Herta Mueller wins Nobel Literature Prize
STOCKHOLM — German author Herta Mueller won the 2009 Nobel Literature Prize on Thursday for her work inspired by her life under Nicolae Ceausescu’s dictatorship in Romania.
The Nobel jury hailed Mueller, 56, as a writer who “with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed.”
Mueller was born in a German-speaking region of Romania and fled the country two years before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. She has long been rumoured to be a candidate for the award which comes just ahead of the 20th anniversary of the collapse of communism. Herta Mueller: profile.
The permanent secretary of the Academy, Peter Englund, described Mueller as “a great artist of words,” as he motivated the institution’s choice to Swedish Radio.
“One can say that her work is a combination of on the one side a fantastic language — she’s very distinctive, you need only read half a page to realise this is Herta Mueller — and it’s composition, it’s short sentences, full of imagery, and it’s also her extreme precision and how she uses the language.”
The grim daily life under Ceausescu’s oppressive regime and the harsh treatment of Romanian Germans has featured strongly in her works. Corruption, intolerance and repression are also major themes in her writing.
Englund said Mueller “has a story to tell. And it’s not just about daily life in a dictatorship, it’s also about being an outsider.”
“Being outside the language of the majority, being outside the history that has befallen you, even being outside your own family. And then to change countries and realise that it doesn’t change all of this,” he added.
“It’s a very, very strong story.”
Mueller was born on August 17, 1953 in western Romania in 1953 to parents of the German-speaking minority. Her father was in the Nazi SS during World War II and the Romanian communists deported her mother to a labour camp in Soviet Ukraine after the war.
Mueller was sacked from her first job as a translator in the 1970s after refusing to work for Ceausescu’s hated Securitate secret police.
She then devoted her life to literature. Her first collection of short stories, “Niederungen”, in 1982 — published as “Nadirs” in English — was censored by the Romanian regime and only published in full two years later in Germany after being smuggled out.
Mueller depicted the exile of German Romanians in the Soviet Union in her latest novel “Atemschaukel” from 2009.
She fled Romania for Germany in 1987, after being prohibited from publishing in her country, and it was then that she was fully discovered in the literary world.
Her major novels include “The Passport”, published in 1986 in Germany and translated in 1989, as well as “The Appointment”, translated in 2001, which describes the anxiety of a woman summoned by the Securitate.
Ioan Mascovescu, mayor of the Romanian village of Nitchidorf where Mueller came from, said that the house where she was born is now state property but she still owned land she had inherited there, though she never visited.
In a 2007 article for German daily Frankfurter Rundschau, Mueller described Ceausescu, who was shot dead at the end of an uprising, as “a parvenu with water taps and gold cutlery with a real weakness for palaces.”
She said Romania had developed “collective amnesia” over its repressive past.
“They’re pretending that it disappeared into thin air, the whole country is afflicted by collective amnesia. 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,” she wrote.
Mueller follows French author Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio in winning the Nobel diploma, medal and 10 million kronor (1.42 million dollars, 980,000 euros). In 2007 it went to Doris Lessing of Britain. Recent winners of the prize.
She is the 12th woman to win a Nobel Literature Prize. Female winners of the prize
After the main science awards this week, the Peace Prize will be announced on Friday, and the Economics Prize will wrap up the awards on Monday.
The formal prize ceremonies in Stockholm and Oslo will be held as tradition dictates on December 10, the anniversary of the death in 1896 of the prize’s creator, Swedish industrialist and inventor of dynamite Alfred Nobel.
The prizes were first awarded in 1901.
On the Net:
* Nobel Literature Prize: //nobelprize.org/