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Nobel Prize Goes to Herta Mueller

The Romanian-born German writer has won the Nobel prize in Literature for 2009. "The Swedish Academy said Thursday that Ms. Mueller, 'with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed.'" - reads the October 8th morning edition of The New York Times.

Born in 1953 in a German-speaking village in Banat, Romania, Mueller fled the country for Germany in 1987, after being prohibited from publishing in Romania. She has been a longstanding candidate for the award which comes just ahead of the 20th anniversary of the collapse of communism.

Mueller's 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. She lost her first job as a teacher after refusing to cooperate with Ceausescu’s Securitate, and was the subject of repeated threats until she emigrated in 1987 with her husband, writer Richard Wagner. She now lives in Berlin, where she has been the recipient of a multitude of literary awards, including Germany’s most prestigious, the Kleist prize. This award was given for her novel "The Land of Green Plums" which presents the story of five young Romanians living under Ceausescu’s dictatorship. The author said that she wrote this novel “in memory of my Romanian friends who were killed under the Ceausescu regime."

Although she left Romania over 20 years ago, Herta Mueller returns constantly to the themes of oppression, exile and dictatorship in her novels and poems. "The most overwhelming experience for me was living under the dictatorial regime in Romania," Mueller has once declared. "And simply living in Germany, hundreds of kilometres away, does not erase my past experience. I packed up my past when I left, and remember that dictatorships are still a current topic in Germany."

Mueller made her debut with the collection of short stories "Niederungen" or "Nadirs" (1982), which was censored in Romania. Two years later, she published the uncensored version in Germany and, in the same year, ''Oppressive Tango'' in Romania. The novels "Der Fuchs war damals schon der Jäger" / "The Passport" (1992), "Herztier"/ "The Land of Green Plums" (1994) and "Heute wär ich mir lieber nicht begegnet"/ "The Appointment" (1997), all translated into English, give, with chiselled details, a portrait of daily life in a stagnated dictatorship.

Published in August, Mueller latest novel, "Atemschaukel"/ "Everything I Possess, I Carry with Me" follows a 17-year-old boy who is deported to a Ukrainian labour camp, and is now up for this year's German Book Prize, which will be announced Monday. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung called it a "phenomenal, moving and humbling novel, perhaps the most memorable read of the autumn".

''I am very surprised and still can not believe it,'' Mueller said in a statement released by her publisher in Germany, where she is widely renowned. ''I can't say anything more at the moment."


[This material is based on releases by AFP, The New York Times, The Guardian, and BBC]


WORKS IN ENGLISH 

The Passport / translated by Martin Chalmers. – London : Serpent's Tail, 1989. – Translation of Der Mensch ist ein großer Fasan auf der Welt

The Land of Green Plums / translated by Michael Hofmann. – New York: Metropolitan Books, 1996. – Translation of Herztier

Traveling on One Leg / translated from the German by Valentina Glajar and André Lefevere. – Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1998. – Translation of Reisende auf einem Bein

The Appointment / translated by Michael Hulse and Philip Boehm. – New York : Metropolitan Books, 2001. – Translation of Heute wär ich mir lieber nicht begegnet



THU, October 8th, 2009
Nobel Prize in Literature

 

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