Edited By Alexandra Vranceanu and Angelo Pagliardini
Exile as Political Discourse in the Novels of Herta Müller
Ileana Alexandra Orlich Arizona State University Abstract In Herta Müller’s celebrated novels The Passport, The Appointment and The Land of Green Plums, the human trauma of enforced displacement, which sums up Müller’s and the Swabs’ exile to West Germany in 1987, is complicated by Julia Kristeva’s praise of the emancipating value of exile in “A New Type of Intellectual: The Dissident.” “How can one avoid sinking into the mire of common sense,” writes Kristeva, “if not by becoming a stranger to one’s own country, language, sex and iden- tity? Writing is impossible without some kind of exile.” Beyond the metaphor of ethnic outsideness underlining Müller’s writing, Kristeva’s exuberant quote also legitimizes Müller’s dissident voice which narrates the experiences of a young woman from an unnamed land (clearly identifiable as Romania) at the time of Ceauşescu’s draconic dictatorship. What distinguishes Müller’s novels is the emphasis on her exilic identity which becomes the cohesive force of her narratives and thus brings to a complete circle Stephen Daedalus’s claim in Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, that he will try to “fly by” the nest of nationality, language and religion and express himself by means of silence, exile and cunning. Like Joyce, Müller conceives of exile in the archetypal Modernist way – as a prerequisite of what is of value in human, literary and artistic creativity. Like the fall of a cultural Berlin Wall, the 2010 Nobel Prize in literature awarded to Herta M...
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