“Homesickness isn’t a good idea” – a story created word for word
In The Official Said, Herta Müller has invented a new literary form – a story in collages. She describes scenes from a German provincial detention centre. One of the officials is called Mr Fröhlich from Inspection Centre B. He can compete with the most famous examples from his profession. Another spreads his arms like a bird every time he meets someone and exclaims: ‘Oh, oh, oh.’ Ludicrous conversations turn into inadvertently funny exchanges. Dismissiveness and ignorance are contrasted with the question of whether a person’s honesty makes them suspicious. Is a person’s biography the sum of their experiences? Or in the eyes of the officials, is it turned into a panorama of despair? And then there’s the homesickness of those who have fled, which never stops growing. Herta Müller finds masterful imagery for the impotence felt and the damage that arbitrary decisions can wreak. Her writing is enigmatic, profound, sometimes funny and always highly poetic.