German depicts tyranny, wins Nobel Literature Prize

STOCKHOLM: German author Herta Mueller won the 2009 Nobel Literature Prize today for her work inspired by her life under Nicolae Ceausescu’s dictatorship in Romania.

The Nobel jury hailed Mueller, 56, as a writer who “with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed.” Mueller was born in a German-speaking region of Romania and fled the country two years before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. She has long been rumoured to be a candidate for the award which comes just ahead of the 20th anniversary of the collapse of communism.

The permanent secretary of the Academy, Peter Englund, described Mueller as “a great artist

of words,” as he motivated the 223-year-old institution’s choice to Swedish Radio.

“One can say that her work is a combination of on the one side a fantastic language — she’s very distinctive, you need only read half a page to realise this is Herta Mueller — and it’s composition, it’s short sentences, full of imagery, and it’s also her extreme precision and how she uses the language.” The grim daily life under Ceausescu’s oppressive regime and the harsh treatment of Romanian Germans has featured strongly in her works. Corruption, intolerance and repression are also major themes in her writing.

Englund said Mueller “has a story to tell. And it’s not just about daily life in a dictatorship, it’s also about being an outsider.” “Being outside the language of the majority, being outside the history that has befallen you, even being outside your own family. And then to change countries and realise that it doesn’t change all of this,” he added. “It’s a very, very strong story.” Mueller was born on August 17, 1953 in western Romania in 1953 to parents of the German-speaking minority. Her 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.

Mueller was sacked from her first job as a translator in the 1970s after refusing to work for Ceausescu’s hated Securitate secret police.

She then devoted her life to literature. Her first collection of short stories, Niederungen, in 1982 — published as Nadirs in English — was censored by the Romanian regime and only published in full two years later in

Germany after being smuggled out. The prizes were first awarded in 1901.