Herta Müller: I became an author after realising words were louder written down

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The Independent Online

Can we say that it is precisely the smallest objects – be they trumpets, accordions, or handkerchiefs – which connect the most disparate things in life? That the objects are in orbit and that their deviations reveal a pattern of repetition – a vicious circle, or what we call in German a devil's circle? We can believe this, but not say it. Still, what can't be said can be written.

Because writing is a silent act, a labour from the head to the hand. The mouth is skipped over. I talked a great deal during the dictatorship, mostly because I decided not to blow the trumpet. Usually my talking led to excruciating consequences.

But the writing began in silence, there on the stairs, where I had to come to terms with more than could be said. What was happening could no longer be expressed in speech. At most the external accompaniments, but not the totality of the events themselves. That I could only spell out in my head, voicelessly, within the vicious circle of the words during the act of writing. I reacted to the deathly fear with a thirst for life. A hunger for words.

Nothing but the whirl of words could grasp my condition. It spelled out what the mouth could not pronounce. I chased after the events, caught up in the words and their devilish circling, until something emerged I had never known before. Parallel to the reality, the pantomime of words stepped into action, without respect for any real dimensions, shrinking what was most important and stretching the minor matters.

As it rushes madly ahead, this vicious circle of words imposes a kind of cursed logic on what has been lived. Their pantomime is ruthless and restive, always craving more but instantly jaded.

The subject of dictatorship is necessarily present, because nothing can ever again be a matter of course once we have been robbed of nearly all ability to take anything for granted. The subject is there implicitly, but the words are what take possession of me. They coax the subject anywhere they want.

Nothing makes sense anymore and everything is true.

This is an extract from the author's Nobel Lecture, delivered in Stockholm this week in acceptance of this year's Nobel Prize in Literature