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Herta Müller: Nobel prize in Literature 2009


Herta Müller was born on August 17, 1953 in the German-speaking town Nitzkydorf in Banat, Romania. Her parents were members of the German-speaking minority in Romania. Her father had served in the Waffen SS during World War II. Many German Romanians were deported to the Soviet Union in 1945, including Müller’s mother who spent five years in a work camp in present-day Ukraine. Many years later, in Atemschaukel (2009), Müller was to depict the exile of the German Romanians in the Soviet Union. From 1973 to 1976, Müller studied German and Romanian literature at the university in Timişoara (Temeswar). During this period, she was associated with Aktionsgruppe Banat, a circle of young German-speaking authors who, in opposition to Ceauşescu’s dictatorship, sought freedom of speech. After completing her studies, she worked as a translator at a machine factory from 1977 to 1979. She was dismissed when she refused to be an informant for the secret police. After her dismissal, she was harassed by Securitate.


Müller made her debut with the collection of short stories Niederungen (1982), which was censored in Romania. Two years later, she published the uncensored version in Germany and, in the same year, Drückender Tango in Romania. In these two works, Müller depicts life in a small, German-speaking village and the corruption, intolerance and repression to be found there. The Romanian national press was very critical of these works while, outside of Romania, the German press received them very positively. Because Müller had publicly criticized the dictatorship in Romania, she was prohibited from publishing in her own country. In 1987, Müller emigrated together with her husband, author Richard Wagner.

The novels Der Fuchs war damals schon der Jäger (1992), Herztier (1994; The Land of Green Plums, 1996) and Heute wär ich mir lieber nicht begegnet (1997; The Appointment, 2001) give, with chiselled details, a portrait of daily life in a stagnated dictatorship. Müller has given guest lectures at universities, colleges and other venues in Paderborn, Warwick, Hamburg, Swansea, Gainsville (Florida), Kassel, Göttingen, Tübingen and Zürich among other places. She lives in Berlin. Since 1995 she is a member of Deutsche für Sprache und Dichtung, in Darmstadt.



Although Müller has not publicly spoken at length on specific people or books that have influenced her on a literary level, she has attributed her roots to other sources. The most prominent of these would be her university studies in German and Romanian literature. When comparing the two languages, she notes that a simple concept such as a falling star can be interpreted so differently. "We’re not only speaking about different words, but about different worlds. [For example] Romanians see a falling star and say that someone has died, with the Germans you make a wish when you see the falling star." Müller also went on to say that Romanian folk music holds a special place in her heart. "When I first heard Maria Tanase she sounded incredible to me, it was for the first time that I really felt what folklore meant. Romanian folk music is connected to existence in a very meaningful way." [15]

Another strong source of influence would have been Müller’s husband, Richard Wagner. Their lives held remarkable parallels: both grew up in Romania as members of the Banat Swabian ethnic group and were enrolled in German and Romanian literary studies at Timişoara University. Upon graduating, they worked as German language teachers, and were members of Aktionsgruppe Banat, a literary society that fought for freedom of speech. Like his wife, Wagner is also a published novelist and essayist.

Müller’s involvement with Aktionsgruppe Banat would have also influenced the boldness with which she wrote, despite knowing about the threats and trouble she would receive from the Romanian secret police. Additionally, while her books are fictional, she did base them on real life happenings and people. One of the characters in her 1996 novel, The Land of Green Plums was based on a close friend from Aktionsgruppe Banat, and it was written after the deaths of two friends in which Müller suspected the secret police’s involvement. [16]

Works in German

Niederungen. – Bukarest : Kriterion-Verlag, 1982 ; Berlin : Rotbuch-Verlag, 1984

Drückender Tango : Erzählungen. – Bukarest : Kriterion-Verlag, 1984 ; Reinbek bei Hamburg : Rowohlt, 1996

Der Mensch ist ein groβer Fasan auf der Welt : Roman. – Berlin : Rotbuch-Verlag, 1986

Barfüβiger Februar : Prosa. – Berlin : Rotbuch-Verlag, 1987

Reisende auf einem Bein. – Berlin : Rotbuch-Verlag, 1989

Der Teufel sitzt im Spiegel. – Berlin : Rotbuch-Verlag, 1991

Der Fuchs war damals schon der Jäger : Roman. – Reinbek bei Hamburg : Rowohlt, 1992

Eine warme Kartoffel ist ein warmes Bett. – Hamburg : Europäische Verlagsanstalt, 1992

Der Wächter nimmt seinen Kamm : vom Weggehen und Ausscheren. – Reinbek bei Hamburg : Rowohlt, 1993

Herztier : Roman. – Reinbek bei Hamburg : Rowohlt, 1994

Hunger und Seide : Essays. – Reinbek bei Hamburg : Rowohlt, 1995

In der Falle. – Göttingen : Wallstein-Verlag, 1996

Heute wär ich mir lieber nicht begegnet. – Reinbek bei Hamburg : Rowohlt, 1997

Der fremde Blick oder Das Leben ist ein Furz in der Laterne. – Göttingen : Wallstein-Verlag, 1999

Im Haarknoten wohnt eine Dame. – Reinbek bei Hamburg : Rowohlt, 2000

Heimat ist das, was gesprochen wird. – Blieskastel : Gollenstein, 2001

Der König verneigt sich und tötet. – München : Hanser, 2003

Die blassen Herren mit den Mokkatassen. – München : Hanser, 2005

Atemschaukel : Roman. – München : Hanser, 2009


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

Nadirs / translated and with an afterword by Sieglinde Lug. – Lincoln, NE : University of Nebraska Press, 1999. – Translation of Niederungen

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


Works in French

L’homme est un grand faisan sur terre / traduit de l’allemand par Nicole Bary. – Paris : Maren Sell, 1988. – Traduction de: Der Mensch ist ein groβer Fasan auf der Welt

Le renard était déjà le chasseur / traduit de l’allemand par Claire de Oliveira. – Paris : Seuil, 1997. – Traduction de: Der Fuchs war damals schon der Jäger

La convocation / traduit de l’allemand par Claire de Oliveira. – Paris : Métailié, 2001. – Traduction de: Heute wär ich mir lieber nicht begegnet

Works in Spanish

En tierras bajas / traducción del alemán de Juan José del Solar. – Madrid : Siruela, 1990. – Traducción de: Niederungen

El hombre es un gran faisán en el mundo / traducción del alemán de Juan José del Solar. – Madrid : Siruela, 1992. – Traducción de: Der Mensch ist ein groβer Fasan auf der Welt

La piel del zorro / traducción de Juan José del Solar. – Barcelona : Plaza & Janés, 1996. – Traducción de: Der Fuchs war damals schon der Jäger

La bestia del corazón / traducción de Bettina Blanch Tyroller. – Barcelona : Mondadori, 1997. – Traducción de: Herztier

Works in Swedish

Flackland / översättning av Susanne Widén-Swartz. – Stockholm : Alba, 1985. – Originaltitel: Niederungen

Människan är en stor fasan på jorden : en berättelse / översättning av Karin Löfdahl. – Stockholm : Alba, 1987. – Originaltitel: Der Mensch ist ein groβer Fasan auf der Welt

Barfota februari : berättelser / översättning av Karin Löfdahl. – Stockholm : Alba, 1989. – Originaltitel: Barfüβiger Februar

Resande på ett ben / översättning av Karin Löfdahl. – Stockholm : Alba, 1991. – Originaltitel: Reisende auf einem Bein

Redan då var räven jägare / översättning av Karin Löfdahl. – Stockholm : Bonnier Alba, 1994. – Originaltitel: Der Fuchs war damals schon der Jäger

Hjärtdjur / översättning av Karin Löfdahl. – Stockholm : Bonnier Alba, 1996. – Originaltitel: Herztier

Kungen bugar och dödar / översättning: Karin Löfdahl. – Stockholm : Wahlström & Widstrand, 2005 – Originaltitel: Der König verneigt sich und tötet

Idag hade jag helst inte velat träffa mig själv / översättning: Karin Löfdahl. – Stockholm : Wahlström & Widstrand, 2007 – Originaltitel: Heute wär ich mir lieber nicht begegnet

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Selected Criticism

Die erfundene Wahrnehmung : Annäherung an Herta Müller / Norbert Otto Eke (Hg.). – Paderborn : Igel, 1991

Der Druck der Erfahrung treibt die Sprache in die Dichtung : Bildlichkeit in Texten Herta Müllers / Ralph Köhnen (Hrsg.). – Frankfurt am Main : Lang, 1997

Herta Müller / edited by Brigid Haines. – Cardiff : University of Wales, 1998

Predoiu, Grazziella, Faszination und Provokation bei Herta Müller : eine thematische und motivische Auseinandersetzung. – Frankfurt am Main : Lang, 2000

Dascalu, Bogdan Mihai, Held und Welt in Herta Müllers Erzählungen. – Hamburg : Kovac, 2004

Bozzi, Paola, Der fremde Blick : zum Werk Herta Müllers. – Würzburg : Königshausen & Neumann, 2005

Patrut, Iulia-Karin, Schwarze SchwesterTeufelsjunge : Ethnizität und Geschlecht bei Paul Celan und Herta Müller. – Köln : Böhlau, 2006




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2 Responses

  1. rusnac says:



  2. […] Hera Muller 12/16/2009 anju30 Leave a comment Go to comments Herta Müller: Nobel prize in Literature 2009 […]


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