The Fox Was Ever the Hunter
By: Herta Müller, Philip Boehm (Translation)
Format/Source: eBook courtesy of the publishers via a giveaway contest held by guiltless reading
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.
I haven’t read much literature set in the Ceausescu regime, so the premise of this novel plus the fact that it won a Nobel Prize in literature definitely caught my attention. I won a copy to read from a giveaway contest hosted by guiltless reading.
My feelings are quite mixed about this book. On the one hand it’s beautifully written, that sense of touch and go with the experiences of these characters, what they see, how their everyday lives go, the little things that just add to the overall experience of living under the Ceausescu regime. It’s quite poetic and on that alone, it gives the book an artsy and haunting feel/atmosphere.
Having said that, the book as a whole felt rather disjointed which made for a rather jarring and detached reading experience. The book felt more like a slice-of-life novel moreso than a book driven by plot; even after Adina and her friends find themselves tracked by the secret police, I didn’t quite feel a sense of urgency in the story. Nor did I ever feel really connected to the characters that it was easy to lose attention as I read.
So unfortunately I didn’t quite enjoy The Fox Was Ever the Hunter as much as I would have liked to. It was beautifully written but it didn’t quite engage me as I thought it would have.