October 8, 2009 / 5:10 PM / in 8 years

Nobel laureate says dictatorship made her write

BERLIN (Reuters) - The 2009 Nobel laureate for literature, Herta Mueller, said Thursday she had been compelled to write about how dictators are able to dominate a country by her life growing up in communist Romania.

The Swedish Academy paid tribute earlier in the day to Mueller “who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed,” when announcing the 10 million Swedish crown ($1.4 million) award.

Mueller, a Romanian-born ethnic German, is known for works such as “The Land of Green Plums” which she dedicated to friends killed during Nicolae Ceausescu’s two-decade long Communist rule of Romania, and “The Appointment” in which a Romanian woman sews notes saying “Marry Me” into suits of men bound for Italy.

“My writing was always about how a dictatorship arises, how a situation is able to occur where a handful of powerful people dominate a country and the country disappears, and there is only the state left,” Mueller said.

“I think literature always emerges from things that have damaged someone, and there is a kind of literature, where the authors don’t chose their subject, but deal with one that was thrust upon them -- I‘m not the only writer like that.”

Mueller told reporters in Berlin she was certain she would never win the award.

“I am not the winner, it’s my books, and they are finished works and not me, not me personally,” the 56-year-old said.

“I still can’t believe it, it still hasn’t hit home. I didn’t expect it, I was certain that it wouldn’t happen. I still can’t talk about it, it’s too early, I think I still need time to realize what it means.”

Her sensitive and insightful works reflect the intolerance and harshness of life under Ceausescu, who was overthrown and executed in 1989. She left Romania with her husband Richard Wagner in 1987 and now lives in Berlin.

“This country saved me. When I arrived in 1987, I could finally breathe,” said Mueller. “And when the dictatorship collapsed I felt I was no longer threatened.”

“I feel free in the present, the things that happened are not canceled out though, they’re in my head. I only have one head -- the one I am carrying around -- and it has everything in it with which I arrived in this country.”

Editing by Jon Hemming

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