Herta Müller's transcendent The Land of Green Plums tells the story of four young people living in a Soviet-imposed totalitarian police state in Romania. The four have left their respective impoverished provinces in search of better opportunity in the city. The novel documents their struggles to survive through the terrible conditions of Romania and because of the laws and persecution leveed upon Romania by the Soviets, as well as the opportuity (or, really, lackthereof) that drives them. At its core, though, The Land of Green Plums is about the evils of totalitarianism (and communism, really), as well as the search for better opportunity, loss of family and freedom, and the oppression of a minority.
Partly autobiographical, The Land of Green Plums was inspired by Müller's Romanian heritage and by the fact that her father was an SS officer during World War II. Initially, she was trained as a teacher but left the job after refusing to cooperate with the Securitate, the popular name for Romania's secret police. She has also said that some characters in the novel are based on people whom she knew in real life. Nonetheless, Müller's novel is a biting allegory.
Upon release, the novel was met with critical acclaim by critics, academics, and the general public. The novel has drawn academic interest because of three things: language and style, trauma studies, and ethnographic and literary studies of the German minority in Romania. Critically, it received a tremendous amount of attention as well. Says Publisher's Weekly: "Most importantly, few books have conveyed with such clarity the convergence of terror and boredom under totalitarianism." For this novel and all of her prior work, Müller was in 2009 awarded a Nobel Prize for literature.