offers, one shackle is replaced by another. The colours, language and images of the book add to its desolate atmosphere; the insipid green of the plums stuffed into guards mouths; the egg-like blue tumour just below the surface of Tereza’s skin; and the violent red of the blood that is guzzled behind closed doors. It is not a comfortable read; however it is compelling, and revealing of a part of modern history that reflects so much of the human condition.