The Land of Green Plums
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.
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.