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Updated: October 28, 2010 16:31 IST

Spy fears drove Nobel laureate to proofread in forest

DPA
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German writer Ms. Herta Mueller. File photo: AP.
German writer Ms. Herta Mueller. File photo: AP.

Nobel literature prize winner Herta Mueller, used to meet her German proof—reader in the forest to hide from Romania’s Securitate communist secret police, she told readers at the Leipzig Book Fair, which ends on Sunday.

“So nobody could listen, we always went to the forest and proofread there,”the Romanian—German author said of the meetings with her German proof—reader.

“I was a young author from the end of the world, and she was a great proof—reader from the centre of the world — from Germany,” the diminutive author told her Leipzig audience late Saturday.

Ms. Mueller, 56, was born in a German—speaking village in the Banat, a part of Romania where German speakers still live.

Ms. Mueller’s prose debut, Nadirs, gave a sinister account of life in a Romanian village. A censored version of the book was published in Bucharest in 1982. Two years later, the author was able to smuggle the book to the West, and a full version was published in Berlin.

Writing about her experience as member of a minority and life under a dictatorship, she was exposed to the attention of the Securitate secret police in communist Romania, facing interrogations and persecution.

The author fled the regime of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1987, when she came to West Berlin with her husband.

Ms. Mueller told her festival audience that literature was an important factor towards her initial decision to leave her native village.

“My affiliation to the village was destroyed by reading, by books,” she said, explaining that literature broadened her horizons.

In particular, she praised the work of post-war Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard. “After reading him you don’t return to a Banat—Swabian village the same as you left it. That hurts, too,” Ms. Mueller said.

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