Here's some coverage of that little award they gave yesterday.
Mueller's Books Available in English
I'll try not to crow too much about how I called the race in advance — and, indeed, while I like the thought of having gained more literary prognostication street cred I was just the first to read the tea-leaves that were the betting patterns (and willing to admit to their significance). One lesson to be taken from this: the Swedish Academy has a big leak, and someone made a mint placing money on Müller at 50/1. That's two years in a row now (though since Le Clézio's odds started out much better not quite as much was won off his victory) — and you can be sure everyone is going to follow the Ladbrokes odds very, very closely next year.
20 years of life in Germany has not clouded Herta Muller’s reflections on Romania, which she continues to draw upon. She says that, quote: “The most overwhelming experience for me was living under the dictatorial regime in Romania. And simply living in Germany, hundreds of km away, does not erase my past experience. I packed up my past when I left, and remember that dictatorships are still a current tropic in Germany.” Herta Muller’s need to write also came to life under a dictatorship. “I’ve had to learn to live by writing, not the other way round. I wanted to live by the standards I dreamt of, it’s as simple as that. And writing was a way for me to voice what I could not actually live”, the writer once told a journalist.
"On one hand she's an excellent author with truly fantastic language," he said, "and on the other she has the capacity of really giving you a sense of what it's like to live in a dictatorship, also what it's like to be part of a minority in another country and what it's like to be an exile."
Englund also praised Muller's "extreme precision with words". "She has been living in a dictatorship which constantly misused and abused language, and this has forced a sort of scepticism in her regarding the use of words, the use of language," he said. "She has a very, very fine-tuned precision in her language."
He advised readers new to Muller to start with her novel Herztier (published in English as The Land of Green Plums), which he said many considered to be her best novel. Her latest novel, Atemschaukel (Everything I Possess I Carry With Me), was "absolutely breathtaking," he added.
At The Guardian Book Blog, The Nobel prize committee should get out more:
Now it's easy to carp – and goodness knows, I'm as unfamiliar with the work of Ngugi wa Thiong'o as I am with that of Ko Un – but it's not my job to pick out "the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction". If the Swedish Academy wants to throw off the impression that they're running a European club, maybe they should spend a few more kronor on some researchers.
Here in the Slate offices, we greeted the announcement with a resounding "Who?"
Joyce Carol Oates and Philip Roth were among the early favorites, but the Nobel Committee has a habit of ignoring American authors (as noted in Adam Kirsch's 2008 Nobel takedown) and celebrating obscure ones (Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, Elfriede Jelinek, Imre Kertész, etc.)—especially when they come from third-world countries or nations formerly under Soviet rule. The Romanian-born German author, who has written largely about the brutality of life under Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu, saw her odds soar on the British betting markets in recent days.
At a packed news conference on Thursday at the German Publishers & Booksellers Association in Berlin, where she lives, Ms. Müller, petite, wearing all black and sitting on a leopard-print chair, appeared overwhelmed by all the cameras in her face.
The prize includes a $1.4 million prize and will be handed out Dec. 10 in the Swedish capital.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel praised Mueller's work, calling it "outstanding literature" drawn from the experience of life under a dictatorship.
"Today, 20 years after the fall of the wall, it is a wonderful message that such high-quality literature about this life experience is being honored with the literature Nobel Prize," she told reporters. "We are naturally delighted that Herta Mueller has found a home in Germany."
"Her work is a little dense for American readers, because it is so layered," said Philip Boehm, who co-translated "The Appointment" and has translated numerous German and Polish works into English. "The books are more atmospheric than plot driven, and she focuses on the psychology of her characters and the surrounding environment." . . .
Sara Bershtel, publisher of Metropolitan Books, which published "The Land of Green Plums" and "The Appointment," said that Ms. Muller's books creates [sic] an atmosphere of suspicion that becomes increasingly intense. "Her work is very concentrated, very spare," Ms. Bershtel said.
Reviews of Müller's fiction in America have been largely positive, though there has been some reluctance to embrace her almost relentlessly bleak totalitarian cityscapes. Müller herself has dismissed suggestions that she focuses too narrowly on a single subject. "The most overwhelming experience for me was living under the dictatorial regime in Romania," Müller has told the press. "And simply living in Germany, hundreds of kilometers away, does not erase my past experience. I packed up my past when I left, and remember that dictatorships are still a current topic in Germany."
Peter Englund, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, told The Associated Press this week that the secretive Swedish Academy had been too "eurocentric" in picking winners.
His predecessor, Horace Engdahl, stirred up heated emotions across the Atlantic when he told the AP in 2008 that "Europe still is the center of the literary world" and the quality of U.S. writing was dragged down because authors were "too sensitive to trends in their own mass culture."
After Mueller was announced, Englund told AP that "If you are European (it is) easier to relate to European literature. It's the result of psychological bias that we really try to be aware of. It's not the result of any program."
More from Conversational Reading:
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