Herta Muller Wins Nobel Prize in Literature

BY Arts Desk  October 8, 2009 at 12:16 PM EDT

Romanian-born writer Herta Muller won the Nobel Prize in literature Thursday, becoming only the 12th woman to win the prize in its 109-year history. The Swedish Academy described Muller as writer “who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed.”

“I am very surprised and still cannot believe it,” Muller said in a statement released by her publisher in Germany. “I can’t say anything more at the moment.”

Muller made her debut in 1982 with a collection of short stories titled “Niederungen,” or “Nadirs” in English, which was promptly censored by then-communist Romania. In 1987, she left for Germany with her husband after more years of censorship.

“The Romanian national press was very critical of these works while, outside of Romania, the German press received them very positively,” the Academy said. “Because Mueller had publicly criticized the dictatorship in Romania, she was prohibited from publishing in her own country.”

In 1984, an uncensored version of “Niederungen” was smuggled to Germany, where it was published, and her depiction of life in a small, German-speaking village in Romania was devoured by readers.

While most of Muller’s works are published in German, only a handful have been translated into English, including “Nadirs,” “The Land of Green Plums,” “Traveling on One Leg” and “The Appointment.”

The Nobel Prize includes $1.4 million, which will be awarded in a ceremony Dec. 10 in Stockholm.

Read excerpts of Muller’s “Nadirs” (“Niederungen”) below or by going to this link.