Herta Müller: 2009 - Literature

Herta Müller

Year & Category

2009 Nobel Prize in Literature

Prize motivation

She is a writer “who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed”

About her work

Herta Müller’s work has been strongly influenced by her experience of the depths of dictatorship and state terror. In her first work she describes life marked by a climate of oppression in a small German-speaking village in Romania. The prose collection Niederungen (Nadirs, 1982) was published in Romania in censored form. In 1984 the original version of her book appeared in Germany. Afterwards she was no longer allowed to publish in Romania and was repeatedly the subject of interrogations, house searches and threats.

Autobiographical and political

In 1987 she emigrated to Germany, where she has lived in Berlin ever since. However, autobiographical experiences from the time of the Ceauşescu regime have continued to influence her books. In her 1994 novel Herztier (The Land of Green Plums) a group of young people use poetry to fight back against state tyranny. In Atemschaukel (Everything I Possess I Carry With Me), the novel published shortly before she was awarded the Nobel Prize, the author describes the fate of ethnic German Romanians who were deported to the Soviet Union. Again the great coiner of words allows language to stand up against oppression. Also politically significant is her campaign for the establishment of an exile museum to remember the writers who were forced to leave Germany by the Nazis.

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