Herta Müller

Herta Müller, writer
Writer Herta Müller, 2000
© akg-images / photograph: Doris Poklekowski

Herta Müller

Ich war so lange im Exil, bis Ceaușescu gestürzt ist. Das war [19]89. Ich war von [19]87 bis [19]89 im Exil und seither bin ich nicht im Exil. […] Ich bleibe hier, weil ich hier sein will, weil ich nicht nach Rumänien zurück möchte...

[I was in exile for so long, until Ceaușescu was overthrown. That was in [19]89. I was in exile from [19]87 to [19]89 and since then I have no longer been in exile. […] I am staying here, because I want to be here, because I don’t want to return to Romania...(ed. trans.)]

Herta Müller in an interview with Sylvia Asmus and Jochanan Shelliemam, 26 July 2013

Bornon 17 August 1953 in Nițchidorf, Romania
ExileFederal Republic of Germany

After her studies in German and Romanian Philology, the writer Herta Müller worked as a translator in a machine works. As she refused to cooperate with the Securitate secret service, she was fired in 1979. Reprisals, threats and slander became part of her everyday life from then on.

At the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s, Müller was associated with the Banat Action Group, which opposed the Ceaușescu regime. Her first publications date from this period and they led to heated controversies, above all amongst her own compatriots – a Romanian-German minority, the Banater Swabians.

The experience of violence, the loss of dignity and homelessness form a common thread of thinking through almost all the writer’s texts. She created a form of memory art in which documentary objectivity and poetic language complement each other. For her, in the light of her experience with the secret service, according to her own statements, life and writing could not be thought of independently of one another.

In 1987, Herta Müller left for Germany and went into exile, as she expressly emphasised. In her confrontation with the theme of exile, she advocated again and again making the experience of exile visible in the public sphere: “There are indeed commemorative plaques for individual artists, but no large place for the memory of exile, of the Germans driven out as early as 1933”, she wrote in her essay Herzwort und Kopfwort (Der Spiegel, 21. Januar 2013).

Herta Müller was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2009.

In an open letter „Menschen fallen aus Deutschland“ to Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2011 she pleaded for the idea of a “Museum of Exile”.

Selected works:
Niederungen (prose, 1982), censored version, Bucharest
Nadirs (orig.: Niederungen, prose, 1984), complete version, Berlin
Travelling on One Leg (orig.: Reisende auf einem Bein, novel, 1989)
The Land of the green Plums (orig.: Herztier, novel, 1994)
Der König verneigt sich und tötet (novel, 2003)
The Hunger Angel (orig.: Atemschaukel, novel, 2009)
Immer derselbe Schnee und immer derselbe Onkel (essays, 2011)

Further reading:
Arnold, Heinz Ludwig (Hg.): Wenn wir schweigen, werden wir unangenehm – wenn wir reden, werden wir lächerlich. Kann Literatur Zeugnis ablegen? In: Zeitschrift für Literatur. Themenheft Herta Müller, München: edition text + kritik, Nr. 155, Heft 7/2002
Müller, Herta: Lebensangst und Worthunger. Im Gespräch mit Michael Lentz. Leipziger Poetikvorlesung 2009. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 2010