The protagonist of Herta Muller's Traveling on One Leg is Irene, a fragile woman born to a German family in Romania, who has recently emigrated from Romania to Germany. The novel focuses on Irene's relationship with three men: Franz, whom she met in Romania and who was unwilling to respond to her love for him; Stefan, a friend of Franz's; and Thomas, a bisexual bookseller in perpetual crisis.
Despite being born to a German family, Irene's place in Germany is as a recent emigre and an unassimilated Romanian German. She feels neither longing for Romania nor any comfort in her newly adopted Germany. Politically and socially isolated, Irene moves within the emotional orbit of these three men, while at the same time moving between West Berlin, Marburg, and Frankfurt, taking a dissonant journey within strange yet familiar territory.
Characterized by the same sense of profound isolation found in Muller's The Land of Green Plums (see page 20), Traveling on One Leg is a poignant exploration of exile, homeland, and identity.