TRAVELING ON ONE LEG by Herta Müller

TRAVELING ON ONE LEG

KIRKUS REVIEW

The first English translation of an earlier work (published in 1992) from the acclaimed MÅller (The Land of Green Plums, 1996) is a profound story of dislocation: an exile from Romania struggles to find her bearings in Berlin just before the end of the Cold War. Even in her native land, Irene was already something of a stranger, taking long walks by the sea partly because she knew there would be an old man, waiting in the bushes, who would masturbate while looking at her. A chance encounter on the beach with a young, drunken German provides her with someone she knows when she crosses the border for good, but Franz, fearful of commitment, can’t bear to meet her at the airport, sending his friend Stefan to make the connection instead. While Irene endures the scrutiny of German bureaucrats before receiving relocation aid and citizenship, she also suffers a malaise of the heart brought on by the mixed messages of Franz, Stefan, and, finally Stefan’s friend Thomas, who, though the most responsive to her, is also bisexual. Irene settles into a routine in her new Berlin apartment, a routine regularly punctuated by visits to or visits from her men and supplemented by her daily observations of the beer-bellied construction worker who labors on the scaffolding outside her window. It’s a life of waiting, of anomie and despair, but for all that it’s the bitterness of such an existence that she keenly feels and sharply observes. Through it all, Irene knows she will endure. With a cool, minimalist style that simulates alienation, this fictional bleakness is not an easy read, but even in its now-dated Cold War milieu, it dramatizes a fact that seems fundamentally human: that, somehow, everyone is alone.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8101-1641-3
Page count: 149pp
Publisher: Northwestern Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1998




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