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Herta Muller Profile

Herta Müller

2009 Nobel Prize Winning Writer

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BIO

Winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Fiction, Herta Müller is a highly prolific novelist and essayist whose works portray the human destruction of the Romanian dictatorship and the rootlessness of the political exile.

 

Müller’s works are characterized by pure, poetic language and metonymic metaphors that recur and evolve throughout her tales. The oppressiveness of theme is alleviated by the beauty of her prose and the flashes of humor behind some of her imagery.

 

Many of Müller’s works reflect aspects of her own history. She won the 2009 Nobel Prize for Literature with her novel The Appointment,  a portrayal of life as a young factory worker in Communist Romania. Her latest novel, The Hunger Angel, explores the physical and moral absurdity of life in a Soviet Union labor camp. It has been hailed as “exquisite” by the New Yorkerand a “masterpiece” by Financial Times.

 

 

Through words and actions Müller continues to demonstrate her independence from the dogma of church and state. She has been an outspoken critic of those East German writers who collaborated with the secret police, and has recently withdrawn from P.E.N. as a protest against its decision to merge with its former DDR branch. She has won a dozen literary prizes, including the Marieluise-Fleißer Prize (1990), the Kranichsteiner Literary Prize (1991), the Kleist Prize (1994), and the European Literary Prize “Aristeion” (1995).

 

She was born in August 1953 in the German-speaking village of Nitzkydorf, in the Banat district of Romania. She left her village to study German and Romanian literature at the University of Timisoara. Here she became part of the Aktionsgruppe Banat, a group of idealistic Romanian-German writers seeking freedom of expression under the Ceaucescu dictatorship. After completing her studies she was employed as a translator in a machine factory, until she was fired for refusing to cooperate with the secret police. During this time she wrote the short stories that make up the collection Niederungen, but she had difficulty satisfying the censors, and this work was not published until 1982, and then in radically modified form. Niederungen was followed two years later by Drückender Tango. In these two works Müller depicted the hypocrisy of village life and its ruthless oppression of nonconformists. She portrayed the zealously fascist mentality of the German minority, its intolerance and corruption. Not surprisingly, she was sharply criticized at home for destroying the idyllic image of German rural life in Romania.

Müller was working as a teacher when her uncensored manuscript of Niederungen was smuggled to the west and published by the Rotbuch Verlag to instant critical acclaim. After a trip to the Frankfurt book fair, where she spoke out publicly against the Romanian dictatorship, she was forbidden to publish in Romania. She continued to write, however, even as her situation in Romania became more and more intolerable. In 1987 she emigrated to the West with her husband, Richard Wagner. Since then, she has been living in Berlin.


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BOOKS

Hardcover
Metropolitan Books

A masterful new novel from the winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize, hailed for depicting the "landscape of the dispossessed" with "the concentration of poetry and...
Trade Paperback
Picador

From the winner of the IMPAC Award and the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature, a fierce and devastating novel about a young woman's discovery of betrayal in the...
Trade Paperback
Picador

Set in Romania at the height of Ceauescu's reign of terror, The Land of Green Plums tells the story of a group of young people who leave the impoverished...

SPEECHES

An Evening with Herta Muller: The 2009 Nobel Prize winner discusses her writing, her life, and more.


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RECENT VIDEOS

  • Landscape of the Dispossessed: Reading & Evening with Herta Müller

REVIEWS

Praise for The Hunger Angel "Wry and poetic, and Müller's evocative language makes the abstract concrete as her narrator's sanity is stretched...Boehm's translation preserves the integrity of Müller's gorgeous prose, and Leo's despondent reveries are at once tragic and engrossing."
Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"Written in terse, hypnotic prose...exquisite."
The New Yorker

“A wonderful, passionate, poetic work of literature...Herta Muller is a writer who releases great emotional power through a highly sophisticated, image studded, and often expressionistic prose.” 
—Neal Ascherson, The New York Review of Books   “This is not just a good novel, it is a great one… Müller is through and through a stylist. Her novel is written in a taut idiomatic German, which breaks into paragraphs of wrenching, Rilkean lyricism...A masterpiece.” Financial Times

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