Herta Müller

Herta Müller

A German author of Romanian descent, one of the most acclaimed figures in contemporary German literature. She was born in a largely German-speaking village in the Romanian region of Banat. For this reason, her first language was German – only learned Romanian when she attended primary school. During the war, her father was a member of the Waffen SS, and after 1945, her mother was deported to the USSR, where members of the German minority from Romania were sent to do forced labour. She studied the German language and literature. She began her professional life as a translator of specialised texts at a factory, but after refusing to cooperate with the Romanian secret police she was dismissed. She supported herself by working in a kindergarten and giving private lessons in German. She debuted with a novel, Niederungen (Nadirs), published in 1982. The firsts edition was published in an abridged version, as the state censor was unwilling to agree to some passages. In 1987 she emigrated to Germany with her then husband, author Richard Wagner, where she still lives today. There, she taught at German universities and wrote. She has received recognition in the international arena, as is testified to by numerous translations of her works and her many awards (including the Kleist Prize in 1994, the European Aristeion Prize in 1995, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 1998, the Kafka Award in 1999, the Literature Prize of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in 2004). The author’s crowning moment of recognition came when she received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2009. Müller was distinguished as an author “who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed.” The following books by Müller have been published in Polish editions: Herztier [translated into English as The Land of Green Plumbs], Heute wär ich mir lieber nicht begegnet [The Appointment], Der Fuchs war damals schon der Jäger [Even Back Then, the Fox Was the Hunter], Der König verneigt sich und tötet [The King Bows and Kills], Niederungen [Nadirs], Der Mensch ist ein großer Fasan auf der Welt [Eng.: The Passport], Hunger und Seide [Hunger and Silk], and her latest Atemschaukel [Eng.: Everything I Possess I Carry With Me]. In The Land of the Green Plumbs, Müller depicts a tragic friendship and the nightmare of the Nicolae Ceaușescu dictatorship; the book is journey through Communist Romania. In The Appointment the Nobel laureate attempts to put on paper the destructive dependence between the victim and oppressor, and builds a chronicle of a friendship that allows life and love to survive in a time of dictatorship. The prose language of Müller is dense, full of riddles and sudden turns, suggestive, and richly expressive. In her collection of nine essays, The King Bows and Kills, we see the reflections of the essence of language as told by a person who has experienced the cruelty of dictatorship. In the novel, Even Back Then, The Fox Was the Hunter, the claustrophobic history of a society destroyed and demoralised by terror is told. These themes appear again in the book Everything I Possess I Carry With Me. In November 2010 she was a guest of the Second Joseph Conrad International Literature Festival. The meeting entitled Wszystko, co mam, noszę z sobą [Everything I Possess I Carry With Me] was one of the main points of programme. Picture: Ekko von Schwichow