The German Take on Herta Mueller

This being the Internet and all, I was hoping to find a good German take on the Nobel Prize, and now I think I’ve done just that. Everyone interested in Mueller should read this post at Shigekuni, which I believe is the blog of Marcel Inhoff:

For many, including many Germans, it was a complete surprise when Herta Müller was announced as the third writer in the German language to win the highest international literary award, the Nobel Prize for Literature, which has increasingly focused on European writers. Did she deserve the honor? Of course she did. Herta Müller is among the best and most important writers in German today, with a work that never shies away from trying new things, a writer who is smart yet not unreadably difficult. On the contrary: her writing, while complex, is frequently buoyed by a pleasurable language, which is warm and is driven by a kind of verbal plasticity that I have not encountered since Günter Grass. One of the defining characteristics of Grass’ style is the surreal quality of his words, his use of nouns is especially interesting and significant in this regard. But where Grass frequently drops off into a surreal plot, opting for a rich stew of a book instead of sharp criticism (which is why his shorter books frequently fall so short of the mark), Herta Müller is always on point, always engaged and worth engaging with. . . .

And this is one of the best sentences I’ve read in a while, opening or otherwise:

In the protagonists of Herztier [The Land of Green Plums]
and their fears, she’s achieved just that and highlights the connections between that fear and tradition, memory and storytelling. The first sentence of the novel is legendary:

“Wenn wir schweigen, werden wir unan genehm,” sagte Edgar, “wenn wir reden, werden wir lächerlich.”

It can be translated as “’When we’re silent, we become awkward/displeasing’, Edgar said, ‘when we talk, we become ridiculous.’” That awareness is important. To talk is to risk ridicule but how will we provide testimony without talking?


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