Page last updated at 13:41 GMT, Thursday, 8 October 2009 14:41 UK

Profile: Herta Mueller

Herta Mueller
Mueller is the 12th woman to win the Nobel Prize in literature.

Herta Mueller, who has been awarded the Nobel prize for literature, is the 12th woman to win the award.

The Romanian-born author is renowned for her books based on life under the harsh regime of the dictator Ceausescu.

Mueller was born in 1953 in the German-speaking town of Nitzkydorf in Romania. Her parents were members of the German-speaking minority in Romania.

Her father served in the Waffen SS during World War II. After the war ended, her mother was deported to a work camp in the Soviet Union for five years.

Mueller studied German and Romanian literature at university and became involved with the Aktionsgruppe Banat, a group of German speaking writers who opposed Ceaucescu's dictatorship and sought freedom of speech.

After university she worked as a translator but lost her job after refusing to cooperate with the secret police, the Securitate.

Writing career

Mueller made her writing debut with the collection of short stories Niederungen in 1982. It was censored in Romania but was smuggled out of the country to be published in Germany two years later.

That year she also published her first novel Druckender Tango. Her books focused on the tough daily life under Ceausescu's regime and the harsh treatment of Romanian Germans. Corruption, intolerance and repression are major themes in her writing.

She was criticised by the Romanian press but her books did well in Germany. Because Mueller had publicly criticised the dictatorship in Romania, she was banned from publishing in the country.


It was when she emigrated in 1987 that she became known to wider literary world. She moved to Berlin with her husband the author Richard Wagner.

Communist-era leader Nicolae Ceausescu, was leader of Romania from 1965 until he was overthrown and killed in a revolution in 1989.

Romania suffered extreme shortages of food, fuel, energy and medicines under his dictatorship. He used the feared secret police to control his people.

In a 2007 article for the German daily Frankfurter Rundschau Mueller said Romania had developed "collective amnesia" over its past: "They're pretending that it disappeared into thin air... even though it was home to the most abstruse dictatorship in eastern Europe and after Stalin, the most evil dictator, with a personality cult to rival North Korea's."

Award winner

1989 The Passport
1996 The Land of Green Plums
1998 Traveling on One Leg
2001 The Appointment

Her 1996 novel The Land Of The Green Plums won the German Kleist and the Irish IMPAC award, the richest literary prize in the world.

The book is about a group of friends who become targets of the secret police.

Mueller wrote the book after the death of two of her friends, in which she suspected the secret police's involvement. The writer has said she felt it was her "duty" to write it "in memory of my Romanian friends who were killed under the Ceausescu regime".

She based a central character on one of her closest friends from the Aktionsgruppe Banat. After Mueller moved to Berlin she told the Guardian newspaper her friend visited her and admitted she had been sent by the secret police to warn her to stop criticising the Ceausescu regime.

She also said the friend made a copy of the keys to her apartment, to give to the Securitate.

She has written 19 books mostly in German but some works have been translated into English, French and Spanish.

Her latest book Atemschaukel depicts the exile of German Romanians in the Soviet Union. It is up for this year's German Book Prize, which will be announced on Monday.

Mueller has also lectured at Universities in Europe and the US.

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