Translated from the German by Michael Hofmann
Winner of the 1998 Award
The Judges’ Citation
The novel brilliantly evokes a world of cruelty and oppression. Set in Communist Romania under the Ceaucescu dictatorship, The Land of Green Plums portrays the lives of a group of dissident students and teachers whose integrity is continuously assailed and sometimes betrayed. Herta Müller’s stark and vivid prose explores a terror-stricken society of mendacity and political slander. The “green plums” of the title stand in part for truth and its brutal suppression in a world of interrogators and informers, where speaking out can become a matter of life and death.
The author’s style, achieves a spartan eloquence, and the novel’s individual charaters are powerfully drawn.
This elegantly understated book is at once bleak and beautiful, humorous and heartbreaking. The judges congratulate Herta Müller for her compelling literary achievement in The Land of Green Plums.
About the Book
Set in Romania at the height of Ceauescu’s reign of terror, The Land of Green Plums tells the story of a group of young people who leave the impoverished province for the city in search of better prospects and camaraderie. But their hopes are ravaged, because the city, no less than the countryside, bears everywhere the mark of the dictatorship’s corrosive touch. All the narrator’s friends—teachers and students of vaguely dissident allegiance—betray her, do away with themselves, or both. As they do so, we see the way the totalitarian state comes to inhabit every human realm and how everyone, even the strongest, must either bend to the oppressors or resist them and thereby perish.
Herta Müller, herself a survivor of Ceausescu’s police state, speaks from intimate experience. Scene by scene, in language at once harsh and poetic, she constructs a devastating picture of a society and a generation ruined by fear. In simple images of hieroglyphic power—policeman filling their pockets and mouths with green plums; girls sleeping with abattoir workers for bags of offal; a docile proletariat making things no one wants—”tin sheep and wooden watermelons”—Müller anatomizes a country and its citizens and the corruption that has rotted the core of both.
About the Author
Herta Müller is the winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature, as well as the 1998 International Dublin Literary Award and the European Literature Prize. She is the author of, among other books, The Hunger Angel and The Land of Green Plums. Born in Romania in 1953, Müller lost her job as a teacher and suffered repeated threats after refusing to cooperate with Ceausescu’s secret police. She succeeded in emigrating in 1987 and now lives in Berlin.
1998 Judging Panel
The 1998 Judging Panel includes Greg Gatenby, Margo Glantz, Paul Muldoon, Marta Tikkanen, Al Young and non-voting Chair, Allen Weinstein