Herta Müller: How Could I Forgive
”Reconciliation? How can I reconcile with a regime? It’s a huge machine. Each person was the dictatorship itself.” Interview with German-Romanian writer Herta Müller, who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2009. If you only see one interview with her, it must be this one! Read more …
The Louisiana Literature Festival 2014 closed with this rare pearl of a conversation. The Danish writer and journalist Niels Barfoed interviewed his longstanding friend Herta Müller in front of a breathtaken audience.
In the conversation Müller talked about her childhood years as well as living under a ruthless dictatorship. Working as a translator in a factory, the regime repeatedly tried to convince her to switch sides and spy on the workers. When Müller refused, she herself became a state enemy.
Müller tells: ”Then when the rumor spread that I worked for the secret police the workers in the hall would cat-call me. They said I was an agent and whistled and booed me. I found that so hard. Everyone believes it. I can’t tell hundreds of people that it’s not true. Everything had become derailed. The world was somehow upside down. Slander is the worst. Criticism, attacks, you can defend yourself. But slander is the worst. It’s perverse.”
Müller goes on telling about the many times she was beaten and interrogated by the secret police. How she hid poems and early writings. And how she reflects upon that time today: ”For me, reconciliation has religious connotations. I don’t know what it means either. It can’t be forgotten. You need two sides for any reconciliation. I would need someone to do that with. One of the people who put me through that. Firstly, it’s not a person, it’s a state, a regime. How can I reconcile with a regime? It’s a huge machine. They represented power and were more than just people. They were also institutions. Each person was the dictatorship itself. He embodied and represented it.”
Müller continues: ”They never said that they were sorry. Not one of them has ever said sorry to me for anything. I wouldn’t know what to do. I’d have to ask: ’Comrade, who killed my friend Roland Kirsch?’ Would he give me an answer? I doubt it. And my dead friends? After everything I know, and that they won’t come back. They were great people. I loved them. They were young. They wanted to live. They did nothing. They were decent. The criminals are still here today. I want nothing to do with them. I know too much.”
Herta Müller (b. 1953) is a German-Romanian novelist, poet and essayist. In 2009 she received the Nobel Prize in Literature. Born in the small village of Nitchidorf in Romania, her native language is German. Müller is noted for her works depicting the effects of violence, cruelty and terror, usually in the setting of Communist Romania under the repressive Nicolae Ceausescu regime which she has experienced herself. Her much acclaimed 2009 novel The Hunger Angel (Atemschaukel) portrays the deportation of Romania’s German minority to Stalinist Gulags during the Soviet occupation of Romania. On October 8th, 2009, the Swedish Academy announced that she had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, describing her as a woman “who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed.”
Herta Müller was interviewed by Danish writer and journalist Niels Barfoed at the Louisiana Literature festival 2014.
Camera: Klaus Elmer, Nikolaj Jungersen, Jakob Solbakken and Mathias Nyholm
Edited by: Kamilla Bruus
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2014
Supported by Nordea-Fonden
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