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2009-10-08 | |
Romanian-born German novelist, essayist and poet Herta Müller has been named winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Literature. She was praised by the judges for depicting the “landscape of the dispossessed” with “the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose”.
Herta Müller was announced as winner of the award at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm this afternoon, Thursday 8 October 2009. She becomes only the 12th woman to have won the Nobel since it launched in 1901. Worth 10 million Swedish kronor (£895,000), the Nobel is awarded to “the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”, as described in Alfred Nobel’s will of 1895.
Born in Romania in 1953, Herta Müller refused to cooperate with Ceausescu’s Securitate, lost her job as a teacher and was the subject of repeated threats until she emigrated in 1987 with her husband, writer Richard Wagner. She now lives in Berlin, where she has been the recipient of a multitude of literary awards, including Germany’s most prestigious, the Kleist prize. This award was given for her novel ‘The Land of Green Plums’ which presents the story of five young Romanians living under Ceausescu’s dictatorship. The author pointed out the fact that the novel was written “in memory of my Romanian friends who were killed under the Ceausescu regime”.
Although she left Romania over 20 years ago, Herta Müller returns constantly to the themes of oppression, exile and dictatorship in her novels and poems. She has once declared that “the most overwhelming experience for me was living under the dictatorial regime in Romania. And simply living in Germany, hundreds of kilometres away, does not erase my past experience. I packed up my past when I left, and remember that dictatorships are still a current topic in Germany”.
Herta Müller made her debut in Romania in 1982 with a collection of short stories entitled ‘Niederungen’, which was promptly censored by the authorities but was met with great interest in Germany. ‘Der Mensch ist ein grosser Fasan auf der Welt ’ (1986), published in English as ‘The Passport’ by Serpent’s Tail editors (1989), follows the story of a miller in a German-speaking Romanian village who tries to leave for West Germany. Other English translations are: ‘The Land of Green Plums’ (1996), ‘Travelling on One Leg’ (1998), ‘Nadirs’ (1999), and ‘The Appointment’ (2001).
Müller’s latest novel ‘Atemschaukel’ was published in August, and follows the story of a 17-year-old boy who is deported to a Soviet labour camp. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung called it “phenomenal, moving and humbling novel, perhaps the most memorable read of the autumn”.
The Nobel Prize winner is selected by 18 members of the Swedish Academy, who receive around 200 nominations at the start of the year, whittling this down to a secret shortlist of five and then choosing their winner, who must receive more than half of the votes cast. Herta Müller becomes its 106th winner.
NOTE: the information was taken from releases in The Guardian, BBC News, and press agencies’ releases.
Source: The Romanian Cultural Centre in London.
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