Cover image for Nadirs = (Niederungen)
Nadirs = (Niederungen)
Müller, Herta.
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Uniform Title:
Niederungen. English
Publication Information:
Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
122 pages ; 22 cm.
The funeral sermon -- The swabian bath -- My family -- Nadirs -- Rotten pears -- Oppressive tango -- The window -- The man with the matchbox -- Village chronicle -- About German mustaches and hair parts -- The intervillage bus -- Mother, father, and the little one -- The street sweepers -- Black park -- Workday.
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Juxtaposing reality and fantasy, nightmares and dark laughter, Nadirs is a collection of largely autobiographical stories based on Herta Müller's childhood in the Romanian countryside. The individual tales reveal a child's often nightmarish impressions of life in her village. Seamlessly mixing reality with dream-like images, they brilliantly convey the inner, troubled life of a child and at the same time capture the violence and corruption of life under an oppressive state.

Author Notes

Born in Romania in 1953, Herta Müller lost her job as a teacher and suffered repeated threats after refusing to cooperate with Ceausescu's Secret Police. She succeeded in emigrating in 1987 and now lives in Berlin. The recipient of the European Literature Prize, she has also won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for her previous novel, The Land of Green Plums.

Müller was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2009.

(Publisher Provided) Herta Müller was born in Nitzkydorf, Romania on August 17, 1953 to German parents. She studied German studies and Romanian literature at Timisoara University. While there, she became part of the Aktionsgruppe Banat, a group of idealistic Romanian-German writers seeking freedom of expression under the Ceaucescu dictatorship. After graduation, she worked as a translator in a machine factory, but was fired for refusing to cooperate with the secret police. Her first short story collection, Niederungen, was published in 1982 in a censored form. She immigrated to West Germany in 1987.

She is a novelist, poet and essayist whose works depict the harsh conditions of life in Communist Romania under the repressive Nicolae Ceausescu regime. Her works include Herztier or The Land of Green Plums; The Appointment; Der Fuchs War Damals Schon der Jäger or The Passport; and Atemschaukel or Everything I Possess I Carry with Me. She has won numerous awards including the Marieluise-Fleißer Prize in 1990, the Kranichsteiner Literary Prize in 1991, the Kleist Prize in 1994, and the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Muller has sewn together a collection of semiautobiographical stories of her bleak childhood in Romania. Poverty, sickness, isolation, and sexual promiscuity run throughout the stories. Her family and community fear God, inherit and pass on superstitions, and gossip endlessly. Muller presents stark portraits of life on small farms in Romania. At times the stories are hard to follow, but Muller's girl narrator is just as confused, trying to piece together nightmares, dreams, and memories of her heartbreaking home life. She feels isolated from her parents, while the village keeps its distance from the family with rumors of illegitimacy. The German-speaking village itself is an island within Romania. The author does allow her narrator to escape the countryside, only to live in the ridged confusion of city life. This is not a sentimental book, but Muller's keen sense of showing rural life as opposed to describing it makes this a very emotional and disturbing one. --Michelle Kaske

Publisher's Weekly Review

Mller, whose The Land of the Green Plums won the 1998 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, turns a dark and steady eye on Communist Romania in her first collection, published in Romania in 1982 and in Germany two years later. Newly translated into English as part of the University of Nebraska's European Women Writers Series, these tales are based on Mller's experience growing up in the German-speaking region of Banat. The 15 stories are melodious but sober in tone, echoing an overwhelmingly oppressive social atmosphere. It's bluntly stated that boys are injured in local factories and mothers' lives are unrelentingly harsh; meanwhile, Mller imbues a trip to the barber or a ride on the intervillage bus with colorful, surreal twists. Shaky sexual initiations become sonorous incantations. In "The Funeral Sermon," Mller recreates the dissociative chaos of a child at her father's funeral. She hears of his atrocious war crimes and of his predatory sexuality, but it's unclear whether the girl is a reliable narrator, or even if she's awake. The substantial title story also explores a child's perceptions of her family and environment, related in spasmodic bursts of poetic clarity: "The frost flowers devour their own leaves, they have faces like milky blind eyes." This is followed by childish petulance: "When I grow up I'll cook frost flowers, I'll speak during meals, and I'll drink water after every bite." Most of these impressionistic pieces are bursting with breathtaking, earthy details: a mother washes her toddler in the tub with a pair of panties; a girl explores her sexuality, observing that "my silky gray skirt is a silent bell"; vivid colors saturate farm animals; and family dynamics suggest both otherworldly tethers and mundane brutalities. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Mller, who won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for The Land of Green Plums, is considered one of the most gifted contemporary German-language writers, a claim this newly translated collection of stories would seem to prove. Once again, Mller takes us back to Communist Romania. But unlike her previous work, Nadirs is a very personal book, as much about Mller's own family sagas as it is about the inescapable scars of communism. Perhaps the most pertinent word to describe this dainty collection is contradictionÄthe narratives portray what is real and undeniable in a surreal and almost absurd way, yet the seemingly unadorned storytelling demands the maximum concentration from the reader. Originally published in German ten years ago, this book was well worth the wait; it is an important achievement in contemporary Eastern European literature.ÄMirela Roncevic, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.