back in the land of green plums

Returning to my homeland after a long time makes me go through the same cycle of feelings of attraction and rejection. In my mind, the longer I stay away, the better my country looks and feels like; it becomes my imaginary home, a shelter, the only place where I don’t get lost in translation, where people get my weird sense of humor, where tomatoes taste like tomatoes and last but not least where some of the most important people in my life live. The return is always sad and joyful, as I get to feel the love and familiarity I have long been missing, but I also get to relive the disappointment that led me away from there in the first place; the dirtiness, the hopelessness, the poverty that are intertwined and create a vicious circle we as a nation never seem to get out of. The people I love and admire the most are there, but they feel like tiny islands in a sea of dishonesty and vulgarity, which makes them even more precious to me. But even they, who are my last hope, have lost hope…

I remember feeling a tinge of hostility towards Herta Mueller’s fictional version of Romania, which is depicted as the embodiment of dictatorship and a type of corruption that leaves nothing untouched. Although I am aware that in her fiction the country is no longer the place itself but an epitome of repression, not a real land, but an existential one, I still couldn’t accept this totally somber vision of the society I too spring from, fictional as it may be. The first novel by her that I’ve read was neither in its original German, nor in Romanian, but in English and I remember being bothered by the translation of the title Herztier into The Land of Green Plums. Somehow, the more time passes and the novel itself fades from my memory, I am more and more taken over by this image of Romania as a land of green plums, which might have less too do with the actual book and more with my own projections. A land that keeps tempting me to have a taste of it once more, but then leaves a sour aftertaste in my mouth all over again… There is the undeniable beauty, but also the undeniable squalor:

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