[T]he first 50 pages are slow going, and some of the lighter-hearted anecdotes can at first seem tangential to the plot. But eventually, when the collage is completed, the reader understands that each and every one of Müller’s stories, every flight of luscious language and every brutal fact, has been necessary in depicting a society torn to pieces and tasked, with the curtains finally open and the light streaming in, with putting those pieces back together to make sense of it all.
Literature is often at its best, and most urgent, when it is a survival tactic. In her writing, Müller inches closer to narrowing the gap between people and things, between life and language. For that reason, her sparse prose often resembles poetry...The Fox Was Ever the Hunter is a haunting portrayal of the secret lives of people and things during the last breaths of an obliterating regime.
..remarkable...'Tell a dream, lose a reader,' Henry James pronounces, but Müller provides exceptions to the rule. Here, dreams become extensions of life, or life itself is a dream; they are cut, at any rate, from one and the same fabric, consistently lurid and terrifying. Witchery in the form of 'melon blood' is used to capture men's affections. A tiger-striped cat has eaten her annual litter of kittens for years. We see a living man with a hatchet blade stuck in his skull. This is the reality of Ceausescu's Romania, where Adina attempts to survive. No nightmare could be worse.
“The Fox Was Ever the Hunter feels like a documentary novel, but reads like poetry. In 33 chapters, the book spirals gently outward. Here are the jobless fishing in a corpse-lined river, children roped into the tomato harvest but punished for eating any fruit themselves. Here are factory workers, copulating standing up in the shadows, desperate for warmth ... In most books, especially novels written in the West, narrative tension tends to derive from forward momentum, from evolution. In The Fox Was Ever The Hunter, that machinery has been turned inward to create pressure. Propulsion comes from what happens when people are living a life that feels increasingly untenable.
Müller slowly builds suspense as she draws on memories of the stark landscape, the personal betrayals, the state brutality, the daily dread and tedium. Her prose—as poetic as it is blunt—works like a prism, shattering and illuminating a world that is always watching, waiting. 'Everything that shines also sees,' runs a refrain in this dark collage, which glints with fear—and with beauty.