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October 8, 2009

Nobel Prize for Literature to Herta Mueller

nobel winner herta muellerHerta Mueller, who was persecuted for her writing under Romania's Communist regime, beat out Stephenie Meyer, Dan Brown and others for the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Today's award seems to reinforce the notion that the Nobel is a sort of literary archeological dig, in which judges scour the world's libraries and academies for an obscure author, in the hopes of creating a broad, worldwide audience and righting wrongs. The judges liberally slather on their political values, as the winning authors often are known for social commentary that hits at authoritarianism and racism.

Not that Meyer and Brown -- or any other wildly popular mass market writer should win the Nobel. And many past winners (V.S. Naipaul, Toni Morrison, Doris Lessing, are utterly deserving) But the prizes risk becoming a parody of themselves if they routinely exclude American writers and others who have generated a following with serious works.

Mueller, who was a member of Romania's ethnic German minority, was honored by the Swedish Academy for work that "with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed." Most of her work is in German, but some works have been translated into English, French and Spanish, including "The Passport," "The Land of Green Plums," "Traveling on One Leg" and "The Appointment." (Here's a New York Times review of "The Appointment," in which "the thuggery of the government is a backdrop to the brutality and betrayal with which people treat one another in their everyday lives.") 

"I am very surprised and still can not believe it," Mueller said in a statement released by her publisher in Germany. "I can't say anything more at the moment."

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 9:26 AM | | Comments (5)


Most of the Transylvanian Germans was sold out for hard money to Germany, they were lucky that way, but they left everything behind for that price. Today’s native Hungarians not so lucky in Transylvania because after the communism collapsed they are still under hard pressure by the Romanian government and orthodoxy. The Romanian government financing to build all over Orthodox Churches in Transylvania. The Romanian government is spreading all over the orthodoxy in Transylvania, even if some places not Romanian residents, yet. For example; they are building the third Orthodox Church in a 97% Hungarian town, where only 3 Romanian residents, yet, 3 police family, even if that cost to tear down a Hungarian School just to have place for the third orthodox church on a good place.
Not long ago in Hargita (Harghita) County where the population about 85% Hungarians, one Romanian policeman took with him a Hungarian teenage girl to the mountain hills at late night and put her to the street and said “till you walk back to the town you will have the time to learn the Romanian language!”
Shame, but that is today’s Romania.

"But the prizes risk becoming a parody of themselves if they routinely exclude American writers and others who have generated a following with serious works."

Bullshit. The prize is awarded for a body of work, it's of no concern to the judges if they have a following or not. If Americans haven't heard of her, or indeed if you can't buy the books at Barnes & Noble, tough. Get over it. I bet you they've heard of her in France, Spain, Italy, Sweden. Doubtless she's a household name in Romania - it's a country. Heard of it?

Dan Brown as a serious contender for a Nobel lit prize? Surely you jest.

to kakuk

quite surprised you did not report anything on the murder of a romanian athlete in hungary last year. he was stabbed in the heart. i am half hungarian but i don't think we should blame only one side. and what does this whole thing (the nobel prize awarded to herta muller, who is not romanian, but an romanian-born GERMAN author has to do with your frustrations?) read a bit about how hungary was one of the first nazi countries in europe. you know, Miklós Horthy is not a shoe also conspicuously "forgot" to mention that the UDMR (the most prominent party representing the hungarian minority in romania, has been consistently an extremely important part of romania's government. I believe that to be a great thing. Also, every single town or city in Romania that has a significant number of hungarians has officials like the judge speak hungarian. I have never felt discriminated for being half hungarian when i lived in romania. I had the opportunity to speak my language, study in my language and go to university for free like any other romanian. hungary never offered the same opportunities for the romanian minority. to give the example of an idiot policeman is like me telling you about hungarian custom officers who would roll their eyes and give me dagger looks for having a romanian passport. So, do not make it sound so dramatic, please... hungary is discriminating against romanians (and i am not talking about gypsies). I never felt at ease speaking romanian in hungary.

to Dave Rosenthal,

Dan Brown is lady gaga, Toni Morrison, or Doris Lessing are more like led zeppelin:) Brown is a joke, if you really like controversial readings, maybe you should concentrate on a well researched and much better written book, like Holly Blood, Holly Grail.

This is an uncritical report, that transports a lot of false details and myths about an unknown writer. The curriculum of H. Müller in Rumania is still dark with many open questions.
Since 1987 in Germany, she tried to appear as a former anticommunist dissident. In fact, the contrary is true. The communists agreed to publish her first book "Niederungen", because Müller attacked her own german minority sharply, instead of the communist society. The "hate" on the Germans from the Banat motivated her, she said.
Her husband, poet Richard Wagner, was a member of the communist party of dictator Ceausescu in the period 1972-1985. Both have hidden their red awards received in Rumania - they could travel in the West during the Cold War .
Experts say, her book has not been censored!As a former anticommunist dissident from Timisoara and co-founder of the first free trade union in Eastern Europe SLOMR, than six month in communist jail in 1979, I have serious doubts,if - the non opressed - Herta Müller is the right winner of the famous Nobelprize. I think, her "moral and political integrity" is not sure. Over the internet I have published an "Open letter to Herta Müller" with many questions regarding her past. Until this our she refused to respond! Why? What more she has to hidden, also the people in the US may ask?
Carl Gibson, Germany, dissident, Internet:

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About the blogger
Dave Rosenthal came to The Baltimore Sun as a business reporter in 1987 and now is the Maryland Editor. He reads a wide range of books (but never as many as he'd like), usually alternating between non-fiction and fiction. Some all-time favorites: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole; Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery; and anything by Calvin Trillin or John McPhee. He belongs to a book club with a Jewish theme.
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