March 22, 2010

Nobel-winner had to hide in the woods with her editor to finish manuscripts


Herta Mueller

Herta Mueller

In an appearance at the Leipzig Book Fair on Saturday, the newest Nobel Prize-winner, Herta Mueller, recalled how she “used to meet her German proof-reader in the forest to hide from Romania’s Securitate communist secret police, ” according to a Deutsche Presse-Agentur wire story.

Mueller, who was raised in a remote village in Romania where German was spoken, was under constant surveillance from the Securitate and her books were censored in Romania. “So nobody could listen, we always went to the forest and proofread there,” she told the crowd. She would subsequently smuggle her books out of the country to publish them, uncensored, in Germany.

It was literature that first inspired her to ulitmately defect in 1987. “My affiliation to the village was destroyed by reading, by books,” she said. In particular, she cited the work of Thomas Berhard. “After reading him,” she said, “you don’t return to a Banat-Swabian village the same as you left it.”

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives