Tag-Archive for ◊ german speaking peoples ◊

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• Saturday, June 18th, 2011

Herta Müller was born in 1953 of farmer parents from the German speaking minority enclave village of Nitzkydorf (Nitchidorf) in the Banat in Romania. The majority of the German speaking peoples of this part of Romania originally came from Swabia (Schwaben) in Germany.

From 1973 to 1976, Müller left her village to study German and Romanian literature at the university of Timisoara. She then worked as a translator but was dismissed in 1979 because of her unwillingness to cooperate with Ceaucescu’s secret police. She became a kindergarten teacher while giving German language lessons in private. The success of Müller’s first novel, Nadirs, published in 1982, encouraged her to become a novelist, a poet and an essayist.

Müller has received various prestigious awards: in 1984 she received the Aspekte Literaturpreise for Niederungen (Nadirs), the Marie Luise Fleisser Prize, the Ricarda Huch Prize in 1989, the Kleist Prize in 1994 and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary award in 1998. She received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2009.

After a first emigration refusal by the authorities in 1985, she finally obtained permission to emigrate to West Germany in 1987 with her husband, the Romanian German novelist, Richard Wagner. She currently lives in Hamburg.

Müller was well known for her writing about the bleak, oppressive conditions that Romanian people had to endure under Ceausescu’s despotic, communist regime and consequently her books were censored. She was a member of Aktionsgruppe Banat, a group of German speaking writers who, frustrated by all the censorship, were calling for freedom of speech.

Herta Müller has been labelled one of the most talented and prolific German writers of the last twenty years. All her novels are set in Romania, but unfortunately not all her work has been translated from German.

Nadirs, originally written in German and published in Romania in 1982, then in Germany in 1984, was published in English in 1999. It’s Herta Müller’s first book, a semi-autobiographical novel with no traditional plot, in a form of a diary of fifteen short stories of various length. The narrator is a little girl who writes about her thoughts, her deeds, her fate and the destiny of the people surrounding her. It is also about how she perceives the bleak, repressive existence in the lowlands where she lives with her family, under the grim, authoritarian and corrupt communist regime of the unnamed Ceausescu.

The novel conveys the little girl’s unadorned, honest, acute description of everyday life, sketched in unrelated segments which have in common the importance that the girl bestows on them. She is often mixing reality with dreams which then become overwhelming fantasies that lead to delusions.

Herta Müller has an uncommon style of writing, disjointed and bare, misleadingly simple but deeply effective. Her usage of allegories, imageries, symbolism, contrasts and succinct language make this thin novel brim over with poignantly powerful, vivid pictures of rural life in the lowlands, presumably, in Nitchidorf in the Banat, Müller’s native region.

The author uses all these illustrations to disclose the little girl’s rough and innermost afflicted childhood and establish her psychologically disturbed character. She seems to be surviving rather than living the care free life of a child of her age.

The author’s choice of words and the somberly intense, devastating social atmosphere of destitution, sexual looseness, alcoholism, injustice, suffering and confinement, is almost Kafkaesque, without a glimpse of hope and is too dark and morose and nightmare-like.

For all these multiple reasons and hidden complexities, Nadirs is a novel that has to be read in little portions at a time with a fair amount of assiduity. “When laughter becomes guffawing, when they bend with laughter, is there any hope? And yet we are so young”. “Your eyes are empty. Your feeling is empty and stale. It’s a pity about you, girl, it’s a pity”. Black Park.