Book Review Wednesday: The Passport

The Passport (Masks)The Passport by Herta Müller

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first book in my “Read all the Nobel for Literature authors” challenge. Herta Muller won the 2009 Nobel Prize, and this was the first book that came up in the library search, so The Passport it is!

When I started this book, I had two immediate thoughts.

1. This is definitely the work of an award winning writer. (This is not to say I liked it, merely that I could tell it would be appealing to an awarding body much in the same way that I can tell that, even though I enjoy Stephen King more, I doubt he will win the Nobel Prize.)

2. I wish I could read this in the original German, for I fear it may lose something in translation.

Alas, since I can only read about 20 words in German (and my knowledge of counting to ten and random exclamations [Bitte! Gesundheit! Machen sie schnell!]), I am stuck with the English translation.

This is a heart-wrenching book, set in a German village in Romania after WWII. Communism is new, Ceausescu is the chief Comrade (or whatever), and those who were young during the war (and survived it) are now approaching middle age.

The main character, Windisch (the miller), and his family (like so many others in the village) are waiting for passports to emigrate to West Germany. This is the story of the waiting.

It’s written in very short, choppy sentences which serves to make the reader feel like she cannot quite catch her breath. The relationships between Windisch, his wife, his daughter & the others in the town are also choppy. Everything is rather abrupt.

Overall, a great read, even if a bit on the depressing side…I did find it a bit hard to follow some of the characters, and the book was so short that by the time I finally figured out who everyone was, it was over.

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