Tuesday, 17 November 2015

the appointment [herta müller]

A woman gets on a tram to fulfil an appointment with her interrogator, Albu. Albu is a henchman of the Ceausescu regime. He’s brutish, possessed of a savage subtlety, and at the same time both marginal and central to the woman’s life. The narrative is threaded around this tram journey, which will take as long as the novel lasts. In between times, the narrator ducks in and out of her story, explaining how she came to be where she is, taking a tram to visit her interrogator. The fact that this journey seems almost voluntary makes it all the more chilling, because of course, it is not. There’s no escaping Albu. The fact that he permits you to go home after the interrogation ends doesn’t mean to say that it will ever end, that you are ever off the hook. The interrogations will continue for as long as the regime continues. This late 20th century Eastern European world is still resolutely Kafkaesque, after all these years. During the (tram) journey of the novel, the narrator describes her life to the reader. Her alcoholic boyfriend, Paul, her stark upbringing, the neighbours who spy on her and Paul, for one of whom she buys a notebook to assist him in his task. This is a down-at-heel, desolate Morrissey tune of a novel, only one where instead of ennui, the subject is gripped by a necessary and unavoidable paranoia. The noose is slowly closing in and there’s no escaping it. The trick, the narrator tells us, is not go to mad. Her acerbic observations and semi-transgressive friendship with the enigmatic and doomed Lilli help us to understand that she is, so far, succeeding in this aim, of not going mad, but it’s always there, the madness of despair, lurking round the corner, waiting to be thrown out of the window with the bedclothes and the pillows. Müller’s text is not an easy read, but then again, the life her heroine leads is not an easy life. 

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