Herta Müller, Romanian-born German novelist, poet and essayist noted for her works depicting the harsh conditions of life in Communist Romania under the repressive Nicolae Ceauşescu regime, won the Nobel Prize for Literature.She is the 12th woman to get this prize.
The Swedish Academy described Ms. Müller, “who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed.”
The Romanian born author is renowned for her books based on life under the harsh regime of the dictator Ceausescu.Mueller was born in 1953 in the German-speaking town of Nitzkydorf in Romania. Her parents were members of the German-speaking minority in Romania. Her father served in the Waffen SS during World War II. After the war ended, her mother was deported to a work camp in the Soviet Union for five years.
Mueller studied German and Romanian literature at university and became involved with the Aktionsgruppe Banat, a group of German speaking writers who opposed Ceaucescu’s dictatorship and sought freedom of speech. After university she worked as a translator but lost her job after refusing to cooperate with the secret police, the Securitate.
Mueller made her writing debut with the collection of short stories Niederungen in 1982. It was censored in Romania but was smuggled out of the country to be published in Germany two years later. That year she also published her first novel Druckender Tango. Her books focused on the tough daily life under Ceausescu’s regime and the harsh treatment of Romanian Germans. Corruption, intolerance and repression are major themes in her writing.
She was criticised by the Romanian press but her books did well in Germany. Because Mueller had publicly criticised the dictatorship in Romania, she was banned from publishing in the country.
It was when she emigrated in 1987 that she became known to wider literary world. She moved to Berlin with her husband the author Richard Wagner. Communist-era leader Nicolae Ceausescu, was leader of Romania from 1965 until he was overthrown and killed in a revolution in 1989.
Romania suffered extreme shortages of food, fuel, energy and medicines under his dictatorship. He used the feared secret police to control his people.
In a 2007 article for the German daily Frankfurter Rundschau Mueller said Romania had developed “collective amnesia” over its past: “They’re pretending that it disappeared into thin air… even though it was home to the most abstruse dictatorship in eastern Europe and after Stalin, the most evil dictator, with a personality cult to rival North Korea’s.”
Her 1996 novel The Land Of The Green Plums won the German Kleist and the Irish IMPAC award, the richest literary prize in the world.
The book is about a group of friends who become targets of the secret police. Mueller wrote the book after the death of two of her friends, in which she suspected the secret police’s involvement. The writer has said she felt it was her “duty” to write it “in memory of my Romanian friends who were killed under the Ceausescu regime”. She based a central character on one of her closest friends from the Aktionsgruppe Banat. After Mueller moved to Berlin she told the Guardian newspaper her friend visited her and admitted she had been sent by the secret police to warn her to stop criticising the Ceausescu regime. She also said the friend made a copy of the keys to her apartment, to give to the Securitate.
She has written 19 books mostly in German but some works have been translated into English, French and Spanish.
Her latest book Atemschaukel depicts the exile of German Romanians in the Soviet Union. It is up for this year’s German Book Prize, which will be announced on Monday.
Complete List of her Works (from here) –
- Niederungen, short stories, censored version published in Bucharest 1982. Uncensored version published in Germany 1984. Published in English as Nadirs in 1999 by the University of Nebraska Press.
- Drückender Tango (“Oppressive Tango”), stories, Bucharest 1984
- Der Mensch ist ein großer Fasan auf der Welt, Berlin 1986. Published in English as The Passport, Serpent’s Tail, 1989 ISBN 9781852421397
- Barfüßiger Februar (“Barefoot February”), Berlin 1987
- Reisende auf einem Bein, Berlin 1989. Published in English as Traveling on One Leg, Hydra Books/Northwestern University Press, 1992.
- Wie Wahrnehmung sich erfindet (“How Perception Invents Itself”), Paderborn 1990
- Der Teufel sitzt im Spiegel (“The Devil is Sitting in the Mirror”), Berlin 1991
- Der Fuchs war damals schon der Jäger (“Even Back Then, the Fox Was the Hunter), Reinbek by Hamburg 1992
- Eine warme Kartoffel ist ein warmes Bett (“A Warm Potato Is a Warm Bed), Hamburg 1992
- Der Wächter nimmt seinen Kamm (“The Guard Takes His Comb”), Reinbek by Hamburg 1993
- Angekommen wie nicht da (“Arrived As If Not There”), Lichtenfels 1994
- Herztier, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1994. Published in an English translation by Michael Hofmann as The Land of Green Plums, Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company, New York, 1996
- Hunger und Seide (“Hunger and Silk”), essays, Reinbek by Hamburg 1995
- In der Falle (“In a Trap”), Göttingen 1996
- Heute wär ich mir lieber nicht begegnet, Reinbek by Hamburg 1997. Published in English as The Appointment, Metropolitan Books/Picador, New York/London 2001
- Der fremde Blick oder das Leben ist ein Furz in der Laterne (“The Foreign View, or Life Is a Fart in a Lantern”), Göttingen 1999
- Im Haarknoten wohnt eine Dame (“A Lady Lives in the Hair Knot”), poetry, Reinbek by Hamburg 2000
- Heimat ist das, was gesprochen wird (“Home Is What Is Spoken There”), Blieskastel 2001
- Der König verneigt sich und tötet (“The King Bows and Kills), essays, Munich (and elsewhere) 2003
- Die blassen Herren mit den Mokkatassen (“The Pale Gentlemen with their Espresso Cups”), Munich (and elsewhere) 2005
- Atemschaukel, Munich 2009