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Nobel 2009 For Literature Goes to Romanian Writer Herta Mueller

abstract:Better than the Oscars, this week is when my favorite literary prizes are awarded. First the Mann Booker (reported here), and now the Nobel Prize for Literature. This year's Nobel goes to a rather obscure German-Romanian writer, Herta Mueller. Born in Romania in 1952 the author fled her country due to the persecution and oppression she experienced after her first novel was published, under heavy censorship by the Communist government. A non-censored version was smuggled to West Germany where it received acclaim. Her writing centers on the injustices and politics of (old Communist) Romania with a strong prose style that is "lively, poetic, and corrosive". Mueller takes home a prize of $1.4million - a sum difficult to snort at. One imagines it offers economic freedom to writers enabling them to continue their craft - so with the Wrigleys gum advertisement in mind - that's two freedoms in one. What does this say about the Nobel Prize jury, who have been criticized for judging a writer's politics as much as their prose? Nobel wrote in his will that the prize should go to a person with "a lofty and sound idealism". It is the 20th Anniversary of the fall of Communism. Previous winners have been notable for their focus on revealing the injustices within their country and within their society. Herta is only the 12th woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature. She is in good company along with Nadine Gordimer, Doris Lessing, Toni Morrison and another German language writer, Austrian Elfriede Jelinek. The Nobel Prize has been awarded since 1901, 101 times; it was not awarded in 7 years when the funds were instead applied to the trust.


October 08, 2009

List of Books

Here is the list of Herta Mueller's books.

Mueller's latest novel, Atemschaukel, or Swinging Breath is up for this year's German Book Prize, which will be announced Monday. Unfortunately, I could not find a link to purchase it via .ca or in the uk. I assume it is being translated and the worldwide rights are being acquired for wider publication.

The Land of Green Plums won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize. Five Romanian youths under the Ceausescu regime are the focus of this moving depiction of the struggle to become adults who keep "eyes wide open and tightly shut at the same time." The title refers to the young woman's observations of the swaggering policemen who wolf down plums from the city trees, even while they're still green; the act serves as a symbol of greed, arbitrary power, and stupidity. Although an element of the story is survival, achieved by clinging to the German culture and language, the novel also confronts the older characters' sympathy with the Nazis. Nevertheless, Muller's fictional heroine finds salvation, as she herself did, in modern Germany.

The Appointment: A Novel The narrator, an unnamed young dress-factory worker of the post-WWII generation, has been summoned for questioning by the secret police; she has been caught sewing notes into men's suits destined for Italy, with the desperate message "marry me" along with her address. Accused of prostitution in the workplace (and told she is lucky the charge is not treason), she loses her job, and her life becomes subject to the whims of Major Albu, who summons her for random interrogation sessions. Her major preoccupation is holding on to her sanity.

Nadirs (European Women Writers) This book took 10 years to translate. It is a collection of semiautobiographical stories of Mueller's bleak childhood in Romania. Poverty, sickness, isolation, and sexual promiscuity run throughout the stories. Her family and community fear God, inherit and pass on superstitions, and gossip endlessly. Muller presents stark portraits of life on small farms in Romania. At times the stories are hard to follow, but Muller's girl narrator is just as confused, trying to piece together nightmares, dreams, and memories of her heartbreaking home life. She feels isolated from her parents, while the village keeps its distance from the family with rumors of illegitimacy. The German-speaking village itself is an island within Romania. The author does allow her narrator to escape the countryside, only to live in the ridged confusion of city life.

The Passport (Masks) This book has a surprising Amazon rating of #157. A Romanian village is caught between the stifling hopelessness of Ceausescu's dictatorship and the temptations of the West in this novel, which describes in detail the dreams and superstitions, conflicts and oppression of a forgotten region, the Banat in the Danube Plain. (Publishers Weekly)



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