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German author wins Nobel Literature Prize

The Local · 8 Oct 2009, 15:25

Published: 08 Oct 2009 15:25 GMT+02:00

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In the words of the Swedish Academy, Müller "with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed".

Born in 1953 in a German-speaking enclave in Romania, she emigrated to Germany in 1987. Her mother spent five years in a work camp in present-day Ukraine and her father served in the Waffen SS during World War II.

One of her most recent works, Atemschaukel (2009), portrayed the exile of German Romanians in the Soviet Union, where many German Romanians were deported at the end of the war.

In the mid 1970s, Müller studied German and Romanian literature at university in Timişoara, during which time she was linked with Aktionsgruppe Banat, a circle of young German-speaking authors who opposed Ceauşescu’s dictatorship.

She later worked at a factory, but was fired after refusing to work as an informant for the secret police.

Müller made her literary debut in 1982 with Niederungen, a collection of short stories, which was censored in Romania. She released an uncensored version in Germany two years later, while at the same time publishing a second book, Drückender Tango, in Romania.

The two works depicted life in a secluded German-speaking village, detailing the corruption and oppression that came with it.

While criticized in her own country, Müller was received warmly by the German press.

Story continues below…

In the 1990s, Müller published several more novels which highlighted the challenges and despair of life in a dictatorship.

She currently lives in Berlin, and since 1995 has served as a member of the Germany Academy for Language and Literature (Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung).

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

13:27 October 8, 2009 by ghostwriter
The posters above me are needs to get their head-checked.

You debate the validity of this prize without even mentioning the "chemistry" or what the scientists have accomplished.

Great brainstorming there guys.

Whatever your flags are doing to you - it's nothing good.
14:53 October 8, 2009 by ladyluck37
This was a GREAT choice this year! The German-Romanian minority in Romania is not a group you hear about a lot, so it's good to read someone that is representing what this population went through under Ceausescu (and beyond).
15:09 October 8, 2009 by ghostwriter
ooops, wrong article
16:23 October 8, 2009 by peropaco
Congratulation to Herta Müller for her work.

@ladyluck37. I did not know the Waffen SS accepted people of inferior blood in their army. She is the daughter of a nazi soldier, nothing to do with her as a person, as she is not guilty for the wrongs of her father. Still, I hardly consider her to be a minority.
16:23 October 8, 2009 by entry
Ladyluck you nailed it. I might be a little biased as my father was born in Satu Mare in the German-Romanian community. My grandmother did not use kind words on the few occasions she mentioned Ceausescu.
17:26 October 8, 2009 by ladyluck37
@ peropaco: I'm not sure what your comment about her father has to do with her winning the prize or her being from a minority group. The German-Romanian population is a minority in Romania, just as the Hungarian-Romanian population is. I have never met anyone who has disputed that. German enclaves have existed for many years in Romania (and what was previously Hungary). These people are ethnically German (speaking German, retaining German culture) but born within Romanian territory.

Perhaps the reason you did not know they were accepted into the SS was because you are not aware of the 1943 and 1944 arrangements between German and Romania. In 1943, ethnic Germans in Romania and Hungary were allowed to transfer from their respective militaries to SS units, and often their families were threatened if they didn't. The next year they were required to perform German military service.

This is all besides my original point. My intent was to show that this a population of people who many do not know exist, so it's nice that Müller can draw attention to them while also commenting about life under communism as a whole.
18:45 October 8, 2009 by Angst
The Nobel literature prize is not about politically correctness.

What about her literary merit compared with other candidates?
21:25 October 8, 2009 by bettan1
Sounds like the book should have been titled "Lebensraum".

Nice to see it went to a Nordic cousin.

Who says family blood ties don't matter ?
01:57 October 9, 2009 by Dimetrodon61
Comment to bettan1: Remember Kenzaburo Oe and Wole Soylinka? They got the literature prize too, despite being non-aryans. As I see it, the reason Müller was picked instead of other equally deserving authors is about ."..[depicting] the landscape of the dispossessed" -and considering the numbers of refugees all over the world today, this probably tipped the Academy in her favor.
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