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The Hunger Angel by Herta Müller

The Hunger Angel (2009)

by Herta Müller

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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The Hunger Angel is a work of fiction based on the real-life experiences of Herta Mller's mother and, to a greater extent, on those of her friend the poet Oskar Pastior. The novel's narrator and protagonist, Leopold Auberg, is an ethnic German from Romania who is seventeen years old in 1945. Romania had fought on the Fascist side in World War II, with families like the Aubergs being among Hitler's staunchest supporters. When Romania was overrun by the Red Army, the country not only surrendered but switched sides. In January 1945, thousands of German-speaking Romanians, Leopold among them, were shipped east to the Soviet Union and housed in labor camps where they worked to repair war damage.[return][return]In the opening pages we learn very little about Leopold except that he is homosexual, and has taken to secret, anonymous rendezvous with older men in secluded parks and public bathhouses. Knowing the risk he is running, it is with a sense of relief that Leopold learns he is to be sent to Russia for a five-year labor term. Arriving at the camp--he never learns where it is--the young man finds the living conditions harsh and the work brutal, but it is his perpetual hunger which overshadows everything. Leopold uses the metaphor of the "hunger angel" to represent its constant, driving presence. [return][return]Most of the novel describes the day-to-day routine in the camp and the personalities who share Leopold's privations. The Russians demand of them hard and sometimes dangerous labor, but are not otherwise especially brutal. Inmates can get passes to leave the camp on their own so they can barter their few possessions for food in the local markets. The food shortages are largely the fault of war conditions and of corruption among the Romanians chosen as camp leaders. As conditions gradually improve, Leopold even has mixed feelings about the possibility of returning to a home where he is now a stranger.[return][return]The theme of the novel is the many levels of dislocation experienced by the internees. Even before deportation, Leopold is a German in a country of Romanians and a gay male in a culture that punishes homosexuality. Then he is deported to another country and a new way of existence. It doesn't end there, however. His camp experience, by narrowing his horizons to the daily struggle to find something to eat, has permanently dislocated him from his family and everything considered normal--something he realizes long before he leaves the camp to return to Romania. "How can you face the world if all you can say about yourself is that you are hungry?"[return][return]Even in language there is dislocation. Certain words take on new meanings that drill themselves into Leopold's mind, just as images trigger unwelcome memories. "There are words that do whatever they want with me," Leopold writes. "They're completely different from me and they think differently from what they really are."[return][return]Unfortunately the way the novel is composed doesn't quite do justice to the story it has to tell. The bulk of the narrative is a collection of anecdotal and descriptive chapters with little sense of continuity. Perhaps for this reason I didn't find the novel especially engaging or moving, despite the subject matter and the unforgettable depictions of the privations the characters endured. The metaphors, dream images, and the author's occasional flights into the realm of magical realism were more often a distraction than an enhancement to a story that had no need of such embellishments. The Hunger Angel is a worthwhile addition to the literature about wartime displacement, concentration camps, etc., but it is not among the best of its kind. ( )
  Dolmance | Oct 29, 2015 |
Story about a young German who is taken to a labor camp in Russia as "wiedergutmachung". Life in the camp is horrible, people die, there's constant hunger. Mueller wrote the book after talking to someone who had actually been in such a camp. If the person hadn't died before Mueller wrote the book, they would have written it together.

It's a fascinating novel, very well written. It reads like poetry (I read it in German, I don't know if the same is true for translations). I'll say it again: it's very well written. ( )
  xtien | Jul 30, 2015 |
Müller on taitava kirjailija. Hengityskeinu avaa lukijalle oven historiaan ja työleireillä olleiden kokemuksiin. Kirjassa esiintyvät teemat eivät ole ruusuisia, mutta teoksen kieli on runollista ja kaunista, mikä tekee lukukokemuksesta kevyemmän. ( )
  badabum | Jan 27, 2014 |
Harrowing. Beautifully written meditation on the ugliest subject. ( )
  beckydj | Aug 29, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Profound, moving and disturbing. The prose is beautiful. This is a slow read, but worth the time. ( )
  ReginaR | Aug 3, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
Von seltsamen Dingen, erschreckenden Erscheinungen hören wir in diesem Roman, vom "Hungerengel" und vom "Blechkuss", von "Kartoffelmenschen" und der "Atemschaukel". Der Hungerengel sitzt immer mit am Tisch, wenn die Insassen des Lagers die karge Ration Brot verzehren, die ihnen die "Brotoffizierin" zugeteilt hat, quälend langsam essen die einen, verzweifelt schlingen die anderen; der Hungerengel wacht über ihren Schlaf, er geht durch ihre Träume, begleitet sie in die Fabrik und auf das Feld hinaus, wo sie schuften, bis sie umfallen und in die Grube gekippt werden oder sich irgendwie aufrecht halten, um dann bis zum nächsten Tag in ihre Baracken zurückzukehren...

Der Roman ist aus 64 kurzen Abschnitten gebaut, ein jeder von ihnen schreitet ein Revier des Lagers, eine Höllenstunde des Lageralltags, ein Gefühl, eine Verlorenheit, einen Schmerz der Inhaftierten aus. Herta Müller hat für die "Atemschaukel" mit den Deportierten ihres Dorfes gesprochen, vor allem aber hat sie sich von Oskar Pastior, der als Jugendlicher in die Sowjetunion verschleppt wurde, immer wieder vom Leben und Sterben im Lager erzählen lassen. So sollte ein gemeinsames Buch beider entstehen, doch nach dem überraschenden Tod des Dichters im Herbst 2006 musste Herta Müller mit ihren Notizen, Aufzeichnungen, Plänen alleine zurande kommen und ihr eigenes Buch verfassen, das zwar auch die Lagergeschichte von Oskar Pastior erzählt, aber dennoch nicht als Schlüsselroman gelesen werden sollte

Å overleve i helvete : Nobelprisvinner Herta Müllers nye roman skildrer fem år i en sovjetisk arbeidsleir. Boka forteller en viktig historie i en høyst særegen stil. Herta Müller mottok i 2009 Nobelprisen i litteratur. I begrunnelsen heter det at hun nekter å fortie om de inhumane sidene ved kommunismen.
På norsk har man fram til nå kunnet lese tre av hennes romaner. Alle skildrer de på et vis diktaturets konsekvenser; det dreier seg om mennesker utsatt for overvåkning, terror og fordrivelse.
Poesiens avslørende makt : Nobelprisvinner Herta Müllers metode når det gjelder valg av ord er original. Hennes blanding av poesi, nøkternhet og jordnærhet blir en enestående litterær reise.

» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Herta Müllerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Matthes, UlrichNarratormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nix, JochenDirectormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Boehm, PhilipTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Denemarková, RadkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fontcuberta i Gel, JoanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hengel, Ria vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Löfdahl, KarinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Seltzer, RebeccaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Too, KellyDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Alles, was ich habe, trage ich bei mir.
All that I have I carry on me.
1 shovel load = 1 gram bread
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"Romania 1945: The Second World War is over. The German population is living in fear. "It was 3 o'clock in the morning of 15 January 1945, when the patrol came for me. It was -15??C." So begins a young man's report on his deportation to a camp in Russia. Based on her own life, Herta Muller tells of the fate of the German population in Transylvania. In conversations with the poet Oskar Pastior and other survivors, she has formed these personal rememberances into a great new novel. She succeeds at making the pursuit of Germans in Romania under Stalin a deeply personal story."--mcbv.com.… (more)

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