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2024 marks the 40th anniversary of Rotbuch Verlag’s first complete edition of Herta Müller’s Niederungen, of which a censored version had been published by Kriterion in Bucharest in 1982. Niederungen earned Müller the Aspekte Literature Prize (1984) and the Rauriser Literature Prize (1985), and marked a turning point in her life and career, foreshadowing her personal and literary trajectory. At the time, she refused to collaborate as a state informer and lived in fear of being monitored and threatened by the Romanian secret police. After fleeing Romania in 1987, West Berlin became the safe haven that allowed her to become an internationally acclaimed writer. Her work has been translated into many languages, garnered numerous awards and culminated in her receiving the Nobel Prize in 2009.

Mirroring the resilience of Niederungen’s history, Müller’s life and work testament to the power of literature to resist totalitarianism and inspire hope. Rooted in autofiction, her novels, essays and collages deliver incisive political observations that shed light on complex and haunting historical events in 20th-century Europe, events that continue to resonate with current socio-political issues. To this day, her sharp, poetic prose, verbal imagery, and focus on detail evoke an 'aesthetics of resistance' that shatters and defies all forms of totalitarianism in portraying the debilitating lives of ordinary people on the margins of tyrannical regimes. 

This symposium brings together international scholars who will discuss and revisit Müller’s œuvre, from Niederungen and other early works to her more recent essays and collages, as well as the reception of her work in Romania. The event includes a screening of Badelita’s 2016 film adaptation of Reisende auf einem Bein

Programme [PDF]

All are welcome to attend the symposium which is being held in person at the University of London Senate House. Advance online registration is essential; registration fees for non-speakers apply.

This event is organised in conjunction with the Université de Moncton and King’s College London. 

Image: Herta Müller at the Literaturfest München in 2016. Photo by Heike Huslage-Koch (via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)