The Nobel Prize in Literature 2009
Born: 17 August 1953, Nitzkydorf, Banat, Romania
Residence at the time of the award: Germany
Prize motivation: “who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed”
Prize share: 1/1
Herta Müller was born in a farming family living in Nitchidorf, outside Timisoara, Romania. Her family belonged to Romania's German-speaking minority, whose vulnerable position during the communist regime came to color Müller's life and literary works. Müller was dismissed from her position as a translator after refusing to cooperate with the Securitate secret police, becoming a teacher and author instead. Her debut work, Niederungen (Nadirs), was published in Romania as a censored version in 1982, while uncensored copies were distributed abroad. Müller went into exile in Germany in 1987.
Herta Müller's literary works address an individual's vulnerability under oppression and persecution. Her works are rooted in her experiences as one of Romania's German-speaking ethnic minority. Müller describes life under Ceaușescu's regime—how dictatorship breeds a fear and alienation that stays in an individual's mind. Innovatively and with linguistic precision, she evokes images from the past. Müller's literary works are largely prosaic, although she also writes poetry.