The Appointment, By Herta Müller

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The Independent Culture

As serious-minded a piece of fiction as you might expect from a Nobel Prize winning author, Müller's 1997 novel takes place over the course of a tram ride as a woman travels to be interrogated by Ceausescu's secret police.

Her interrogator, Major Albu, covers her hand in a wet kiss each time before questioning. Translated by Michael Hulse and Philip Boehm and written as a hyper-real stream of consciousness, the narrator's memories and observations jostle for attention as she tries to make sense of a world in which "happiness had become a liability".

Despite the arresting imagery contained in the prose, a melancholy wraps itself around the heart of the book, as the narrator sleepwalks through life reminding herself: "The trick is not to go mad."