An early masterpiece from the winner of the Nobel Prize hailed as the laureate of life under totalitarianism
Romania-the last months of the Ceausescu regime. Adina is a young schoolteacher. Paul is a musician. Clara works in a wire factory. Pavel is Clara's lover. But one of them works for the secret police and is reporting on all of the group.
One day Adina returns home to discover that her fox fur rug has had its tail cut off. On another occasion it's the hindleg. Then a foreleg. The mutilated fur is a sign that she is being tracked by the secret police-the fox was ever the hunter.
Images of photographic precision combine into a kaleidoscope of terror as Adina and her friends struggle to keep mind and body intact in a world pervaded by complicity and permeated with fear, where it's hard to tell victim from perpetrator.
In The Fox Was Always a Hunter, Herta Müller once again uses language that displays the "concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose"-as the Swedish Academy noted upon awarding her the Nobel Prize-to create a hauntingly cinematic portrayal of the corruption of the soul under totalitarianism.
Set in Romania at the end of the Ceausescu era, this Kafkaesque tale offers a glimpse of a society unhinged by fear and paranoia and crushed by the hopelessness of its dead-end future. Its principal characters include Clara, a worker in a wire-making factory; her lover, Pavel, a married lawyer; Paul, a musician whose concerts have been raided by the police; and Adina, a schoolteacher who discovers that someone is regularly entering her apartment and systematically and symbolically dismembering a fox rug in her bedroom. Suspicions suggest that someone in this circle of friends and acquaintances is giving information to the authorities but who? Nobel Prize winner M ller (The Hunger Angel) foregrounds her tale against a bleak landscape mired in pollution and industrial waste, where the natural world is menacing: poplar trees ringing the town are described as "knives," and the sun as a "blazing pumpkin." In short, staccato chapters etched with her spare but crystalline prose, she parades scores of nameless working-class people who seem devoid of any inner life and whose prospects for rising above their circumstances are summed up as "Nothing but this gutter of poverty, hopelessness, and tedium, from mother to child and on to that child's children." More than a portrait of individual lives under the suffocating weight of a dictatorship, M ller's novel is a searing appraisal of a people whose souls have been strangled by despair.