Herta Müller [ Germany, Romania ]
Herta Mueller was born in 1953 in Nitzkydorf in Banat. Her family belonged to the German minority in Romania. From 1973 to 1976, she studied German and Romanian Philology at the West University in Timișoara. After completing her studies, she worked as a translator at a machine factory as well as a teacher until she was dismissed in 1979, because she refused to cooperate with the Romanian secret service, Securitate. She was the only woman in the »Adam Müller-Guttenbrunn« literary circle, which included Romanian-German authors who had been members of the so-called “Aktionsgruppe Banat”, which had been disbanded by Securitate.
Her first volume of stories »Niederungen« (Eng. Nadirs) presents the village life of the Swabians living in Banat in haunting scenes that oscillate between fear, hopelessness, corruption, misery and violence. The volume was only released in Romania in 1982 after radical interventions by the censors. In 1984, the stories were also published in Germany in revised form. Because of the criticism of Ceaușescu’s totalitarian regime she expressed in interviews, she was given a publication and travel ban in her home country, harassed by the secret service and subject to death threats. In 1987, she was finally able to travel to West Berlin. She dealt with her experiences of living in exile, being uprooted from her home and her loneliness in »Reisende auf einem Bein« (1989; Eng. Travelling on One Leg) among others. In addition to novels like »Herztier« (1994; Eng. The Land of Green Plums) and »Heute wär ich mir lieber nicht begegnet« (1997; Eng. The Appointment), she has also written many essays , some of which have been published in collections like »Der König verneigt sich und tötet« (2003; tr. The King Bows and Kills) and »Immer derselbe Schnee und immer derselbe Onkel« (2011; tr. Always the Same Snow and the Same Uncle). In addition, she has completed several albums with lyrical collages made up of words and syllables cut out of newspapers and books. In 2009, her novel »Atemschaukel« (Eng. The Hunger Angel), was released, based on discussions with poet Oskar Pastior about his deportation to a Soviet work camp. The text is marked by Mueller's powerfully eloquent style of presenting individual words and metaphors in extremely compact form. Most recently, she published her new volume of poetic collages »Vater telefoniert mit den Fliegen« (2012; tr. Father is Telephoning with the Flies).
In 2009, Herta Mueller was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. »The subject of dictatorship is necessarily present, because nothing can ever again be a matter of course once we have been robbed of nearly all ability to take anything for granted.«, she said in her Stockholm Address and told how she took up writing in a degrading and perfidious system: »What was happening could no longer be expressed in speech. [...] That I could only spell out in my head, voicelessly, within the vicious circle of the words during the act of writing.« She was also awarded the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (1998), the Berlin Literature Prize (2005) and the Order of Merit of the federal Republic of Germany (2010). In 2010, the exhibition »Der kalte Schmuck des Lebens« (tr. The cold jewels of life) designed by Ernest Wichner was dedicated to her. Herta Mueller lives in Berlin.