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The Appointment

by

The Appointment Cover

ISBN13: 9780312420543
ISBN10: 0312420544
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Excerpt

Ive been summoned. Thursday, at ten sharp.

Lately Im being summoned more and more often: ten sharp

on Tuesday, ten sharp on Saturday, on Wednesday, Monday. As

if years were a week, Im amazed that winter comes so close on

the heels of late summer.

On my way to the tram stop, I again pass the shrubs withthe

white berries dangling through the fences. Like buttons made

of mother-of-pearl and sewn from underneath, or stitched right

down into the earth, or else like bread pellets. They remind me

of a flock of little white-tufted birds turning away their beaks,

but theyre really far too small for birds. Its enough to make

you giddy. Id rather think of snow sprinkled on the grass, but

that leaves you feeling lost, and the thought of chalk makes you

sleepy.

The tram doesnt run on a fixed schedule.

1

It does seem to rustle, at least to my ear, unless those are

the stiff leaves of the poplars Im hearing. Here it is, already

pulling up to the stop: today it seems in a hurry to take me

away. Ive decided to let the old man in the straw hat get on

ahead of me. He was already waiting when I arrivedwho

knows how long hed been there. You couldnt exactly call him

frail, but hes hunchbacked and weary, and as skinny as his own

shadow. His backside is so slight it doesnt even fill the seat of

his pants, he has no hips, and the only bulges in his trousers are

the bags around his knees. But if hes going to go and spit,

right now, just as the door is folding open, Ill get on before

he does, regardless. The car is practically empty; he gives the

vacant seats a quick scan and decides to stand. Its amazing how

old people like him dont get tired, that they dont save their

standing for places where they cant sit. Now and then you hear

old people say: Therell be plenty of time for lying down once

Im in my coffin. But death is the last thing on their minds, and

theyre quite right. Death never has followed any particular

pattern. Young people die too. I always sit if I have a choice.

Riding in a seat is like walking while youre sitting down. The

old man is looking me over; I can sense it right away inside the

empty car. Im not in the mood to talk, though, or else Id ask

him what hes gaping at. He couldnt care less that his staring

annoys me. Meanwhile half the city is going by outside the

window, trees alternating with buildings. They say old people

like him can sense things better than young people. Old people

might even sense that today Im carrying a small towel, a toothbrush,

and some toothpaste in my handbag. And no handkerchief,

since Im determined not to cry. Paul didnt realize how

terrified I was that today Albu might take me down to the cell

below his office. I didnt bring it up. If that happens, hell find

out soon enough. The tram is moving slowly. The band on the

2

old mans straw hat is stained, probably with sweat, or else the

rain. As always, Albu will slobber a kiss on my hand by way of

greeting.

Major Albu lifts my hand by the fingertips, squeezing my nails

so hard I could scream. He presses one wet lip to my fingers, so

he can keep the other free to speak. He always kisses my hand

the exact same way, but what he says is always different:

Well well, your eyes look awfully red today.

I think youve got a mustache coming. A little young for

that, arent you.

My, but your little hand is cold as ice todayhope theres

nothing wrong with your circulation.

Uh-oh, your gums are receding. Youre beginning to look

like your own grandmother.

My grandmother didnt live to grow old, I say. She never

had time to lose her teeth. Albu knows all about my grandmothers

teeth, which is why hes bringing them up.

As a woman, I know how I look on any given day. I also

know that a kiss on the hand shouldnt hurt, that it shouldnt

feel wet, that it should be delivered to the back of the hand.

The art of hand kissing is something men know even better

than womenand Albu is hardly an exception. His entire head

reeks of Avril, a French eau de toilette that my father-in-law,

the Perfumed Commissar, used to wear too. Nobody else I

know would buy it. A bottle on the black market costs more

than a suit in a store. Maybe its called Septembre, Im not sure,

but theres no mistaking that acrid, smoky smell of burning

leaves.

Once Im sitting at the small table, Albu notices me rubbing

my fingers on my skirt, not only to get the feeling back

3

into them but also to wipe the saliva off. He fiddles with his

signet ring and smirks. Let him: its easy enough to wipe off

somebodys spit; it isnt poisonous, and it dries up all by itself.

Its something everybody has. Some people spit on the pavement,

then rub it in with their shoe since its not polite to spit,

not even on the pavement. Certainly Albu isnt one to spit on

the pavementnot in town, anyway, where no one knows who

he is and where he acts the refined gentleman. My nails hurt,

but hes never squeezed them so hard my fingers turned blue.

Eventually theyll thaw out, the way they do when its freezing

cold and you come into the warm. The worst thing is this feeling

that my brain is slipping down into my face. Its humiliating,

theres no other word for it, when your whole body feels

like its barefoot. But what if there arent any words at all, what

if even the best word isnt enough.

Ive been listening to the alarm clock since three in the morning

ticking ten sharp, ten sharp, ten sharp. Whenever Paul is

asleep, he kicks his leg from one side of the bed to the other and

then recoils so fast he startles himself, although he doesnt wake

up. Its become a habit with him. No more sleep for me. I lie

there awake, and I know I need to close my eyes if Im going

back to sleep, but I dont close them. Ive frequently forgotten

how to sleep, and have had to relearn each time. Its either

extremely easy or utterly impossible. In the early hours just

before dawn, every creature on earth is asleep: even dogs and

cats only use half the night for prowling around the dumpsters.

If youre sure you cant sleep anyway, its easier to think of

something bright inside the darkness than to simply shut your

eyes in vain. Snow, whitewashed tree trunks, white-walled

rooms, vast expanses of sandthats what Ive thought of to

4

pass the time, more often than I would have liked, until it grew

light. This morning I could have thought about sunflowers,

and I did, but they werent enough to dislodge the summons.

And with the alarm clock ticking ten sharp, ten sharp, ten

sharp, my thoughts raced to Major Albu even before they

shifted to me and Paul. Today I was already awake when Paul

started thrashing in his sleep. By the time the window sta

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

gomordecai, January 10, 2011 (view all comments by gomordecai)
This is one of the most beautiful books I've read recently. Rather than relating a concrete personal history, the story lingers on the degradation of the human psyche and spirit through the unnamed narrator's stream-of-consciousness memories. We are given these memories haphazardly rather than chronologically as her mind wanders from one past incident to the next; interspersed throughout are her detailed observations of her fellow bus-riders. Dialogue melds into narration, which can be confusing until the realization that it doesn't really matter who's saying what--the communist state has stripped everyone of their individuality and left them with nothing but desperation and mistrust. It is not an uplifting book, to say the least, but its prose and images are unerringly lovely yet, brilliantly and simultaneously, anxiety-ridden.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780312420543
Translator:
Hulse, Michael
Translator:
Boehm, Philip
Translator:
Hulse, Michael
Author:
Mueller, Herta
Author:
Hulse, Michael
Author:
Muller, Herta
Author:
Boehm, Philip
Publisher:
Picador USA
Location:
New York
Subject:
General
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Edition Number:
1st Picador USA ed.
Edition Description:
Picador USA
Series Volume:
156
Publication Date:
20020931
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
224
Dimensions:
9.46 x 4.7 x 0.625 in

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Featured Titles » Nobel Prize Winners
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Appointment New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$15.00 In Stock
Product details 224 pages Picador USA - English 9780312420543 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
WINNER OF THE 2009 NOBEL PRIZE IN LITERATURE

 

From the winner of the IMPAC Award, a fierce novel about a young Romanian woman's discovery of betrayal in the most intimate reaches of her life

"I've been summoned. Thursday, ten sharp." Thus begins one day in the life of a young clothing-factory worker during Ceaucescu's totalitarian regime. She has been questioned before; this time, she believes, will be worse. Her crime? Sewing notes into the linings of men's suits bound for Italy. "Marry me," the notes say, with her name and address. Anything to get out of the country.

As she rides the tram to her interrogation, her thoughts stray to her friend Lilli, shot trying to flee to Hungary, to her grandparents, deported after her first husband informed on them, to Major Albu, her interrogator, who begins each session with a wet kiss on her fingers, and to Paul, her lover, her one source of trust, despite his constant drunkenness. In her distraction, she misses her stop to find herself on an unfamiliar street. And what she discovers there makes her fear of the appointment pale by comparison.

Herta Müller pitilessly renders the humiliating terrors of a crushing regime. Bone-spare and intense, The Appointment confirms her standing as one of Europe's greatest writers.

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