“All children live in blocks of flats or in houses,” says Amalie. “Every house has rooms. All the houses together make one big house. This big house is our country. Our fatherland.”

From the Herta Müller novel The Passport. As previously mentioned on chicagoboyz, Herta Müller is the 2009 winner of the Nobel Prize in literature. The above excerpted passage continues:

Amalie points at the map. “This is our Fatherland,” she says. With her fingertip she searches for the black dots on the map. “These are the towns of our Fatherland,” says Amalie. “The towns are the rooms of this big house, our country. Our fathers and mothers live in our houses. They are our parents. Every child has its parents. Just as the father in the house in which we live is our father, so Comrade Nicolae Ceausescu is the father of our country. And just as the mother in the house in which we live is our mother, so Comrade Elena Ceausescu is the mother of our country. Comrade Nicolae Ceausescu is the father of all the children. And Comrade Elena Ceausescu is the mother of all the children. All the children love comrade Nicolae and comrade Elena, because they are their parents.”

Chilling, no?

10 thoughts on ““All children live in blocks of flats or in houses,” says Amalie. “Every house has rooms. All the houses together make one big house. This big house is our country. Our fatherland.””

  1. I have lived with the fallout of this all my life, though just the fallout as I grew up in the US. Even 20 years later after Ceausescu faced his maker, it still pops out, at unpredictable times, in unpredictable ways. My fervent, most optimistic hope is that it will end with my grandchildren, that my great grandchildren will not be touched, with even the slightest breath of this malignancy.

    I am generally considered an optimist when I am amongst romanians but I do not talk about this with them. It is generally too painful for them to bear and for me to inflict.

  2. Wow.

    Thank you for your comment, TMLutas.

    (I originally had more to this post and asked how many people would agree if you simply changed a bit of the above excerpt to:

    The United States is like a big house and the citizens are like inhabitants of a house, a family. The government should do a better job with *its* responsibilities and is responsible for x, y and z…. .) How many people would agree? Your previous post was correct – this is a hard subject. I have ordered some of her novels. I suppose I shall find out how hard it is to read about.)

  3. Ceaucescu received the end he richly deserved. His only real use was that being a paranoid megalomaniac, he did things that genuinely irritated Moscow from time to time, starting in ’68 with his reaction to the Prague Spring crackdown. Mostly though, Ceaucescu and his family were bloodsucking tyrants.

  4. The idea of a political leader as a paternal figure is very common in pre-industrial societies. The theory of the Japanese Imperial family is based explicitly on the idea of the Emperor as patriarch of a vast extended family. Whats really weird is seeing these ideas resurrected in the guise of industrial-socialism. You even have instances of children inheriting leadership form parents just like the kings of old.

    I think this shows that many places are still stuck in very old cultural patterns. Socialism just changes the names and titles without changing the ties of loyalty or the status hierarchy. They may call themselves Presidents or Premiers but they’re really just kings.

  5. As Shannon alludes to in his comment above, one of the features of socialism is how congruent it is with ancient clan/feudal social structures of the past.

    Everything is held of the state, (read sovereign), everyone’s position in society is determined by their status in the party, (read clan), there are no individual rights or priviledges that are innate to the person, but only those granted by the party for its own purposes, (read lord vs vassal), economic position is a grant, either by political position or technocratic utility, and may be withdrawn at any moment regardless of actual performance based on a perceived lack of loyalty or belief, (read lord vs vassal), and so on.

    Since socialism dresses itself up in claims of scientific derivation and egalitarian operating principles, the believers fog over what they could easily see right in front of their eyes—the inevitable emergence of strong, ruthless rulers who build a network of vassals tied to “Big Brother” by bonds of loyalty and a shared pursuit of power.

    One often hears, in a bewildered tone from the acolytes, in an “I warned you” tone from skeptics, of the tendency of revolutions to eat their children. It is the highly personal and pseudo-religious fervor of the true believers in their relationship with their master that causes this phenomenon to occur and re-occur. Lenin’s and Stalin’s and Hitler’s and Mao’s purges and show trials were not aberrations, but an integral part of the need to protect the leader’s position from any potential usurper, (read heretic), who might get too powerful and pose a threat.

    The function of ideology is the same as religious doctrine—a set of principles whose evolving interpretations constitute a continuous testing process to guage loyalty and the willingness to accept any and all pronouncements by the priest, pharaoh, king, general secretary, etc. as the absolute truth from which dissent is deserving of death.

    The US revolution has not avoided many of these pitfalls because our citizenry were somehow more noble or moral or smarter than others, but because our principles were based on legal restraints on the power of the state, and our allegience was aimed at a set of fundamental laws, not men.

    When the laws are replaced by men, and the principles become subservient in all respects to political expediency, I fear we will discover that our people are, in general, every bit as feudal and delusional as any other.

    One way to judge a system is by the quality of those who succeed in it. For all their many faults and flaws, the list of leaders our form of social contract has produced measures up very well against the bizarre collection of psychopaths and murderous lunatics that ideological and religious tyrannies have produced.

    When purity of belief is the only standard, Einstein is exiled, and little Heinrich, or Lavrenti, is elevated to the highest reaches of power and influence.

    Then that thing called reality, (or cosmic justice, as I like to think of it), comes into play.

    Eventually, the true believers get everything that’s coming to them, don’t they, little Nicolae?

  6. Eventually, the true believers get everything that’s coming to them

    Some of them do. Stalin, Mao, Khomeini, Khameini, and Kim Il Sung all died peacefully in their sleep, didn’t they?

  7. I saw an interview with Mueller over the weekend. I was impressed. She has a kind of humility combined with a firm sense of her own values. Her themes are not limited to Ceausescu. She has also dealt with the Nazi supporters (her own father was SS) among the German Romanians, and her latest book, Atemschaukel, is about experience of the poet Oscar Pastior who, like her own mother, was sent to the horrible forced labor camps in Ukraine after the war. She says the Securitate is still active and in Germany.

    I am still trying to decide where to start in reading her works. I mentioned in a comment last week that Sign and Sight.com (Google this) has translations of German reactions to the award and to Mueller’s work.

  8. An odd definition of justice—what happened at the moment of death.

    If one believes in the afterlife, then those mentioned surely received a harsh judgement.

    If one doesn’t believe in eternity, then all that remains after death is the memory, and moral judgements, of the living. I’d say they come out pretty badly by that standard also.

    Finally, being a paranoid, murderous lunatic has certain consequences in terms of one’s intellectual and moral life. Was Dorian Gray’s internal life as flawless as his complexion, or did it not actually resemble the portrait of his outer appearence?

    I would not trade the calm serenity of my life, surrounded by my family and a few good friends, for all the corrosive power and acidic suspicions contained in the nightmares of a Stalin or Mao et al.

    The concepts of honor and integrity, moral worth, and common humanity towards one’s fellow human beings are derided and scoffed at by those who have abandoned such values for a life devoted to the pursuit of power.

    But, in the words of Robert Duvall’s character, Hub McCann in “Second-hand Lions”, “We should believe in honor and virtue because those are the things worth believing in.”

    I know I’m an old fashioned, midwestern hick who doesn’t understand the sophisticated views of my betters in the tranzi elites, for whom power and money are all there is to life. I have fought too many demons over the years to allow my life to be reduced to such a sterile, reptilian existence.

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