Monday, October 19, 2009

Herta So Good

Does anyone know how Romanians inside Romania are reacting to Herta Müller winning the Nobel Prize? They’ve been waiting years for their turn, grooming their own set of Romanian-language contenders, and end up with their first Nobel in Lit from a German-language author who’s lived in Berlin for nearly a quarter century. Putting aside the quality of her work and considering just the politics, Sweden might be seen as getting a “two-for-one” with a writer like Müller, German and Romanian, showing sympathy for a (now nearly vanished) minority community while staying safely within the EU’s cultural comfort zone. The German-speaking minority in the Banat has a complex history in Romania as oppressors and oppressed—mostly, since the Soviet occupation at the end of WW II, tragically oppressed—and it sounds like Müller explores that legacy in scrupulous detail. Her resistance under Ceausescu also looks uncompromising and brave in a time and place where shady accommodation was more the norm. I’m glad for the chance to discover her work, which I hadn’t known about before the award. Just wondering if this is seen in Romania as a triumph, or another example of Romanians getting the short end of the European stick. Or are they too busy with their government collapsing last week to even care? (Banat’s now second most famous German pictured above.)


Alli Warren said...

Men's chests don't really look like that anymore, do they? Some kind of transformation happened. They have broadness, and tone, but they're not really defined, it's just firm surface. But maybe this is only true for Hollywood Male Actor Chests. I guess that's what I mean. (Sorry so crazy).

rodney k said...

Hi Alli,

Too true! It's not just like changing tastes or standards for beauty or something, but a whole evolutionary shift packed into a brisk half-century. What the hell happened? I mean, besides 'roids.

Charles said...

Romanians are proud of it. I know this because one is married to me.

rodney k said...

Hi Charles,

Thanks for weighing in. Is your partner part of the Romanian diaspora? I was curious esp. about Romanians in Romania, where sometimes (not always) the perspectives can be a bit different.

I did get a backchannel pointing me to a literary critic in Bucharest who wasn't esp. nettled by Muller's win, but hadn't really heard of her before, either. I got the impression, from this correspondent at least, that Muller's almost as little known in Romania as she is here, and that her work is more a part of German literature than Romania's, even though nearly all of her fiction is set there.

But there may be a lot of pride, too. I'm sure a Nobel going to someone who survived Ceaucescu can't hurt!

Charles said...

No, it can't hurt.

And my Transylvanian--who endured Ceausescu; breadlines, etc., is happy for it.

Charles said...

Your correspondent in Bucharest undoubtedly knows more about the state of Literature in Romania than my wife does, because she hasn't lived there in 4 years, and when she was living there, she was studying economics.