On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the choice of Herta Müller as 106th winner of the Nobel prize for literature seems particularly appropriate. After all, this is an author whose life was shaped by decades of struggle against Eastern European dictatorship.
Müller, the 12th woman to be awarded the Nobel prize for literature, is a novelist, poet, and essayist known for her works illuminating the harsh conditions of life in Communist Romania. The Nobel judges praised Müller for depicting the "landscape of the dispossessed" with "the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose."
Müller is a courageous figure whose own life has much in common with that of her fictional works. She was born in Romania in 1953 into a family that made up part of Romania's German-speaking minority. She studied German and Romanian literature at the University of Timisoara, where she became part of Aktionsgruppe Banat, a group of idealistic Romanian-German writers opposed to the repressive Ceaucescu dictatorship.
In the 1970s she began working as a translator for a tractor company but was fired a few years into the job for her refusal to cooperate with the Romanian secret police. She went on to become a teacher and to publish two works of fiction which offered critical portrayals of life in Romania. In particular, Müller focused on the hypocrisy and oppression which she found to be part and parcel of life in a fascist regime.