The Hunger Angel
The Hunger Angel
Metropolitan Books, Hardcover, 9780805093018, 304pp.
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
A masterful new novel from the winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize, hailed for depicting the "landscape of the dispossessed" with "the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose" (Nobel Prize Committee)
It was an icy morning in January 1945 when the patrol came for seventeen-year-old Leo Auberg to deport him to a camp in the Soviet Union. Leo would spend the next five years in a coke processing plant, shoveling coal, lugging bricks, mixing mortar, and battling the relentless calculus of hunger that governed the labor colony: one shovel load of coal is worth one gram of bread.
In her new novel, Nobel laureate Herta Muller calls upon her unique combination of poetic intensity and dispassionate precision to conjure the distorted world of the labor camp in all its physical and moral absurdity. She has given Leo the language to express the inexpressible, as hunger sharpens his senses into an acuity that is both hallucinatory and profound. In scene after disorienting scene, the most ordinary objects accrue tender poignancy as they acquire new purpose a gramophone box serves as a suitcase, a handkerchief becomes a talisman, an enormous piece of casing pipe functions as a lovers' trysting place. The heart is reduced to a pump, the breath mechanized to the rhythm of a swinging shovel, and coal, sand, and snow have a will of their own. Hunger becomes an insatiable angel who haunts the camp, but also a bare-knuckled sparring partner, delivering blows that keep Leo feeling the rawest connection to life.
Muller has distilled Leo's struggle into words of breathtaking intensity that take us on a journey far beyond the Gulag and into the depths of one man's soul.
The late Michal Grynberg, an associate of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, and a noted Polish scholar of the Holocaust, devoted decades of his life to compiling and publishing firsthand accounts from ghettos throughout Poland.
Philip Boehm is the author of numerous translations from Polish and German, including works by Franz Kafka, Ida Fink, and Christoph Hein. Based in St. Louis, he is also a playwright and theater director.
PRAISE FOR THE HUNGER ANGEL
“A wonderful, passionate, poetic work of literature...Herta Muller is a writer who releases great emotional power through a highly sophisticated, image studded, and often expressionistic prose.” –Neal Ascherson, The New York Review of Books
“This is not just a good novel, it is a great one… Müller is through and through a stylist. Her novel is written in a taut idiomatic German, which breaks into paragraphs of wrenching, Rilkean lyricism...A masterpiece.” –Financial Times
"Written in terse, hypnotic prose...exquisite." --New Yorker"Wry and poetic, and Müller's evocative language makes the abstract concrete as her narrator's sanity is stretched...Boehm's translation preserves the integrity of Müller's gorgeous prose, and Leo's despondent reveries are at once tragic and engrossing." --Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) "The stunning, exhilarating, heartbreaking culmination of Muller's work as a novelist...A 300-page prose poem of resistance to totalitarian repression, the book is a haunting paean to the human angel--the inventive, imaginative, invincible force that transcends suffering and absement, that defies depersonalization and deprivation to survive, and even thrive." --The Wichita Eagle “A work of rare force, a feat of sustained and overpowering poetry…Muller has the ability to distil concrete objects into language of the greatest intensity and to sear these objects on to the reader’s mind."—Times Literary Supplement "A phenomenal, moving and humbling novel."—Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung PRAISE FOR THE APPOINTMENT
“A taut and brilliant book.”—Chicago Tribune “A brooding, fog-shrouded allegory of life under the long oppression of the regime of Nicolae Ceausescu.”—The New York Times “Müller scatters narrative bombshells across a field of dreams.”—San Francisco Chronicle PRAISE FOR THE LAND OF GREEN PLUMS “Unflinching. . .Ms. Müller’s vision of a police state manned by plum thieves reads like a kind of fairy tale on the mingled evils of gluttony, stupidity, and brutality.”—The New York Times “Müller has triumphed in her honesty. . . . Describes in precisely hewn detail what it was like to live in Romania under communism.”—The Washington Post “This heartbreaking tale is bitter and dark, yet beautiful... stark and telling.”—The San Diego Union-Tribune “Ms. Müller’s rich, harsh, obsessive imagery captures the surreal beauty and the difficulty of Ceausescu-era Romania.”—The Boston Book Review “Impressive, wholly authentic . . .a bleak fable with the flickering intensity of a nightmare.”—International Herald Tribune
Poet and novelist Herta Muller won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2009 â�� the year her German-language novel was first published. Now it's been published in English as The Hunger Angel. More at NPR.org
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