Objects of mercy

Herta Muller The Appointment Literature Communism Romania

Herta Muller’s The Appointment is a book about objects and their power to make life real, make life livable. Humans are useless because they have all given up.

The nameless narrator narrates her life on a tram en route to yet another interrogation by Major Albu, one of countless henchmen working to keep the Communist regime of Nicolae Ceauşescu above water. She is guilty as charged, just like her best friend who was shot dead and her grandparents who were exiled to a frozen plain. Guilty of sowing her name and address onto clothing bound for Italy, with the hope of summoning a fat husband to take her away.

Throughout her flashbacks, objects are what make moments real, be they good or bad. Her divorce becomes a suitcase on a bridge, gun shot wounds become a bed of poppies, white clothes and a white horse are a winter of madness, and a red tin coffee can is proof of joy.

But the transformation, in the hands of this Romanian Nobel laureate, is not magical. It has nothing of García Marquez’ flying beauty. Rather, Muller’s objects exact mercy in that they distract from living.

In the passage above, a rare moment of happiness becomes true through an animated brooch. And below, the narrator interrupts a recounting of past sins to describe what she sees, pinning her fear of being spied on upon a bird and hot coffee.

Herta Muller The Appointment Literature Writing Reading Books

Without a doubt, someone very real is doing the actual spying, but the terror and paranoia that the truth provokes is too unforgiving to indulge.

Read Bogotá 2013

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