Saturday 19 February 2011

Müller, Herta "The Appointment"

Müller, Herta "The Appointment" (German: Heute wär ich mir lieber nicht begegnet) - 1997

We were lucky to be able to discuss this book with our Romanian book club member who could give us some firsthand information.

In this novel, Herta Müller describes the way of a Romanian woman to an appointment with the "Securitate", the secret police. The whole book takes place in the 90 minutes she needs to get there. While driving on the tram, she reflects on her life and what has happened before.

Of course, not everyone in Romania had the same experience, especially the younger generation. Some of the worst parts for everyone was the rationalization of food, waiting in line for basic needs, the dreams about going on trips, censorship. There were mainly classical books to read, or nationalistic ones, everything that was sold was Romanian anyway. Even movies were forbidden. If you were lucky and had a relative or friend who would get around, you might get coffee etc. The "Securitate", the secret police, knew everything. You would be trained to cooperate People would get under pressure a lot. You were made a member of the communist party. There didn't seem to be much of an underground. The files of the secret police were opened 4-5 years ago.

Most of us really wanted to read this book. The message was to love yourself and that is so important.
We liked the style, even though some found it difficult to read, to understand that the whole book was about a short train ride.

Some of our readers' comments: The author sees the world through a kaleidoscope, nothing is connected, there is no national mourning. This is a wonderful exposé about the inhumanity, the irresponsibility of that regime, very powerful. It's little moments.
They were all victims. We thought this was very educational.
The author describes a dark depression, it gives you a lot to think about.
Never read anything with such a sense of hopelessness. There has to be a redeeming quality.
In their lives everything is about self control. It's the compulsive/obsessiveness that is the only control in her life.
This was a perfect way of showing that she became crazy. Very important to write about dictatorship.

From the back cover:

"'I've been summoned, Thursday, ten sharp.' So begins one day in the life of a young clothing-factory worker during Ceausescu’s totalitarian regime. She has been questioned before, but this time she knows it will be worse. Her crime? Sewing notes into the linings of men’s suits bound for Italy. 'Marry me', the notes say, with her name and address. Anything to get out of the country. As she rides the tram to her interrogation, her thoughts stray to her friend Lilli, shot while trying to flee to Hungary; to her grandparents, deported after her first husband informed on them; to Major Albu, her interrogator, who begins each session with a wet kiss on her fingers; and to Paul, her lover and the one person she can trust. In her distraction, she misses her stop and finds herself on an unfamiliar street. And what she discovers there suddenly puts her fear of the appointment into chilling perspective.
Bone-spare and intense, The Appointment is a pitiless rendering of the terrors of a crushing regime."

We discussed this in our international book club in December 2010.

Herta Müller grew up in the German speaking part of Romania. She left for Germany in 1987 but her books were not published in Romania at the time.

Herta Müller "who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2009.

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.

See more comments on my ThrowbackThursday post in 2023.


  1. This sounds so powerful!
    Too bad the English title seems so flat compared to the pathos in the original

    1. It is powerful, Emma. And yes, translated titles often don't give the original any credit. Plus, you often don't even recognize the book, think the author wrote something new and are disappointed that you read it already. They even do that with Enlgish in different countries ...