Thursday the Swedish Academy's announcement that the 2009 prize had gone to the Romanian-born German novelist Herta Müller, who is the 12th woman to win the Nobel in its 109-year history. The news caught more readers than usual off guard and reinforced the Academy’s reputation for being defiantly, if predictably, unpredictable.
Only 5 of Ms. Müller’s some 20 books have been translated into English. Those translations are suddenly in great demand and short supply; the Nobel committee has given American readers another unexpected and vaguely exotic homework assignment.
The choice of Ms. Müller, whose dark, closely observed and sometimes violent work often explores exile and the grim quotidian realities of life under the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania, may feed the suspicions that the Nobel Committee has, not for the first time, put political considerations ahead of writerly ones, The New York Times reports.
It was also reported, Herta Müller appeared overwhelmed as she was escorted Thursday into the headquarters of the Trade Assn. of German Publishing in central Berlin, her first public appearance after winning the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Müller, 56, took a few seconds to compose herself before a crowd of journalists, then said, "I didn't expect it. . . . I still can't speak about it, it's still too early and I think I need some time to order it in my mind."
An ethnic German born and raised in Romania, Müller has made the trials of life under the brutal Communist dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu -- which ended with his overthrow and execution 20 years ago -- the focus of her work. In giving thanks for the award, she spoke of the way Ceausescu's regime has shaped her fiction, The Los Angeles Times reports.
In the meantime, books by Romanian-born writer Herta Müller, who won the 2009 Nobel Prize for Literature, jumped into the bestseller list on Amazon.com yesterday.
"The Land of Green Plums" sales ranking climbed to seventh place from 78,235th a day earlier, the biggest jump among books offered by the Seattle-based company. "The Passport" moved to the 209th position from 2,290,352, the company said.
The choice of the city of Helsinki is not incidental as the capital of Finland had hosted US-Soviet negotiations on the limitation of nuclear stockpiles in 1969