Thursday, December 10, 2009

Herta Muller Accepts Nobel Prize

Today in Switzerland, Herta Muller was presented the Nobel Prize for Literature. Muller was born to a German family in Romania in 1953. After refusing to cooperate with Ceausescu's Securitate, she suffered repeated threats before she was able to emigrate to Germany in 1987.

Also the recipient of the Kleist Prize, Germany's most prestigious literary award, Muller is the author of several books, including the novel The Land of Green Plums, translated from the German by Michael Hofmann, which just arrived in our store in paperback this week. The novel tells the story of a group of young people in Ceausescu's Romania who leave their impoverished villages for the possibilities of the university. Their hopes are quickly dashed, however, as the city equally bears the mark of the dictator's corrosive touch. Eventually, they betray each other and themselves, and we see how everyone, even the strongest, must either bend to the oppressors or resist them and thereby perish. It is a book that describes in detail what it was like to live in Romania under communism

Here is a bit of today's presentation speech to Muller by Professor Anders Olsson: "Her prose has a linguistic energy that we bond with from the first sentence. Something concerning life or death is at stake. We sense this quickly through the temperature, the hurried breathing, the sharp detail, and everything implied but left unsaid.....Herta Müller has said that her German-speaking upbringing in Romania has been a great inspiration to her writing. For a writer it can be invaluable to have two different languages, and from this situation she early learned to compare, to turn and twist words to extract new meanings."

"Dear Herta Muller. You have shown great courage in uncompromisingly repudiating provincial repression and political terror. It is for the artistic value in that opposition that you merit this prize. Your work is a labour that continues and must continue, a form of irreversible counter-exile. And even though you have said that silence and suppression taught you to write, you have given us words that grip us deeply and directly – in silence and beyond silence. I would like to express the warmest congratulations of the Swedish Academy as I now request you to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature from the hands of His Majesty the King."

You can read Herta Muller's acceptance speech here.

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