Herta Müller Biography

(German-Romanian Author, Who Received the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature for Her Novel 'The Hunger Angel')

Birthday: August 17, 1953 (Leo)

Born In: Nitchidorf, Romania

Herta Müller is a famous novelist, poet and essayist born under the communist regime in a German speaking minority family in Romania. As a result she always felt that she did not belong anywhere. To the Romanians she is a German and to the Germans she is a Romanian. Indeed, life was never easy for her. Her grandfather was a rich landowner and a businessman; but all his properties were confiscated by the state in the post-World War II era and he was sent to labour camps somewhere in Romania. Her mother too was deported to labour camps in Russia for five years. Therefore, by the time she was born, the family was financially as well as psychologically ruined. May be she realized the extent of oppression once she entered the university and to voice her dissent, she joined Aktionsgruppe Banat, a group of writers who supported freedom of speech. Since then she has been protesting against state autocracies and has refused to compromise. In her books, she has depicted the life she has seen around her in Romania. For her contribution to literature she was awarded with Nobel Prize in Literature in 2009.While awarding the Nobel Prize for literature, the committee has rightly described that she “with concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed.”

Quick Facts

German Celebrities Born In August

Also Known As: Herta Mueller

Age: 70 Years, 70 Year Old Females


Spouse/Ex-: Harry Merkle, Richard Wagner

Born Country: Romania

Nobel Laureates In Literature Poets

Notable Alumni: West University Of Timișoara

More Facts

education: West University Of Timișoara

awards: 2009 - Nobel Prize in Literature
1998 - International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award - The Land of Green Plums
1994 - Kleist Prize

1995 - Aristeion Prize
2002 - Carl Zuckmayer Medal
2010 - Hoffmann von Fallersleben Prize
2013 - Best Translated Book Award - The Hunger Angel
2009 - Franz Werfel Human Rights Award
1990 - Roswitha Prize

Childhood & Early Life
Herta Müller was born on August 17, 1953 in Nițchidorf, a German speaking commune in Timiș County in the Banat region of Southern Romania. Her family belonged to a German speaking minority group.
Herta had very troubled family background. Her father was a field laborer and an alcoholic. During Second World War, he had volunteered for Hitler's Waffen-SS. Later he was arrested and spent some time as prisoner of war In England. On his release, he earned his living by driving trucks.
On the other hand, Herta’s mother was one of those 10,000 German speaking minority who were deported to the forced labour camps in Soviet Union, in 1945. She was around seventeen years old then and had a harrowing time until her release in 1950. Born in 1953, Herta remembers her mother old and broken.
As she was growing up, Herta found it hard to accept that his father was a member of SS and often charged him for his involvements. Neither could she accept that her mother and many other women and children were forcefully sent to the Soviet labor camp without any fault.
Herta finished her schooling from Nikolaus Lenau High School, a German language high school, located in Timişoara and graduated from there in 1973. Although her mother tongue was German, she also leant Romanian language at this school.
In 1973, she enrolled at West University of Timișoara; his subjects were German studies and Romanian literature. At the university, she joined a group called Aktionsgruppe Banat, voicing her opposition to the Ceauşescu dictatorship
After graduation, Herta took up the job of a translator at an engineering factory. Here she was approached by the Romanian secret police, Securitate to spy on her colleagues and especially on the foreign guests. She refused to cooperate and so lost her job in 1977.
She next became a kindergarten teacher and to augment her income, started giving German lessons. However, she did not get any regular job. In spite of that, Herta did not give up, but began writing.
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Herta Müller made her debut in the world of literature in 1982 with the publication of her first book, ‘Niederungen ‘(Nadirs). It is mainly a collection of autobiographical short stories, centered on rural Romania. Through these stories she portrayed the country’s oppressive atmosphere during the mid-twentieth century.
However, the original book, published in Romania, was highly censored. Undaunted, she managed to have one of the original copies smuggled to Germany. In 1984, an abridged, but uncensored version of the book was published from Germany and overnight she became a celebrated writer.
Also in 1984, she had her second book ‘Drückender Tango’ (Oppressive Tango) published in Romania. This book depicts a small German speaking village similar to her village and speaks about the corruption, intolerance and repression to be found there.
Since these books spoke against the dictatorial regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu, Müller was banned from publishing any more books in Romania. Moreover, she was continuously spied upon, persecuted and threatened. Therefore, in 1985, she and her husband, novelist Richard Wagner, decided to emigrate, but were denied permission.
In 1986, while she was still in Romania her third book, ‘Der Mensch ist ein großer Fasan auf der Wel was published from West Berlin. The same book was later published in English as ‘The Passport, Serpent's Tail’ in 1989.
The couple was finally allowed to leave in 1987, but the date of emigration was mentioned as February 29, which did not exist. However, after a protracted battle, they did leave Romania in 1987 and settled down in West Berlin. This was also the year, when her forth book ‘Barfüßiger Februar’ (Barefoot February) was published from West Berlin.
Next year in 1988, she accepted the position of a guest lecturer in different universities of Germany and has also traveled abroad in that capacity. In addition she also occupied many honorary s and in 1995 was elected a member of Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung.
At the same time, she kept on writing and till date, she has around twenty five titles to her credit, among which four are books of poetry. Her works have been translated in more than twenty different languages.
Major Works
‘Herztier’ (The Land of Green Plums), published in 1994 by Rowohlt Verlag, is perhaps her most well-known work. The story describes the life of German speaking minority under Romania’s Soviet imposed communist rule. The book has been translated first in Dutch and then in English. In 1998, the book received International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
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’Atemschaukel’ (The Hunger Angel), published in 2009, is another of her major works. It is a 304 pages prose poem, which was translated into English and 2012. It also depicts the persecution of German minority in Romania under communist regime.
‘Reisende auf einem Bein’ (Traveling on One Leg) published in 1989; ‘Der Fuchs war damals schon der Jäger’ (Already Back Then, the Fox Was the Hunter) published in 1992 and ‘Heute wär ich mir lieber nicht begegnet (The Appointment), published in 1997 etc are some of her other important works.
Awards & Achievements
Herta Müller received her first award in 1981 from Temeswar Literature Circle. Since then she has received around twenty awards from different sources.
Few of these prizes are Roswitha Prize (1990), Kleist Prize (1994), Aristeion Prize (1995), International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (1998), Würth Prize for European Literature und Walter-Hasenclever Literature Prize (2006) etc.
In 2009, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature “for her concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, with which she depicts the landscape of the dispossessed.” In the same year, she also received the Franz Werfel Human Rights Award for ‘Atemschaukel’ (The Hunger Angel).
Personal Life & Legacy
While still living in Romania Herta Müller married novelist Richard Wagner. The couple left Romania in 1987 and settled in West Berlin. Later they separated in 1990.
Müller met her second husband, Harry Merkle, in 1988. The couple got married after the annulment of her first marriage. They now live in Berlin.
Herta Müller was named after one of her mother’s friend who died at the labour camp in Russia. At the time of her death, Herta’s mother had promised that if she ever had a daughter she would name her after her dying friend.
Herta Müller had once said in an interview that she never wanted to a writer because there was no book in their home. Much later she began writing as a means of discovering her own self and reinterpreting what was happening around her.
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