Herta Müller (born 17 August 1953) is a Romanian-born German novelist, poet and essayist noted for her works depicting the harsh conditions of life in Communist Romania under the repressive Nicolae Ceauşescu regime, the history of the Germans in Banat, and the persecution of Romanian ethnic Germans by Stalinist Soviet occupying forces in Romania.
She was born in August 1953 in the German-speaking village of Niţchidorf (German: Nitzkydorf), in the Banat district of Romania. The daughter of Banat Swabian farmers, her family was part of Romania's German minority; her father had served in the Waffen SS and her mother survived five years (1944-1949) in a slave labour camp in the Soviet Union during and after World War II. While she speaks German as a native language, she is also fluent in Romanian. Hertha left her village to study German and Romanian literature at the University of Timişoara. Here she became part of the Aktionsgruppe Banat (Campaign Group Banat), a group of idealistic Romanian-German writers seeking freedom of expression under the Ceauşescu dictatorship.
After her studies she was employed as a translator in a machine factory. Contacted by intermediaries of the Romanian Secret Service (Securitate), she strictly refused any collaboration which led to her losing her job in the factory. The Secret Service expected to get information from her about the Aktionsgruppe Banat, of which she was a member. During this period, she began writing her first stories which she collected under the title of 'Niederungen', but she had difficulty satisfying the censors, and this work was not published until 1982, and then in radically modified form.
In 1984, 'Niederungen' was published in Germany in an uncensored version. Awards and invitations to Germany followed. Although Herta Müller hadn’t had the permission to leave Romania as yet, traveling became possible for her hereupon. She even achieved an employment as teacher shortly before. After she had criticized severely the Ceauşescu dictatorship in interviews, however, a publication and traveling ban was imposed on her – culminating in death threats by the Secret Service. In 1987, she left Romania with her husband, novelist Richard Wagner and since then they lived in Berlin. Over the following years she received many lectureships at universities in Germany and abroad. She currently lives in Berlin. Müller received membership of the German Academy for Writing and Poetry in 1995, and other positions followed. Beside the prizes for her debut (among others the 'aspekte Literaturpreis'), she received many awards, such as Kleist, Aristeion, Würth, Impac, Cicero, and many others.
Herta Müller was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999 and 2009. The Swedish Academy awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature to Müller "who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed".
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