Tags: EU | Sweden | Nobel | Herta | Mueller

Nobel Author: Writing Inspired by Fear of Death

Wednesday, 16 December 2009 07:25 AM

The 2009 Nobel literature prize winner Herta Mueller said Monday she started writing when it was no longer possible to use spoken words to describe the despicable events in her native Romania under the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu.

Mueller said she was persecuted after refusing to become an informant and paid tribute to those who live under totalitarian regimes today.

"I wish I could utter a sentence for all those whom dictatorships deprive of dignity every day, up to and including the present," she said in her Nobel lecture at the Swedish Academy on Monday.

The 56-year-old writer, whose prize was seen as recognition of the 20th anniversary of the fall communism, smuggled her early work into Germany to have it published. She moved there later, in 1987.

Mueller remembers how Ceausescu's officials threatened to kill her if she refused to sign on as an informant for the regime.

"I said ... to myself, If I sign that, I won't be able to live with myself anymore and I'll have to do it by myself," she said, referring to suicide. "What was happening could no longer be expressed in speech. I was reacting to the fear of death with a thirst for life."

Mueller, who writes in German, was praised by the Nobel Prize jury for "the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose."

She said Monday that she remembers developing a hunger for words.

"Nothing but the whirl of words could capture my condition," she said.

Her latest novel, "Atemschaukel," or "Swinging Breath," describes the fate of a German deported from Romania to a Soviet gulag during the Stalin-era.

Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf will present her with the literature award Thursday when he delivers prizes to other Nobel laureates, including winners of the medicine, chemistry, physics and economics prizes.

U.S. President Barack Obama will travel to Oslo on Thursday to receive the Peace Prize at a separate ceremony — the only Nobel award presented in the Norwegian capital — in line with the 1895 will of prize founder Alfred Nobel.

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Wednesday, 16 December 2009 07:25 AM
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