Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Writers on Dance: Muller's The Appointment (1)

Herta Muller photo from Wikipedia entry
In July, I posted dance excerpts from Herta Muller's book, The Hunger Angel.  The way this writer uses German-Romanian folk music and dance to convey beauty in moments of a character's or characters' seemingly inescapable desperation startles me each time I go back and reread sections of her work.  Here, in The Appointment, the narrator's husband comes home from a factory where his clothing has been stolen due to her own complications with the local powers.  His borrowed clothes fall from his body as they dance.  She sees, in their dance, his love and sacrifice for her.

"At home, Paul made fun of his appearance and pranced about the hall.  The seat of his trousers billowed down to the back of his knees.  He stretched his arms out and whirled me around, faster and faster.  I put my ear to his mouth, he hummed a song, closed his eyes, and pressed my hand against his chest.  I could feel the swift pounding through my hand and said:

"Don't charge around like this, your heart is fluttering like a wild dove.

"We daned more slowly, keeping our elbows in front of us and sticking our behinds out so our stomachs and legs had room to swing.  Paul bumped me on the left hip, spun around, bumped me on the right, and then his stomach danced away from me, and my hips swung up and down of their own accord.  My head was empty except for the beat.

"This is how old people dance, he said.  You know, when my other was young, she had pointy hips.  My father called them tango bones.

"I stepped on Paul's dusty toes with my own red-tipped ones and sang......

We felt so together, we laughed our way through the song, in which death seems like a special prize following a life that's been paid for dearly.  We gulped down the song as we laughed and never once missed a beat.   Suddenly, Paul pushed me away...

From Herta Muller, The Appointment.  Translators Michael Hulse and Philip Boehm.  New York: Picador.  2001. Pages 91-92.

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