The Appointment by Herta Mueller
Page numbers relate to iPad corresponding numbers.
This book has been translated by Michael Hulse and Philip Boehm at Metropolitan Books. Do you think anything was lost in the translation?
1. Do you think this is a love story? In an awkward/cryptic read, she remains hopeful to love in everyone and everything around her in spite of the sometimes horrifying things she experiences or the interrogation she suffers at the hand of the regime and Major Albu.
2. What do you think this story is really about? Trust? Madness? The Art of the Interrogation and its long-term effects on anyone affected? (Did I use effect/affect correctly? Just asking….) Also, could the “conversation” going on in the story actually be the various aspects of Muller’s own self consciousness? The critic, the trusting one, the punisher, the supporter…? Or is the character outside herself?
3. Style issues -- Did you notice throughout that the narrator remains unnamed? Did it matter? Or, was it done specifically to give credence to the oft-mundane routine and that what happened to the narrator during her “Appointment” could happen to anyone? Did you find the novel a depressing and desperate tale and the narrator’s constant drone supported that? The narrator makes keen observations about everything and everyone, marriage and relationships, even the scenery around her.
4. Did you notice that none of the questions printed in the story had question marks? Did that lend any significance to the story?
5. There is confusion in her sentences throughout the novel but do you think they lend a certain uncertainty to the story that is crucial to the tale? For instance, the opening paragraph at first seems confusing. But instead illustrates how she looses track of time and seasons. Did you follow that? “Lately I’m being summoned more and more often:… As if years were a week, I ‘m amazed that winter comes so close on the heels of late summer.”
And then in paragraph 3 she does confuse… “I’d rather think of snow sprinkled on the grass, but that leaves you feeling lost and the thought of chalk makes you sleepy.”
As well in paragraph 5 where she says, “I’ve decided to let the old man in the straw hat get on ahead of me.” And then says when she realizes he is about to spit, “I’ll get on before he does, regardless.” Is the spit what changed her mind? She does not clue you in on this.
6. (145) The Two Plums on the Brandy bottle conjure a lot of images: Madonna and Child, a wedding, and drinkers & bottle. The narrator compares it to her own wedding with Paul and they are standing cheek-to-cheek, just like two plums.
7. (394) The narrator has a minuscule way of gaining some control over what is being done to her, as in working the button on her shirts or how she controls Major Albu’s kisses on her hand by raising her knuckles. Can you imagine?
8. (450) She makes an interesting observation on the bus regarding the man and child… “”But his thoughts are clearly elsewhere as he stares out through the saliva smeared on the windowpane, as if it were perfectly normal for windows to drool.” Yet another example of the contradiction, perhaps?
9. (663) “Senselessness was easier for me to handle than aimlessness. Nowadays I invent goals to pursue around town instead of lies in the factory.” Example of senselessness and aimlessness?
10. (787 – 802) Finally the notes and the reason for her Appointments! How innocent, don’t you think? Could be the workings of a bored woman, but instead they become scrutinized and used against her for years! Nelu, even, turns her in for others once he realizes she will no longer be sleeping with him.
9. (996-1009) Lilli’s death – she is shot at the border, although her officer/friend was not. Narrator says, “Lilli’s stepfather told me this. Red as a bed of poppies, he said. And when he said it, I thought of cherries.” Cherry being the name the officer/friend called Lilli.
10. (1840) She describes her father-in-law thusly, “He had the habit of making a nest for himself inside a person’s breast, so as to be better able to kick him in the ribs later on.” Poetic writing. Beware the friendly fox???
11. (2397 – 2418) Narrator shares the art of the interrogation with us, it’s casualness and then crassness. Albu bangs his fist on the table and shove her face down against the blank paper where she is to write the name of the man…she comes up with Marcello.
12. (2436) What did you think of the “finger” inside her purse. To whom do you think it belonged? Where did it come from and why is it she never confirms it was Albu who put it there, or does she? She never visits Albu’s bathroom again…can you imagine during a many-hours long interrogation?
13. (2741) Nelu slaps the narrator’s head and knocks it against the doorframe because she does not give him an answer as to why he cannot go to her place or she his after their trip to the button factory. And she says maybe there was some justice in that? Have you ever heard of the Stockholm Syndrome?
14. (3661) Last page – why do you think Paul was at the old man’s? To paint the Java? Why was he buttoning up his shirt?
15. “The trick is not to go mad.” She says. Did the story make you go a little mad, a little crazy reading it? There were so many underminings… As a result, did Muller impart on you some understanding of the madness the narrator suffered?
16. Did you like the ending? What were your thoughts?