German writer Herta Mueller wins literature prize

The 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to Herta Meuller, a Romanian-born German writer, for her works depicting the harsh conditions of life in Romania under dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's regime.


REUTERS - Romanian-born German writer Herta Mueller, who charted the hardships and humiliations of Nicolae Ceausescu's brutal regime, won the 2009 Nobel literature prize for depicting the "landscape of the dispossessed".

The Swedish Academy, which praised her "concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose," said that Mueller, 56, was speechless upon learning that she had been awarded the 10 million Swedish crown ($1.4 million) award.

"She was very, very happy. She said she lost her breath and it felt unreal and she was at a loss for words," the Academy's permanent secretary, Peter Englund, told Reuters, adding:

"But she promised me that when we meet again in December (for the awards ceremony) she would have found her words again."

Mueller is known for works such as "The Land of Green Plums" which she dedicated to Romanian friends killed under Ceausescu's Communist rule and "The Appointment" in which a Romanian woman sews notes saying "Marry Me" into suits of men bound for Italy.

"There is a real power to the way she writes ... she has an incredible message," Englund said. "Part of it is her own background as a victim of persecution in Romania but then she also has her own background as a stranger in her own country."



Mueller, whose mother was sent to a Soviet work camp for five years and who herself was harassed by the Romanian Securitate secret police after refusing to be an informer, made her debut in 1982 with a collection of short stories.

That work, "Niederungen", was censored in Romania. In it, and in her book "Drueckender Tango" (Oppressive Tango) published two years later, she wrote about corruption and repression in the German-speaking village of Nitzkydorf where she was born.

Her sensitive and insightful works reflect life under the rule of Ceausescu, who was overthrown and executed in 1989. She left Romania with her husband Richard Wagner in 1987 and now lives and works in Berlin.

Prize-winners over the last decade have been dominated by Europeans and some have criticised the Academy as being too narrow-minded in its world outlook. Mueller is the 12th woman to win the Nobel prize for literature.

Comments last year by then Permanent Secretary Horace Engdahl, who said that Americans did not participate in literature's "big dialogue", had led to speculation the committee might choose an American this year.

Bookmakers had Israeli novelist Amos Oz as favourite to win this year's prize, with Americans Joyce Carol Oates and Philip Roth as leading contenders.

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