Chronicler of brutal dictatorship wins Nobel prize

Fri Oct 9, 2009 6:33am EDT
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By Simon Johnson and Sarah Marsh

STOCKHOLM/BERLIN (Reuters) - Romanian-born German writer Herta Mueller won the Nobel literature prize on Thursday, saying Nicolae Ceausescu's brutal dictatorship compelled her to write of how a powerful few can dominate and destroy a nation.

The Swedish Academy paid tribute to Mueller "who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed", when announcing the 10 million Swedish crown ($1.4 million) award.

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 men's suits bound for Italy.

"My writing was always about how a dictatorship arises, how a situation is able to occur where a handful of powerful people dominate a country and the country disappears, and there is only the state left," Mueller told reporters in Berlin.

Mueller, whose mother was sent to a Soviet work camp for five years, was herself harassed by the Securitate secret police after refusing to become an informer. She left Romania with her husband Richard Wagner in 1987, two years before Ceausescu was overthrown and executed, and now lives in Berlin.

"I think literature always emerges from things that have damaged someone, and there is a kind of literature where the authors don't chose their subject, but deal with one that was thrust upon them," she said. "I'm not the only writer like that."


Mueller made her debut in 1982 with a collection of short stories, "Niederungen", which 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.   Continued...

<p>Romanian-born German writer Herta Mueller reacts during a news conference in Berlin October 8, 2009. REUTERS/Thomas Peter</p>