Herta Muller's little book of juxtaposed vignettes is really like a book of diary entries. In each story the conveyance of old world village life is expertly imparted as an encapsulated sometimes primitive realm that is only glued together by superstition, animal cruelty, endless gossip, a blurring of moral codes and amorous liaisons that distort and stunt the religious and moral development of the next generation, a broken lot in every conceivable way. When the foundation of normalcy is broken, what is there to cling to and follow as an example? And while all the aforementioned happenings are grim and evocative of a wider sense of despair, Muller's honed literary craft points to the source of all the misery: Communism. The socialism that is expressed has a negative trickle down effect that makes a bad life even worse and changes once normal and self-respecting human beings into the exact opposite of their God given good potential. Up is down. Black is white. And 2 + 2 = 5. Everything is off kilter, but there is not a natural ebb and flow to it. The hardened fluidity of the language mirrors the hardened life. The lifestyles of the farmers and villagers are forcibly held together by sheer tenacity or perhaps fear. Although that is not as tangibly expressed as it was in Muller's novels The Appointment or The Land of Green Plums, the implication is defiantly there. The black pall is an ever present character laced throughout all the stories, even though the reader is never bluntly told of such a shadowy form, for it is felt more than anything else. Though labeled fiction, this work is absolutely autobiographical. One can almost sense Muller herself with her eyes closed recalling her warped and brutal past, each vignette slowly pouring forth in a stream-of-consciousness manner. The observer in the stories (supposedly Muller herself) is like a pure child who has yet to be contaminated by the evils of communism/socialism. The village elders (by their actions) don't help, either. With their licentiousness and venomous verbal backstabbing, there is a sense that something is not right or copacetic, but it is just not pinned down. The observer of these tales just doesn't have the 100% grasp that what she is experiencing and seeing is evil, is totalitarian, is mind altering in all the worst ways. The observer and her family are castaways in their own community. As that is so, there is a constant element of re-victimization. While all the stories in Nadirs are exceptional, the title story alone, Nadirs, is worth the price of the book. In one part of the story, jack-o-lanterns are seen being used as lanterns, but their carved faces of horror express what the repressed villagers and farmers must perpetually mask. All in all, I would highly recommend Nadirs for a first time reader of Herta Muller; it is a work that will give the reader a greater insight of the the future books to come. Under the socialist regime of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu, Muller (through each book) tries to peel away the warped homage and reverence the megalomaniac and his wife thought they were so deserving of.
Herta Muller's little book of juxtaposed vignettes is really like a book of diary entries. In each story the conveyance of old world village life is expertly imparted as an encapsulated sometimes primitive realm that is only glued together by superstition, animal cruelty, endless gossip, a blurring of moral codes and amorous liaisons that distort and stunt the religious and moral development of the next generation, a broken lot in every conceivable way. When the foundation of normalcy is broken, … more
M?ller, who won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for The Land of Green Plums, is considered one of the most gifted contemporary German-language writers, a claim this newly translated collection of stories would seem to prove. Once again, M?ller takes us back to Communist Romania. But unlike her previous work, Nadirs is a very personal book, as much about M?ller's own family sagas as it is about the inescapable scars of communism. Perhaps the most pertinent word to describe this dainty collection is contradictionAthe narratives portray what is real and undeniable in a surreal and almost absurd way, yet the seemingly unadorned storytelling demands the maximum concentration from the reader. Originally published in German ten years ago, this book was well worth the wait; it is an important achievement in contemporary Eastern European literature.AMirela Roncevic, "Library Journal" Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.