The second book I finished for Read the World Project this week was one for Romania; The Hunger Angel by Herta Müller. Herta Müller writes a lot about the German minority in Romania and the corruption of the Communist Romanian government so she seemed like a good choice!
The Hunger Angel revolves around Leo, a seventeen year old German boy in Romania who is found having sex with married men in his local park. His family seem to make no objection to his consequent deportation to a Russian forced labour camp- under the guise of ‘reparations’ to Russia for the war. Over the next four or five years he faces starvation alongside other workers, as well the cruelty of the Russian guards.
I’ve seen The Hunger Angel called a prose poem and I would agree; it’s beautifully lyrical and really focuses on snippets of emotions, feelings and moments of humanity over a prolonged plot. It makes sense, seeing as Herta Müller sought inspiration from her mother’s experiences, as well as those of the late poet Oskar Pastior, with whom she originally planned to write the novel. It is beautiful, heartbreaking, poetic; think a lyrical One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.
I have another of Müller’s books to read soon, a dystopian critique of Ceaușescu’s Romania. She’s become an automatic favourite of mine!