“By giving the award to Herta Mueller, who grew up in a German-speaking minority in Romania, (the committee) has recognized an author who refuses to let the inhumane side of life under communism be forgotten,” said Michael Krueger, head of Mrs. Mueller’s publisher, Hanser Verlag.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel praised Mrs. 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.”
Mrs. Mueller emigrated to Germany with her husband in 1987, two years before Ceausescu was toppled amid the widening communist collapse across Eastern Europe.
“This prize is the international recognition of the oppression of what happened in Romania and Eastern Europe,” said Romanian actor Ion Caramitru, an anti-communist who rode atop a tank to the television station in Bucharest during the 1989 revolt and now heads the country’s national theater.
Most of Mrs. Mueller’s work is in German, but some works have been translated into English, French and Spanish, including “The Passport,” ”The Land of Green Plums,” ”Traveling on One Leg” and “The Appointment.”
Mrs. Mueller’s latest novel, “Atemschaukel,” or “Swinging Breath,” is up for this year’s German Book Prize, which will be announced Monday.
Ms. Mueller is the 12th woman to win the Nobel Prize in literature. Recent female winners include Austria’s Elfriede Jelinek in 2004 and British writer Doris Lessing in 2007.
It’s the first time four women have won Nobel Prizes in the same year. U.S.-based researchers Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol Greider were among the medicine winners, and the chemistry prize included Israel’s Ada Yonath.
The prize includes a 10 million kronor ($1.4 million) prize and will be handed out Dec. 10 in the Swedish capital.
Associated Press writers Alison Mutler in Bucharest, Romania; Dragos Bota in Nichtidorf, Romania; Melissa Eddy in Berlin; and Louise Nordstrom in Stockholm contributed to this report.