Herta Müller - Pictures, Art, Photography

Herta Müller

Background Information about Herta Müller



Nobel laureate Herta Müller crystalizes her passion for the unconventional arrangement of words in the form of beautiful, poetic collages. Carefully selected words are arranged into visual poems that are light and humorous yet heavy and thought provoking at the same time – and always accompanied by an illustration. The compositions reveal a side of Müller previously unknown to the public. In her novels, the writer from the Romanian part of the Banat region addresses life under a dictatorship, repression, alienation, and fear. In her collages, by contrast, she allows herself to be guided by the words at hand, giving in to chance. The results are a constant surprise.

Müller’s unique way with words combines with the typography, colours and patterns of the paper. The expressions are given their own tone, their own unique resonance, through the smallest variations in font. The compositions can be enjoyed even without reading them. Herta Müller creates a new space for interpretation, arousing in us an appreciation for words and their individual sounds. The writer herself compares her poetic images to the pamphlets of the past. “Where I grew up, in Romania, under a dictatorship, it was impossible to make pamphlets using typewriters. They had to be registered with the police. We took anything we could find and simply glued it together”, Müller explained to German magazine Der Spiegel in 2012.


Herta Müller and her poignant, powerful works of prose belong amongst the greats of international literature. In addition to the Nobel Prize for Literature, which she was awarded in 2009, the writer’s other awards include the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (1998), the Berlin Literature Prize (2005), and the Grand Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (2010). In 2010, Munich’s Literaturhaus dedicated an exhibition to Müller: Der Kalte Schmuck des Lebens (The Cold Jewellry of Life), as conceived by Ernest Wichner.


Whether she extracts the words from newspapers or magazines, what matters to Herta Müller is form, colour and, above all, the word itself. She carries her cutting board around with her everywhere, a habit that enabled her to catalogue and file hundreds of thousands of words during the 1990’s. For each individual poetic puzzle, she allows herself an area no larger than a postcard, keeping the space for her personal linguistic discoveries quite compact.

It would be a fallacy, however, to view this size limitation as restrictive. In fact, it is quite the opposite. When Müller describes the shuffling and re-arranging of the words, and how their meanings consequently change, an almost childlike happiness emerges. Her construction of the visual poems is “sensual and unpredictable”, Müller explains. “I bring completely normal words together. And then, out of the blue, they sparkle!”

Hannah Hör


1953Born in Nițchidorf, Romania
1973-1976Studied German and Romanian Philology at West University of Timișoara, Romania
1976-1979Worked as a translator and teacher. Fired in 1979 for refusing to cooperate with the Securitate, the Romanian secret police.
1987Emigrated to Germany
1995Became a member of the German Academy for Language and Literature, Darmstadt, Germany
1998Brothers Grimm Guest Lecturer at the University of Kassel, Germany
2001Poetics Docent, Tübingen, Germany
2005Heiner Müller Guest Lecturer at Free Universtiy of Berlin, Germany
2007-2008Residence at the Internationales Künstlerhaus Villa Concordia in Bamberg, Germany
2009Nobel Prize in Literature


2010Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
2009Nobel Prize in Literature
Franz Werfel Human Rights Award
2004Konrad Adenauer Foundation Literature Prize
2002Carl Zuckmayer Medal
1999Franz Kafka Prize
1998International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
1997Ricarda Huch Prize
1995Aristeion Prize, Literature Prize of the European Union
1994Kleist Prize
1984Aspekte Literature Prize


2010Herta Müller. Der kalte Schmuck des Lebens, Literaturhaus München, Munich, Germany
2013Wortkünstler/Bildkünstler, Internationale Tage, Ingelheim am Rhein, Germany
Wortkünstler/Bildkünstler, Museum Behnhaus, Drägerhaus, Lübeck, Deutschland