Herta Müller

German-Romanian novelist, poet and essayist

Herta Müller (born 17 August 1953) is a Romanian-born German novelist, poet, essayist and recipient of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature. Born in Nițchidorf, Timiș County in Romania, her native language is German. Since the early 1990s she has been internationally established, and her works have been translated into more than 20 languages.

Herta Müller (2012)


  • You go out for a walk and the world opens up for you. And before you’ve even stretched your legs properly, it closes shut. For here to there it’s all just the farty sputter of lantern. And they call that having lived. It’s not worth the bother of putting on your shoes.
  • The real secret is why love starts out with claws like a cat and then fades with time like a half-eaten mouse.
    • Michael Hulse and Philip Boehm translation, Picador 2002, p. 81
  • Welt, Welt, Schwester Welt
Wann hab ich dich satt
Wenn mein Brot mir trocken ist
Das Glas mich in der Hand vergisst
Wenn das Sargbrett schlägt um mich
Vielleicht dann hab ich dich satt
Wer geboren ist, verzweifelt
Wer gestorben ist, verrottet.
World world sister world
When shall I tire of you.
When my bread is dry
When my hand forgets my glass
When the coffin’s boxed me in
Maybe that’s when I’ll be tired of you.
Living is despairing
And the dead they rot away
  • Michael Hulse and Philip Boehm translation, Picador 2002, p. 92
  • The war was still on in January 1945. In their dismay at my being shipped off in the dead of winter to who knows where in Russia, everyone wanted to give me something that might be of use, even if it couldn't be help. Because nothing in the world could possible help.
    • p. 1
  • I simply wanted to go to a place that didn't know who I was.
    • p. 2
  • I have packed myself into silence so deeply and for so long that I can never unpack myself using words. When I speak, I only pack myself a little differently.
    • p. 3
  • I was my own thief, the words came out of nowhere and caught me.
    • p. 4
  • The world is not a costume ball,
    • p. 5
  • A lot of people think packing a suitcase is something you learn through practice, like singing or praying.
    • p. 6
  • If you don't have the right things, you improvise. the wrong things become necessary. Then the necessary things turn out to be the only right things, simply because they're what you have.
    • p. 6
  • No novels, since you just read them once and never again.
    • p. 7
  • You can't rearrange freshly fallen snow, you can't fix snow so it looks untouched. You can rework earth, and sand and even grass if you try hard enough. Water takes care of itself, because it swallows everything and flows back together once it's done swallowing. And air is always in place because you can't see it. Everything but snow would have kept quiet.
    • p. 11
  • The time for eating otrach orach is over. But not the hunger, which is always greater than we are.
    • p. 17
  • How can you face the world if all you can say about yourself is that you're hungry. If you can't think of anything else.
    • p. 17–18
  • Perhaps we had to stand so long as to stop the time in motion. Our bones became heavy as iron. When the flesh on your body disappears,your bones become a burden, and the ground pulls you down.
    • p. 20
  • I don't know if I can't sleep because I am trying to recall the objects, or whether I struggle to recall them because I can't sleep.
    • p. 26
  • Riding somewhere was always a happy thing. First of all: as long as you're moving, you haven't arrived. As long as you haven't arrived, you don't have to work. Riding in truck gives you time to recover. Second: when you ride, you come to some place that couldn't care less about you. you can't be yelled at or beaten by a tree. Under a tree, yes but the tree can't help that.
    • p. 50
  • There (Kaschau) the mountains stare down through our heads until we die.
    • p. 55
  • You can think all kinds of things. But you can't know for sure.
    • p. 61
  • There’s an unspoken law that you should never start to cry if you have too many reasons to do so.
    • p. 68
  • Hunger devours nearly all the artistry.
    • p. 74
  • Hunger is not a bunker or a bed frame, otherwise it could be measured. Hunger is not an object.
    • p. 81
  • Half starved humans are really neither masculine nor feminine but genderless, like objects.
    • p. 149
  • Boredom is fear's patience. Fear doesn't want to exaggerate.
    • p. 198
  • Inside the camp the we-form is singular.
    • p. 251
  • Being a stranger is hard, but being a stranger when you're so impossibly close is unbearable.
    • p. 261
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