Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Passport” as Want to Read:
The Passport
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Passport

3.32  ·  Rating details ·  2,110 ratings  ·  324 reviews
From the winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature

“[The Passport] has the same clipped prose cadences as Nadirs, this time applied to evoke the trapped mentality of a man so desperate for freedom that he views everything through a temporal lens, like a prisoner staring at a calendar in his cell.”—Wall Street Journal

“A swift, stinging narrative, fable-like in its stoic c
Paperback, 93 pages
Published October 1st 2009 by Serpent's Tail (first published 1986)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Passport, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Passport

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.32  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,110 ratings  ·  324 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Passport
A short little book, made up of short little sentences, which gather in tiny chapters. I found the effect mesmerising. Glancing at other reviews opinions are divided.

The English translation of the title as The Passport gives the game away. A German family in Romania in the Ceaucescu era - the internet says the 80s, my ability to read the evidence from the material culture mentioned in the novel is not so sharp, since the lead character was in the USSR during WWII, the 80s seems a little late to
Ahmad Sharabiani
Der Mensch Ist Ein Grosser Fasan Auf Der Welt = The Passport, Herta Müller
The Passport is a novel by Nobel Prize-winning author Herta Müller, published in German in 1986. The German title (literally, "Man is a great pheasant in the world") refers to a saying in Romania. The novel, one of several for which the author was known when winning the Nobel in 2009, tells the story of a village miller in a German-speaking village in the Banat in Romania, who applies for permission to emigrate to West Ger
A disturbing piece of fiction depicting the fragmented existence of German-Romanians doing whatever it takes in their corrupt country to obtain passports to move to Germany. The story presents daily life as unpleasant, bitter, corrupt, with only momentary glimpses of anything that could be considered nice and little that can be considered good. Initially I was put off totally by the book, which is actually a novella. In the end, while still in no way able to say I truly enjoyed the act of readin ...more
Apr 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
Werner Herzog titled his movie about the life of Kaspar Hauser “Every Man Against Himself and God Against All’. That title might also fit Herta Muller’s vision of Communist Romania. This novel takes place in a small town among the German minority during the Ceausescu dictatorship, with a man willing to sacrifice everything, even his family, for the passport of the title. It is not so great a sacrifice as it might seem at first, since he does not seem to like his wife and daughter particularly. I ...more
Chris Chapman
This is a surrealist book in the great tradition of Central European surrealism, but while, say, Kafka's and Canetti's surrealism is expressed through what is thought and said, in this book it is all in the physical world. Courtyards fill with dry, dead leaves, even though there are no trees for them to fall from. An apple tree forms a mouth and eats its own apples. Water is everywhere.

Hinterm Fenster rauscht der Regen. Die Vorbeterin zuckt die kurzen Wimpern, als rinne der Regen ihr ins Geisich
Stephen Durrant
Dec 27, 2009 rated it liked it
I am never quite sure why novels are retitled as they move from one language to another. The original title of Müller's book is "Der Mensch ist ein grosser Fasan auf der Welt," which we might translate roughly as "Man is a Large Pheasant in the World." Perhaps a book marketing specialist decided this just would not work in English, although apparently the French publisher was not troubled: "L'homme est un grand faisan sur terre." The problem is that the rather prosaic "The Passport," unlike the ...more
Philippe Malzieu
Jul 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Man is a great pheasant on the earth.", funny of title

It is a novel on attempt. The miller Wendisch wants to emigrate. He wants to leave the communist greyness. He wants to pass to the west. He makes all for that. He works a lot and pay, pay.

He dreams : one day he will return as a visitor, well dressed as west people. There is Amélie, his daughter, who is given her to the police officer, to the minister, without pleasure and without love. Amélie cries, Amélie dries its tears. They wait and se
Hannah Rachel Potter
May 30, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: adult, fiction
Overall Verdict: A horrible, bleak and despair-filled book – best avoided. (The generous one star is for the character of Amalie).

Well then. Where do I start with this one? Let me see. Oh yes. I hated it.

Sorry? What do you mean I can’t just say I hate it and leave it at that? Who says a book review has to be in depth? Oh, ok, fine!


So, you want to know what was so bad about it. Again, I’m not sure where to begin, but I shall endeavour to do my best. I would like to point out though, that I
Ben Dutton
Feb 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Herta Müller was awarded The Nobel Prize for Literature in 2009, bringing the fiction of this Romanian writer to a world audience. Before this accolade, there were no novels by Müller available in English – though this one, and a few others, had previously been published but were now out of print. The small but wonderful publishing group Serpent’s Tail rushed to get Müller back into print.

The Passport (the title in German means literally “Man is a large pheasant in the world”, a Romanian proverb
Jan 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Herta Muller is a German Transylvanian from a region of Romania referred to as the Banat. She wrote The Passport during the last days of the Communist regime. Because the Ceausescus were still in power, she had to resort to what is referred to as aesopic which is described thusly, according to a recent conference entitled "Aesopic Voices":
Political truth in the 20th Century was often monopolized by the holders of
power. Artists who opposed this monopoly faced real life dangers such as being
Neil McCrea
Feb 28, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nobel-prize
Herta Muller won the nobel prize for literature. I thought I should read one of her books. The Passport is a very short novel. Muller writes in very short sentences. The novel is about German speaking Romanians. Many of them wish to get a passport to leave Ceaucescu's Romania for Germany. The novel contains many non-sequitors of tangential import. I once met Ceaucescu on a visit he made to Canada. The novel contains touches of surrealism and dream imagery. The woodpecker on my coffee table taps ...more
I flipped through this 6 years ago, absolutely certain I would never read it. But I was staying next to a cemetery in a Saxon part of Romania and she did win a Nobel. Page after page of trivial details interrupted by sudden, unexplained sex, it's as if winter sunlight is strobing the environment and the Nordic people are embracing stark sex to find some object continuity. Still a lot colder than the cemetery...

Extremely short, I stopped cold anyway. I feel that writing full of unadorned simple n
Feb 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I liked its first paragraph depicting an early morning with mind-consoling nature:
Around the war memorial are roses. They form a thicket. So overgrown that they suffocate the grass. Their blooms are white, rolled tight like paper. They rustle. Dawn is breaking. Soon it will be day. (p. 7)

However, at first sight, the story has typically been written under various theme topics tinged with sombre scenes, for instance, THE POT HOLE, THE EARTH FROG, THE NEEDLE, . . . , THE SHEEP FOLD, THE SILVER CRO
Dana Susan
Apr 12, 2010 rated it it was ok
I didn't enjoy this slim novel by the recent Nobel Prize for Lit laureate, thought appreciate that it's well-written and an affecting story of the desperate plight of poor villagers living under the Rumanian dictatorship. Muller's tight, present-tense style I found annoying, and I got the message right away, though she kept plodding on.
But I give it two stars for the well-crafted story and the painful but important theme.
Nanna Tirsted
Aug 03, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
It is always difficult to rate a book like this; on the one hand it is very accomplished with a definite poetic style but on the other hand it didn't touch me, it never left the surface - which of cause is a stylistic choice... All I all my brain found it somewhat interesting but my heart found it boring.
Plot summary, version #1
Since Windisch made the decision to emigrate, he sees the end everywhere in the village. The waves of grass lift him above the ground. The earth frog looked with my wife's eyes. "Watch how your daughter walks," he says. "If the toes of her shoes point outwards when she puts her feet on the ground, then it's happened." The owl cries behind the trees. It's looking for a roof. Behind the door Windisch heard the stubborn, regular moaning of his wife. Like a sewing machine. "H
Mar 31, 2010 rated it liked it
I had a difficult time wrapping my arms around this bleak narrative and mystifying (haunting) prose.
Perhaps because it was sandwiched between reading Nabokov's Lolita and McEwan's Black Dogs, the writing style did not engage me as I thought it would... given my love of prosaic writing.
I found it difficult to follow the staccato style embedded in the cold and grim landscape.
I got lost in the bleakness and oppression and was unable to soar with the promised prose.
Another reviewer here that sai
Feb 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2011
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 mo
Nose in a book (Kate)
This is the story of a village in a minority German-speaking corner of Romania in the 1980s. Ceaușescu’s regime is increasingly oppressive, and this minority in particular are being killed – or to call it by its true name, ethnically cleansed. Most people in the village are trying to get out, and they will all do whatever it takes to get that precious passport. The main character, Windisch, a miller, is bribing the mayor with sacks of flour, but he knows what all the officials really want and he ...more
May 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
When Herta Müller won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2009, there was the usual outcry from the powerful claiming to be oppressed by the European bias of the judges. Why is our literature being ignored? howled those who dominate the book industry throughout the English-speaking world, and of course they denigrated the winner as if to prove their point.

Tibor Fischer at the Guardian on behalf of the UK was so unimpressed that he misrepresented the plot with a reductive summary:

The Passport is a
Everett Darling
Jan 09, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011
I believe Herta Müller intended the staccato and jarring writing effect to symbolize the plight of the German minority in Romania. But I found it too unpleasant to get into, or to feel moved by it. I don´t know if she considered that when writing this, but for me I couldn´t see past it. I found myself either trailing off the page following my unrelated thoughts, or re-reading the writing over and over, like I was doing some sort of competence exercise. I don´t consider myself a pleasure-reader, ...more
Nov 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is an odd book to have been written by a Nobel laureate. Seriously it reads in parts like a Dick and Jane reader. The Nobel committee, in their citation, refer to the “frankness of [her] prose” and there will be not a few people who’ll pick up this book and wonder what got into the heads of those who nominated her in the first place. On one level she is very easy to read. There are no complicated words although a brief glossary at the back of the book explains the significance of three term ...more
Diane S ☔
Mar 16, 2013 rated it liked it
2.5 Do you think it is possible to like and dislike a book at the same time? Must be, because that is how I felt about this book. Written in a staccato, clipped style the prose took some getting used to. Yet I loved the metaphors and the almost surreal imagery. I also have not read many books about Romania and that might be part of the problem. Do not have the knowledge to understand this book about a small German village in Romania and life there under the Ceausescu dictatorship, where every wo ...more
Thomas Hübner
Nov 04, 2014 rated it really liked it

When in 2009 the Nobel Prize Committee awarded the Prize for Literature to Herta Müller, whose opus magnum The Hunger Angel had just appeared in print, I thought that at least this one time the jurors in Stockholm had shown not only that they are able of a decent choice, but that sometimes they have even a sense of timing. Because The Hunger Angel marked the point when Herta Müller got also outside the German-speaking world the attention she deserves. Her first
May 02, 2018 rated it did not like it
Inaccessible and obscure - not my cup of tea.
Erin Britton
May 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Although Nadirs and The Land of Green Plums have now been reissued in English, when Herta Muller won the Nobel Prize for Literature in October this year, only The Passport was available for monoglots wishing to gain a flavour of her work. Fortunately, it seems to be a fine example of her recurring themes and sparse prose style. Muller was born in 1953 in a German-speaking village in Western Romania and her work predominantly focuses on the harsh conditions of life in Ceausescu’s Romania and on t ...more
Jan 16, 2010 rated it did not like it
I picked up this book because it was the Nobel Prize for Literature winner from 2009, and I thought that that would mean it was good. It wasn't ... at least not for me.

I found it neither "beautiful" nor "haunting" as the back cover promised. It is about a German family who is trying to get passports to leave Ceausescu's Romania. In order to do so, they must bribe -- with worldly goods and flesh -- officials. This I also got from the back cover, because it took a long time for me to get it from t
Jun 12, 2013 rated it liked it
Evasive, repetitive, bleak. It's about the systemic soul-crushing routines of corrupt small town kleptocrats empowered by a distant, uncaring dictator. The language reflects this world and though it is as sometimes as impenetrable as I presume Ceausescu's Romania was, it occasionally gives way under its weight and reveals some beautiful and terrifying moments.

Much of the destruction takes place off the page. Even when a vase is knocked over and broken, we are shown the hand hitting the vase and
Sep 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Really short sentences, chapters well accommodated within a page, and intoto, just about 96 pages cover to cover, 'The Passport' by Herta Muller is a surprisingly thin book. It's so thin that I double checked to make sure that this was not an abridged version. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn't prejudice, but Nobel Laureates don't and can't write thin books, right? Nevertheless it was a heavy duty stuff that I couldn’t have otherwise handled if it were a little longer.

I finished the novel, and it did
Jun 26, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: world-fiction
This novella is ostensibly about the Wendisch family's efforts to obtain passports to emigrate from Ceausescu-run Romania to Germany. It is a series of glimpses into the small village life of a German minority community. I found it as dreary as probably life there really was, and may have missed tons of symbolism or perhaps Romanian folklore woven into the fabric of the telling. Too fragmented and little character development. Too many unlikeable characters, it was difficult to root for anybody. ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Meter i sekundet
  • Historias del Kronen
  • El africano
  • Hecho en Saturno
  • Accidental Death of an Anarchist
  • They Were Counted
  • The Left-Handed Woman
  • The New Life
  • Réquiem por un campesino español
  • Change
  • Busz po polsku
  • Huden er det elastiske hylster der omgiver hele legemet
  • A Fair Maiden
  • 40 poemas
  • Music for Chameleons
  • Dream of Ding Village
  • Honor. Opowieść ojca, który zabił własną córkę
  • House of Day, House of Night
See similar books…
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

Related Articles

While dealing with her husband's illness, this debut author turned to the refuge of Jane Austen's work. That refuge turned into her highly anticipa...
90 likes · 13 comments
“He's looking into the night, in case a shadow comes to listen and look.” 3 likes
“Windisch hears a leaf on the stones in the hallway. It's scratching on the stones. The wall is long and white. Windisch closes his eyes. He feels the wall growing on his face. The lime burns his forehead. A stone in the lime opens its mouth. The apple tree trembles. Its leaves are ears. They listen. The apple tree drenches its green apples.” 2 likes
More quotes…