Herta Müller is the 2009 Nobel Laureate in Literature
October 8, 2009 4:10 AM   Subscribe

This year's Nobel Laureate in Literature is Romanian born author Herta Müller, who writes in German, as predicted yesterday by M. A. Orthofer of The Complete Review and Literary Saloon. Here's an interview with Herta Müller and a short bio.
posted by Kattullus (38 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well I've learnt something new today, namely that Herta Müller is, in fact, an acclaimed author and not a hot dog and yoghurt company.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:17 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


She's a great author. Her book, "The Passport," about a Saxon family in Ceausescu-era Romania is a brilliant bit of poetic prose. I thought she was fairly obscure, but this award implies she's (deservedly) better-known than I'd imagined.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 4:25 AM on October 8, 2009


Article by Herta Müller about her dealings with Securitate, the Romanian intelligence agency and a New York Time review from 1996 of her novel The Land of Green Plums. Excerpt from the article about Securitate:
The three years at the tractor factory Tehnometal where I was a translator are missing. I translated the manuals for machines imported from the GDR, Austria and Switzerland. For two years I sat with four bookkeepers in the office. They worked out the wages of the workers, I turned the pages of my fat technical dictionaries. I didn't understand the first thing about hydraulic or non-hydraulic presses, levers or gauges. When the dictionary offered three, four, or even seven terms, I went out onto the factory floor and asked the workers. They told me the correct Romanian word without any knowledge of German – they knew their machines. In the third year a "protocol office" was established. The company director moved me there to work alongside two newly employed translators, one from French, the other from English. One was the wife of a university professor who, even in my student days, was said to be a Securitate informant. The other was the daughter-in-law of the second most senior secret service officer in town. Only those two had the key to the file cupboard. When foreign professionals visited, I had to leave the office. Then, apparently, I was to be put through two recruitment tests with the secret police officer Stana, to be made suitable for the office. After my second refusal, his goodbye was: "You'll be sorry, we'll drown you in the river. "
posted by Kattullus at 4:29 AM on October 8, 2009


From the Complete Review's site:

Visits from the Swedish Academy (who select the Nobel laureate) aren't that unusual, but more than one in close succession is -- and this indicates someone there was mailing around the (well, a) link. It's impossible to know whether they were just keeping track of Nobel coverage, laughing at how off-base my comments were -- or expressing irritation. Nevertheless, it seems noteworthy that at least some of what I've written here has proven to be of interest to the powers that be -- and the Müller-speculation seems the obvious thing that might have caught their eye.

I wonder how (or if) the Academy prevents its members from betting on the Nobels. Although, I suppose the "Swedish" bit probably makes the probability of sidedealing low. :)
posted by longdaysjourney at 4:57 AM on October 8, 2009


The politicization of the literature prize is aggravating to say the least. I appreciate the exposure given to non-English writers such as Elfriede Jelinek, Imre Kertész, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, and now Herta Müller, but I also find it hard to believe that the life's work of any of these authors compares to a Philip Roth or a Milan Kundera.

Perhaps I'm wrong.
posted by inoculatedcities at 5:24 AM on October 8, 2009


I also find it hard to believe that the life's work of any of these authors compares to a Philip Roth or a Milan Kundera.

You are really wrong, since the Nobel prize in literature has never been about writing, as it rewards:
"the most outstanding work of an idealistic tendency" [source]
And you'll have a really hard job convincing a Swedish jury that the mysogynic tendencies in either Roth's or Kundera's work are meant idealistically.
posted by ijsbrand at 5:34 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


AP story on Herta Müller.

inoculatedcities: The politicization of the literature prize is aggravating to say the least. I appreciate the exposure given to non-English writers such as Elfriede Jelinek, Imre Kertész, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, and now Herta Müller, but I also find it hard to believe that the life's work of any of these authors compares to a Philip Roth or a Milan Kundera.

Perhaps I'm wrong.


Maybe you are. It is a matter of taste. Personally, for instance, I much prefer Le Clézio to Roth.

Also, I'm having a hard time understanding how giving the prize to Müller or Le Clézio or Lessing can be called politicized. Eurocentric, maybe (though Le Clézio is anything but Eurocentric as a writer) but politicized?
posted by Kattullus at 5:40 AM on October 8, 2009


You are really wrong, since the Nobel prize in literature has never been about writing, as it rewards: "the most outstanding work of an idealistic tendency" [source]

Right, I'm aware of the prize's criteria. Nice and vague, isn't it? Though time has not been kind to some of the writers awarded the prize in the past, it does seem generally to be given to writers of some repute for their entire body of work.

Also, I'm having a hard time understanding how giving the prize to Müller or Le Clézio or Lessing can be called politicized.

This is what I was referring to.
posted by inoculatedcities at 6:07 AM on October 8, 2009


The Nobel for literature has always been a fairly parochial European prize.

Some stats quickly gleaned from wikipedia:

1901-1939
Europe: 34
Asia: 1
North America: 3

1945-1975:
Europe: 27
Asia: 2
Middle East: 1
North America: 3
South America: 3

1975-2009:
Europe: 21
North America: 5 1/2
South America: 2 1/2
Asia: 1
Africa: 4

Numbers don't sum exactly because the prize was not awarded in all years, there were co-winners some years, and wikipedia gives some winners two nationalities (assigned half each).

As you can see, the prize is very Euro-centric. It's not just the US that is getting shut out (though less now than before the second world war), but almost everyone else too. There's only ever been one winner from China (an ex-pat at that) and one from India, for gods sake. The "Literature" prize has very poor world representation compared with any of the science prizes, the peace prize or even the red-headed step-child of economics (not really a Nobel prize).
posted by bonehead at 6:48 AM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


All I started out to do was show up my brothers. I didn't have to go this far. - Saul Bellow
posted by Joe Beese at 6:54 AM on October 8, 2009


Eurocentric, maybe
I would submit that Eurocentrism is a political position. The Nobel literature prize is about establishing, as the head of the committee explicitly put it, that "Europe is still the centre of the literary world." That gets read as anti-Americanism, but I'm wondering what wonderful, less-well-known writers from other parts of the world are being overlooked so that the Nobel committee can make a point about Europe's continuing literary dominance.
posted by craichead at 6:55 AM on October 8, 2009


cf the Mann Booker (commonwealth, English-language only only):

69-present
UK: 22
Ireland: 3 (ish)
India: 4 1/2
Africa: 3 1/2
ANZ: 5
Canada: 3
Carrib: 1/2

More distributed, especially in the last ten years (only 2 UK winners between 1999-2009).
posted by bonehead at 6:58 AM on October 8, 2009


"the most outstanding work of an idealistic tendency"

And Samuel Beckett was a Nobel laureate??!?
posted by Bromius at 7:23 AM on October 8, 2009


There are lots of things to say against Samuel Beckett, if you want, but if he wasn't an idealist, who was?
posted by escabeche at 7:32 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Now that I've thought it out, point taken.
posted by Bromius at 7:37 AM on October 8, 2009


I was kind of hoping Joyce Carol Oates would win it.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:41 AM on October 8, 2009


I can't remember which one, but there's an arts-based newspaper in (I think) the UK that, every year, runs a front page photo of the latest obscure Nobel pick with a huge banner headline: AT LAST!
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:49 AM on October 8, 2009


I was kind of hoping Joyce Carol Oates would win it.

Well, to be fair to the jury, she is both American and female.
posted by bonehead at 7:59 AM on October 8, 2009


The non-European picks the last 20 years or so have smacked of tokenism. Just once I want a non-European winner refuse the prize with the phrase "I am not your monkey."
posted by dw at 8:30 AM on October 8, 2009


I really shouldn't be surprised that there is betting Nobel Laureate winners, but I have to wonder, who sets the odds? Clearly, they have to know something of the likelihood of each author winning, but how? Are they avid readers, or adept with statistics alone?
posted by filthy light thief at 9:02 AM on October 8, 2009


Chad W. Post at Three Percent posts all the Publishers Weekly reviews of Müller's books in English translation. Also, has the following to say about Americans who complain about Müller being too obscure: "Really, why do Americans want the obvious American writers to always win? Isn’t this like rooting for the Yankees? What fun is it when UNC wins the NCAA tournament every other year? None at all. Fuck that noise. It’s much cooler when an “obscure” (by American standards at least) author is given such a great honor and has her/his books launched into bookstores across the country and into the hands of readers everywhere. It’s like Stephen Curry bringing Davidson to the brink of History. Besides, this isn’t a popularity contest—it’s an honor bestowed on a talented writer. Just let the patriotism go and use this award as a chance to find out about writers you don’t already know. (All that aside, my money’s on Thomas Ruggles Pynchon for 2010.)"
posted by Kattullus at 9:07 AM on October 8, 2009


Äntligen!
posted by bjrn at 9:19 AM on October 8, 2009


Oh, I'm all for authors I don't know. I just think there might be some cool authors I don't know who hail from continents other than Europe. It feels less like honoring worthy authors than like trying desperately to make a case for one's own region's continuing cultural dominance, which is under threat from a number of different sources. It's convenient for the Nobel people to cast this as Europe vs. America, because then they're fighting back against the big cultural bully. But are there really no great writers in Africa who aren't the descendants of European colonizers?
posted by craichead at 9:24 AM on October 8, 2009


M. A. Orthofer blogs about his correct prediction:
I'll try not to crow too much about how I called the race in advance -- and, indeed, while I like the thought of having gained more literary prognostication street cred I was just the first to read the tea-leaves that were the betting patterns (and willing to admit to their significance). One lesson to be taken from this: the Swedish Academy has a big leak, and someone made a mint placing money on Müller at 50/1. That's two years in a row now (though since Le Clézio's odds started out much better not quite as much was won off his victory) -- and you can be sure everyone is going to follow the Ladbrokes odds very, very closely next year.

I was amused by the general reluctance to hop on the Müller-bandwagon once the odds started dropping so fast -- and admired Swedish Academy frontman Peter Englund's last-ditch effort (quite a masterstroke) of pointing elsewhere by saying the prize had become too Eurocentric, which was lapped up all over the place, leading to pieces on Handicapping the Nobel Prize Announcement: Roth? Murakami? Dylan??? and claims that: "A general consensus has been forming that an American may be picked this year" (not hereabouts !). (I do think Englund's comments were a signal, however (and perhaps a criticism of how this year's voting went): I'd bet even money someone outside Europe takes the prize in 2010.)

As with Le Clézio, getting one's hands on her books is going to be an issue: several have been translated into English, but not all are readily available (The Passport, anyone ? (probably the one I'd suggest people start out with, by the way)); information and links to the Amazon pages is up at the Herta Müller-page. (Way to go for the University of Nebraska Press, by the way: the second year in the row they have a book by the winning author .....).
Orthofer also points to Guardian blogger Richard Lea's reaction The Nobel prize committee should get out more:
So after a morning moving swiftly up the betting, Herta Müller has won the 2009 Nobel prize for literature. Having never come across her "phenomenal, moving and humbling" work before, my first thought was, of course, "Who?". But following closely behind came the thought that the Nobel prize committee should get out a little more.

Take a look at the list of laureates. The last five years have brought us Müller, JMG Le Clézio, Doris Lessing, Orhan Pamuk and Harold Pinter. Now, I don't want to pick a fight about the relationship between Turkey and Europe, but none of this is a very long haul from Sweden, is it?

The next few are little better. Elfriede Jelinek is from Austria, Imre Kertész from Hungary and Günter Grass from, um, Germany. JM Coetzee was born in South Africa and now lives in Australia, but it doesn't feel much like he's reporting from the southern hemisphere. VS Naipaul lives in Wiltshire, Gao Xingjian in Paris. Where are the representatives of the wider world?

Now it's easy to carp – and goodness knows, I'm as unfamiliar with the work of Ngugi wa Thiong'o as I am with that of Ko Un – but it's not my job to pick out "the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction". If the Swedish Academy wants to throw off the impression that they're running a European club, maybe they should spend a few more kronor on some researchers.
The obvious rejoinder is that if Richard Lea has never come across Müller (who I haven't read, but I've heard quite a bit about her novel The Appointment) then perhaps he shouldn't throw barbs at the Swedish Academy for not casting a wide enough net. That said, yeah, there are quite a few non-Western authors who'd be deserving laureates.
posted by Kattullus at 9:35 AM on October 8, 2009


It's ok to look for the non-mainstream, but where then are the winners from China, from India, from the Arab world, from Indonesia, from Malaysia or sub-Saharan (non-colonial) Africa? The Nobel of Literature seems to consider the cultural output from about 10% of all of the human race, with the occasional bone thrown every decade or so. If it truly is a world prize, as the other prizes are, it's winners should reflect that. Instead, they are white, male and European better than 90% of the time.

This was a safe, boring choice, not an interesting one.
posted by bonehead at 9:37 AM on October 8, 2009


bonehead: It's ok to look for the non-mainstream, but where then are the winners from China, from India, from the Arab world, from Indonesia, from Malaysia or sub-Saharan (non-colonial) Africa? The Nobel of Literature seems to consider the cultural output from about 10% of all of the human race, with the occasional bone thrown every decade or so. If it truly is a world prize, as the other prizes are, it's winners should reflect that. Instead, they are white, male and European better than 90% of the time.

To be fair to the Swedish Academy 3 out of 10 winners this decade have been female. 2 have been non-Western (Pamuk and Gao Xingjian). But yes, I can think of quite a few African, Asian and South-American writers who'd be uncontroversial, deserving choices for the Nobel prize. That said, Western Europe publishes a lot more books than any other continent so it's not odd that a majority of the laureates should come from there but not 80%.
posted by Kattullus at 9:51 AM on October 8, 2009


kattullus: But yes, I can think of quite a few African, Asian and South-American writers who'd be uncontroversial, deserving choices for the Nobel prize.

I don't mean this at all in a snarky way, I'd just like to know: Who?
posted by mekanic at 10:21 AM on October 8, 2009


Off the top of my head: Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Haruki Murakami, Chinua Achebe, Adonis, Ko Un, Amos Oz would all be greeted with cheers. Of course, all these authors are male but I can't think of a female writer from outside the West who's well known, respected and is old enough to be seriously considered for the Nobel. I'm pretty sure that I'm overlooking some really obvious candidates though.
posted by Kattullus at 10:34 AM on October 8, 2009


That last two picks have been very "global" in the sense they are authors who are cosmopolitan: from one country but grew up or worked elsewhere, writing in different languages. They are inter-regional - eastern and western europe - europe and africa. This is one way to pick authors so that entire regions feel included, and not limited to a single nations popular author of the moment. Also will the author be timeless, still worth reading in 80 years, most popular authors not really.
posted by stbalbach at 11:27 AM on October 8, 2009


I'll take the "The Nobel hates the US" whiners more seriously when the same people start complaining that too many Americans are getting the science prize. American universities and Amercian scientists do in fact produce a shitload of research, and they get awarded more. Period. It's only fair. Western countries as a whole publish a lot of books, read a lot of books, most of said are books are written -- and translated -- in the West. Which sucks, and if you have a dozen names of amazing subsaharan African writers that could reasonably deserve the Nobel (not white South Africans, of course) that you think I should read I promise I'll buy and read a book each from all twelve of them. I'll start tomorrow. maybe they're not there because they haven't been translated into a language I read, which sucks, but then publishing is an industry and publishers need to publish stuff that sells -- frankly I'd give them heavy tax cuts to get them to publish obscure foreign translated stuff that won't sell, but that's just me.

All the whining -- and frankly, Roth and Pynchon and even maybe DeLillo are one thing, but Joyce Carol Oates???? -- I actually considered very similar to the reaction from that American guy testing positive at the Tour de France -- nobody could really accept he used drugs, it HAD to be a conspiracy in the post-Armstrong anti-American mold. God forbid all cyclists of all nationalities more or less take drugs, no Sir, it had to be a conspiracy (see the old threads in the Blue and Green).

I can think of five authors I'd give the Nobel prize to before I give it to a North American -- and then I'd give it to a Canadian. And I'm a big fan of Roth's. But maybe, just maybe, the power of the US is unbeatable in popular culture, non-classical music, film, non-couture fashion. When it comes to books, if you really want to consider the Nobel a contest -- I don't -- then the US is simply not as unbeatable. It's a bit like soccer, deal with it. A lot of non-Americans are better. Maybe books aren't baseball.

This was a safe, boring choice, not an interesting one.


You're all over this thread and you haven't told us the one important thing -- how did you like Mueller's books? I only read one (I liked it) so I can't really judge her, much less say she's an interesting or uninteresting choice.
posted by matteo at 1:02 PM on October 8, 2009


and to the guy who quoted the -- admittedly awesome -- Bellow Lecture: if you're into trivia, did you know that Bellow is the only writer who ever used the word "Nigger" in his Nobel speech?
posted by matteo at 1:16 PM on October 8, 2009


@ MuffinMan

I am afraid most people won't be able to see the punch line in your comment.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 6:18 PM on October 8, 2009


American reaction (The New York Times)
But the Swedish Academy’s announcement on Thursday that the 2009 prize had gone to the Romanian-born German novelist Herta Müller — she is the 12th woman to win the Nobel in its 109-year history — caught more readers than usual off guard (Herta who?) and reinforced the Academy’s reputation for being defiantly, if predictably, unpredictable.
German reaction (Der Spiegel)
Every year, the Nobel Prize for literature is a source of surprises. This year's shocker? The committee's choice isn't much of a surprise at all. From publishers to critics, most agreed that Herta Müller was a good candidate for the award.
posted by Kattullus at 6:50 AM on October 9, 2009


Pleased about Müller's win, so no snark from me. If Pynchon ever wins, however, I'll probably choke on my own snark; I just don't think he's that important a writer. I would have loved to see Janet Frame win, but she's dead now, so I will continue to hope quietly that Mavis Gallant might still have a chance.
posted by jokeefe at 1:45 PM on October 9, 2009


(And I didn't write that about Pynchon just to try and tweak his fanbase; it's my honest opinion.)
posted by jokeefe at 1:48 PM on October 9, 2009


Interview with Per Wästberg, chairman of the Nobel Prize Literature Committee. Excerpt:
It takes more than a year for the annual prize to come to fruition. In autumn, the Academy writes to 300 nominating authorities worldwide — national academies, university faculties, writers unions and past Nobel winners — and by February, a list of 220 contenders has been assembled. Researchers open files on the nominees, but the duffers are obvious — “some names are absolutely unknown to us and they remain unknown”, says Wästberg. Others have been long-listed because of blatant lobbying, by, say, universities in a particular country; they too are summarily dismissed.

The list contracts, first to 25, then to 15. By May, only five writers remain, and the Academy convenes to approve the literature committee’s shortlist, before retiring for a summer’s intensive reading: the entire works of each of the nominees. That’s a breeze for Wästberg, a “compulsive” reader, he says. “I don’t have any other hobbies. I don’t play golf. I don’t collect stamps.” When he travels, he carries his books in plain covers, just in case he’s spotted.

Unwritten rules help the academicians through the summer. In 1938, the American Pearl Buck (mawkish tales of downtrodden peasants) swept to the prize on a wave of popularity. Now deemed unworthy, her sudden elevation led to a convention that no one should win the prize the first time they are shortlisted. In practice, since some, if not all, the five writers have been nominated before, the Academy has already chewed over their stuff.

“One digests a writer over several years. We do not make spontaneous choices,” says Wästberg. That’s why the prize can sometimes seem like an afterthought. In January 2005, an ailing Harold Pinter announced he had laid down his pen; nine months later he was Nobel laureate. He said it felt like he’d risen from the dead.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, says Wästberg. When he and his four committee men have assessed the contenders, they each write essays on every one of the authors. In September, the 25 articles are distributed to the Academy, and a further three weeks’ debate ensues. At the end of the month, a first vote is taken, ratified seven days later — usually in the second week of October — by a secret ballot. At last, the winner is phoned.
That interview is via The Literary Saloon whose M. A. Orthofer writes about the "Herta Who?" reaction. Excerpt:
What strikes me about the American attitude is this reaction that seems close to outrage -- sort of: if we haven't heard of him or her the winner can't really be worthy. Pretty much everywhere else in the world -- including many places where these authors really haven't yet been translated into the local language, etc. -- the reaction seems much more open-minded: it's seen as an opportunity to learn about a new author. (Of course, the feeling is not universal: my new favorite Nobel-related headline is the IANS report: Nepal Maoists disapprove of Nobel for German author (yes, the Swedish Academy will never be able to please everybody: "Nepal's former Maoist guerrillas have denounced the award of the 2009 Nobel Prize in literature to German author Herta Mueller by the Swedish Academy Thursday, saying it reflected the institution's growing bias towards the communists").)

(Part of the knee-jerk reaction in the US is, of course, that many American commentators see the Swedish Academy as ultra-politicized, and the choice as a political (and purely 'Leftist' (don't ask me what they mean by that, but apparently Stalinism is the closest real-world approximation to the 'Leftism' they mean) one. I've never really seen the pattern here -- like I've mentioned: even in the past decade we've seen everything from Naipaul to Fo, Kertész to Jelinek -- but a vociferous American contingent thinks it's perfectly obvious: literary merit means little, politics ('Leftist' politics -- you, too, V.S., apparently) everything. (They really should get together with those Nepali Maoists and discuss this, shouldn't they ?) I'm sure they'll figure out a way to fit Müller into this scheme, too.)
Orthofer links to a couple of fine reaction pieces by Americans, in the first, from Salon, Amy Benfer reviews Nadirs after she discovers that she owns a copy of it, unread. The second is from VQR. Excerpt:
For three of the past five years, the announcement of the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature has been met in this country with pretty much the same reaction: a collective grinning nod (“Elfriede Jelinek, of course!”), a spate of quickly-dashed off background articles (consisting mainly of quotes from a hapless PR person at which small academic press publishes the winner), and a whispered chorus of “who?” The steady return of this response points to one of two things: either the Swedish Academy is playing an elaborate prank on American readers, selecting obscure avant garde authors to make us feel bad about ourselves, or Americans don’t read enough fiction in translation. Although I wouldn’t put it beyond the Swedish Academy to pull a prank like that, the real answer is probably the latter.

The statistics are cited often, but they are worth citing again. According to UNESCO, fifty percent of all translations published worldwide are translated from English, while only six percent are translated into English. And a large part of that six percent can be attributed to our English-speaking friends across the pond. A 2005 piece in the New York Times held that “of the 185,000 books printed in English in the United States in 2004, only 874 were adult literature in translation.” Depending on who you ask, these number are “shocking,” evidence of American readers’ insularity, and a “great shame.”
posted by Kattullus at 8:21 AM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I really don't have a problem with an American not winning the literature prize for the 16th consecutive year*. At this point, it seems like American literature is in a downcycle anyway. DeLillo and Pynchon are the best we have to offer right now? That says a lot for the state of American literature -- the widening chasm of taste between the literary critic and the rest of the rabble. I can't think of any books that have entered the American high school/college curriculum written by an American other than Beloved.

My problem is that since Oe won in 1994 there's been just two Nobel winners who have not had some connection to Europe (Coetzee and Pamuk -- but in Pamuk's case Turkey is halfway European anyway). Xingjian, while writing in Chinese, has been based in France for decades.

It's very clear that the Nobel committee is Eurocentric. Maybe it feels like they weren't 20 years ago, when they were handing out prizes to non-Europeans as much as Europeans. I know, though, that's not true -- the Nobel in literature has been about literature as it's come to Stockholm. But with the continued rise of Asian and African literature it seems increasingly like they're off on a siding. It's not that they're making these sweeping and somewhat pointless statements in whom they reward (like the Peace committee seems to be doing), but the small statement -- that in order to be of quality you have to be known to Europeans -- is a conceit that's slowly making them out of touch with the rest of the literary world. In 10-20 years I expect they'll find themselves irrelevant unless they can find a way to broaden that committee.

I wonder if making them publish the shortlist would help or hurt the process. If the other four nominees are all European, it would pretty much end the credibility of the committee. OTOH, they'd be tempted, I think, to use the shortlist as a ghetto for writers who'll never win the award but be satisfied with "just been nominated."

* - This is the longest period the Nobel committee has gone without awarding the prize to an American since the 29 year gap between the introduction of the prize and Sinclair Lewis winning it in 1930.
posted by dw at 9:54 AM on October 10, 2009


The writings of Herta Müller are indeed the product of an intense obsession, a unique, paranoid terror of being followed, held in suspicion, persecuted, of having to fight a pervasive and incomprehensible enemy, which is bent on defacing and and misrepresenting her. Her writing is Kafkaesque. But this doesn't explain her style, which is the other part of her work Her style is that of a poet or painter with surrealist roots, a Frida Kahlo maybe. This seems to have been Herta's primary vocation. We can only speculate about what her writing would have become if Romania were a free world. I'm certain she would still have been a great poet, but she would not have been Herta Müller.
Ode to Herta Müller by Romanian novelist Mircea Cartarescu.
posted by Kattullus at 3:48 AM on October 14, 2009


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