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The Hunger Angel

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  4,634 ratings  ·  560 reviews
It was an icy morning in January 1945 when the patrol came for seventeen-year-old Leo Auberg to deport him to a camp in the Soviet Union. Leo would spend the next five years in a coke processing plant, shoveling coal, lugging bricks, mixing mortar, and battling the relentless calculus of hunger that governed the labor colony: one shovel load of coal is worth one gram of br ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 24th 2012 by Metropolitan Books (first published 2009)
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Anna These coats were called ”pufoaică”:

It is used in Romanian; it does come from the Russian ”fufaika”, but the o…more
These coats were called ”pufoaică”:

It is used in Romanian; it does come from the Russian ”fufaika”, but the original word changed to ”pufoaică”, and that is how it became widespread. Also, it is linked to the word ”puf”, which means feather. (less)

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Average rating 3.90  · 
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Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A book which must not be rushed through, that's how beautiful the language is. It's hard to believe it was translated from the German. A book about the will to live, among other things, and the richness of life even under horribly reduced circumstances. To read it merely as an account of life in the Gulag would be too limiting. It goes much deeper.

Late in life a gay man remembers what it was like to be transported from his family home in Romania to the Russian Gulag. It was 1945 and he was a 17-
Jim Fonseca
Jun 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Through the story of one young man, this Nobel Prize winning author tells us the relatively unknown story of thousands of Romanians of German descent who, apparently in retaliation for WW II, were forced into Russian work camps. These people were not prisoners of war; they were men and women rounded up from their homes who lived for five years in borderline starvation eating only two meals of watery cabbage soup and a slice of bread every day. They were so hungry that they traded slices of bread ...more
Mar 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nobels, herta-muller
Take a deep breath.

Feel the panic swing freely in your body.

And slowly breathe on, like the main character in this masterpiece, living through the hell of a labour camp for five years, surviving under the vigil of an omnipotent hunger angel, only to trauma bond with the fear and terror to the extent that they become the main reference points for every single later experience and relationship.

You can leave the hunger behind, but the hunger angel remains your lifelong companion.

When homesickn
May 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: romanian
So, I started reading this book and it was just one of those One Day in the Life of …… kind of Russian Gulag books, and not much of one, really, as these things go, although it promised to be different because Leo Auberg is Transylvanian, a German transplant if you will. As if Stalin needs a reason. Leo is seventeen, and gay, but that’s not why he’s packed away. His bathhouse urges are just flecks of character. If they knew he was gay, he would have gone to a different camp, a shorter stay, and ...more
Kristin E.
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gems
Sometimes things acquire a tenderness, a monstrous tenderness, we don’t expect from them.

Every short chapter of this is like poetry; it forces you to dwell on the words and glide through its haunting imagery. The depiction of life in the Soviet forced labour concentration camp under Stalin’s regime is based on the true experiences and recollections of Romanian-born German poet Oskar Pastior who died in 2006. It is immensely insightful; there is not exactly a lot of hope or humour to be found but
Stephanie Sun
Jun 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book ends with a grown man dancing with a raisin. And then eating it.

The fact that I, someone whose life has been as far from Gulag survivor as they come, can, after reading this book, not see that image as weird and inconsequential, but layered with all of the pathos, dignity, gruesomeness, rightness, irony, and beauty that the author intended, says much about not only Muller's gifts as a writer and Philip Boehm's gifts as a translator, but also about what this medium of fiction is and can
May 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The powerful futility of words

Words have a disconcerting power over Leo Auberg: the mere word AQUARELL (water colour) can make him stagger, as if kicked. That word seems to know how far he has already gone in his illicit bathhouse encounters. And yet, even more disconcertingly, a word like LAGER (camp), despite wartime, despite the penal camp near the canal from which those men arrested in the park or the bathhouse, brutally interrogated and incarcerated, from which they never return, or if they
Greg Brozeit
Nov 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of my earliest, strongest childhood memories is when my family picked up my uncle, who had been a political prisoner in East Germany, from the hospital where he had been placed after his release, like many others in his position, after his freedom had been bought by the West German government. Although I never personally experienced such treatment, I was inculcated at an early age with a deep, repellant understanding of the fact that there were people like my uncle who had been wrongly incar ...more
Jun 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
In 1945 the Soviet general Vinogradov presented a demand in Stalin's name that all Germans living in Romania be mobilized for "rebuilding" the war-damaged Soviet Union. All men and women between seventeen and forty-five years of age were deported to forced-labor camps in the Soviet Union.

My mother, too, spent five years in a labor camp.

The deportations were a taboo subject because they recalled Romania's Facist past. Those who had been in the camp never spoke of their experiences except at ho
In each of her books Herta Müller succeeds in creating a very ingenious world, with its own language and idiom that illustrates the traumatic effect of what her main characters have to undergo. Also in this case, the experiences of a 17 year old Romanian German, which at the beginning of 1945 is arrested by the Soviets and transported to a camp, deep in Russia (or Ukraine), to do forced labour. The boy describes his experiences in short chapters, and they are absolutely shocking.

But it aren’t p
Andrea Paterson
Apr 17, 2014 rated it it was ok
Around the World: Romania

I really wanted to like this. It had some impressive moments, some images that caused my stomach to lurch in surprise and I have to give Muller credit for the unique style of this novel. But I just didn't like it. Frankly, I was bored. I couldn't connect to the protagonist, and the level of detail provided about every speck of dust and every scrap of food became wearing and frustrating. There isn't really a moving plot here--just poetic descriptions, images, and microsco
Mar 17, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very lyrical novel, every chapter is almost like a poem. One can feel, that Herta Müller wanted to show her respect for all those innocent persons, whose only guilt was they had german names and german ancestors. Is is a hard and unsettling lecture, she is not making it easy for the reader.

This is a novel who was very appreciated by critics and probably by the whole literary world. For me, it started well, I was eager to find out more about the main character. It turned out to be a dull story
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Müller’s The Hunger Angel I would say falls into the genre of concentration camp literature, which may come in either non-fiction or fiction. This is a work of fiction, though based on the true life of Müller’s friend Oskar Pastior. The prisoners of the concentration camp here are ethnic Germans from Romania, taken and deported to the Soviet Union after the end of the Second World War. Seventeen year old Leo Auberg is the central character, and we follow him for the five years of his internment, ...more
Feb 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, poetic writing. Muller's style and subject (WWII Romania and Russian deportation camps)are pretty unfamiliar territory to me, but themes are similar to those I've found in other stories about the soul-stealing power of dislocation and internment.
The personification of HUNGER reminded me of Elie Wiesel and Knute Hamson's writing. Strangely, I am also reading 'The Book Thief' which is narrated by DEATH, a character pivotal to that story and so many others, even if unintentional.
Apr 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who likes beautiful prose
Won this in a goodreads giveway.
I write too much for other reasons to ever give reviews any effort, so:
Like watching a silk string coil and uncoil in the dirt.
Like the slow waves of grass.
Leo is nothing but his voice, his observation, his desires, his exhaustion and hunger, his memories. As the years drain by he becomes more and more indistinguishable from what he describes, but never completely, instead more like the shadow of a cloud passing by, and then later the land beneath the shadow.
Stephen Durrant
Sep 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
When Herta Müller received a much-deserved Nobel Prize in 2009, she was lauded for her portrayal of "the landscape of the dispossessed." These words are a very fitting description of "The Hunger Angel," a tribute to her fellow German-Romanians, who were deported to Siberian prison camps after the war for their supposed or real collaboration with Hitler's Germany. Müller's mother spent five years in such a camp, but the protagonist here is a young man, whose story is apparently based upon a detai ...more
H Wesselius
Aug 22, 2012 rated it did not like it
I rarely read fiction but this one sparked my interest given its subject material. However, it was almost impossible to read with any interest or desire. With only short stories or pictures, there was very little character development to have the reader feel any sympathy or understanding for the difficulty life in a soviet labour camp. Furthermore there wasn't any continuity in the story which made it difficult for the reader to gain an appreciation for life in a labour camp. Thus, as a vehicle ...more
The quiet poetry of hunger, powerlessness and death, written in perhaps 80 short episodes, often like prose poems, with only occasional changes of tone towards the ironic or mildly humorous. To be read slowly, and not in one sitting...
Jun 29, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Romanian youth sent to Russian work camp at the end of the war. His crime? The birth crime of being an ethnic German. In the camp the prisoners are worked hard and fed little. Only the cunning and resourceful survive.

I liked the straight description of the horrors of life in camp, but the psuedo mystical stuff (possibly meant to be hallucinations??) left me cold.
Lucy Qhuay

I tried to love this book, but even though I think the writing is amazing and that the story started beautifully, I just couldn't bring myself to enjoy it from the 25% mark on

Surprisingly, I found myself rather bored and with no will to keep reading it.

I did found interesting the fact that hunger was called an angel, yet it was this dark, ominous, shadowed figure, a silent companion to the protagonist of this story and everyone else. More like a demon than an angel, really.

However, the book jus
Jeena Mary Chacko
Dec 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
“And we had our mouths, which had grown so high and hollow that our steps echoed inside. A bright void in the skull, as if we’d swallowed too much glaring light. A light that sweetly creeps up your throat and swells and rises to your brain. Until you no longer have a brain inside your head, only the hunger echo. No word was adequate for the suffering caused by hunger. To this day, I have to show hunger that I have escaped his grasp. Ever since I stopped having to go hungry, I literally eat life ...more
Feb 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Hunger Artist does what great art always does, it creates its own world which only tangentially intersects with our own. It is about a Romanian/German boy who is arrested and shipped to a Russian forced labor camp following World War II. This is a part of European history which is not often examined, but it is not about history, it is about the existential night of people seized out of their own lives and put into the limbo world of camp life. It feels more like Camus than Solzhenitzyn. I st ...more
Apr 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: germany, romania
"A cattle-train wagon blues, a kilometre song of time set in motion."

It's an interesting choice of words Müller has her protagonist make to describe the long train ride at the end of World War II, packed in like sardines, the long cold way to the camp in the East. After all, the blues arose from a culture where the people had been deliberately robbed of their own languages and had them replaced with a rudimentary one, with the idea that they wouldn't be able to say - and by extension think - muc
Jeva Lange
May 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
Three nights in a row I was haunted by the same dream. Once again I was riding home through the clouds on a white pig. But this time when I looked down, the land had a different appearance, there was no sea along its edge. And no mountains in the middle, no Carpathians. Only flat land, and not a single village. Nothing but wild oats everywhere, already autumn-yellow.
Who switched my country, I asked.
The hunger angel looked at me from the sky and said: America.
Where did all the people go, I ask
Jul 10, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
2 1/2. I seldom finish books that I don't like. I finished this one only out of respect for the victims of Soviet torture (GULAG and sim.) - ethnic Germans from countries other than Germany in this case. I deeply dislike the pseudo-poetic overtones of Müller and the visible lack of research (some of the Russian names and words are absurd; I still cannot take the damned inexistent "pufoaika" - фуфайка, что ли? - out of my head). And talking about lack, I need to say that I strongly dislike also t ...more
Aug 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-german
(review here) ...more
I was all too aware that there's an unspoken law that you should never start to cry if you have too many reasons to do so.

I made the mistake of concurrently reading this with The Drowned and the Saved, a cacophony that will hopefully not occur frequently despite the motivating yet limiting aspect of participating in multiple reading challenges. While this work certainly has its place on the international stage for necessary historical fiction, when juxtaposed alongside a sustained consi
Oct 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Herta Müller, has written a stunning, haunting novel about suffering and survival in the Soviet work camps following World War II. In The Hunger Angel, Müller presents us with Leo Auberg, a young, closeted gay man in German controlled Europe. One day, late in the war, he is picked up suddenly and shipped off to a labor camp in Russia where he suffers with fellow inmates through cold, harsh working conditions and, most acutely, hunger.

In spare prose, Müller dramatizes the constant struggle that L
A depressing book about the banality of evil.

In World War II, a few months after Romania declared war on its former ally, Nazi Germany, all ethnic Germans aged 15 to 45 living in Romania were sent to Soviet labour camps to do reconstruction work. This book is the account of a young man deported from his home and sent to such a camp and it is based on conversations Herta Muller had with a former deportee. In lyrical and deceptively simple prose, the author describes the day-to-day life in a plac
WWII is near it's end, Leo is 17 year old German living with his family in Romania. He has a secret life as a homosexual and in those times this is a death sentence.
The Russians arbitrarily pick him and other Germans who now find themselves liiving in Russian soil to go and help rebuild mother-Russia after the damage caused by the Germans. He spends 5 years in a camp, cold and hungry. The writing is unemotionless - I guess this is the state you have to reach in order to survive - and reads like
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Herta Müller was born in Niţchidorf, Timiş County, Romania, the daughter of Swabian farmers. Her family was part of Romania's German minority and her mother was deported to a labour camp in the Soviet Union after World War II.

She read German studies and Romanian literature at Timişoara University. In 1976, Müller began working as a translator for an engineering company, but in 1979 was dismissed

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Why not focus on some serious family drama? Not yours, of course, but a fictional family whose story you can follow through the generations of...
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“I have packed myself into silence so deeply and for so long that I can never unpack myself using words. When I speak, I only pack myself a little differently.” 213 likes
“I'm always telling myself I don't have many feelings. Even when something does affect me I'm only moderately moved. I almost never cry. It's not that I'm stronger than the ones with teary eyes, I'm weaker. They have courage. When all you are is skin and bones, feelings are a brave thing. I'm more of a coward. The difference is minimal though, I just use my strength not to cry. When I do allow myself a feeling, I take the part that hurts and bandage it up with a story that doesn't cry, that doesn't dwell on homesickness.” 91 likes
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