Friday, November 27, 2009
Herta Müller 'has a psychosis', claims Romanian agent who spied on her
Former head of Securitate claims Nobel prize-winning author 'has no contact with external reality'
Kate Connolly in Berlin
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 26 November 2009
A former member of the Romanian secret police has launched a blistering attack on the Nobel prize winning writer Herta Müller.
Radu Tinu, who has admitted to spying on Müller as head of the secret police (or Securitate) in the Romanian city of Timisoara, where the Romanian-born German-speaking writer lived until 1987, told a newspaper she was suffering from mental delusion. "She has a psychosis, and has no contact with external reality," Tinu, formerly known as Major Tinu, told the Bucharest daily Adevarul this week. "She wasn't interrogated nearly as often as she has claimed."
Tinu admitted in the interview to having installed a bugging system in Müller's Timisoara home, but said it was a "one-off" incident, and was not, as Müller has claimed, a repeated event.
In his attack, Tinu – who after the fall of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu stood accused of repressing opposition figures and spent 700 days in detention awaiting trial before being released without charge – also sought to undermine Müller's claim that she was dismissed from her job as a teacher because of her refusal to work with the Securitate, saying it was instead "because she smoked in the classroom".
Müller, who has talked repeatedly about her treatment at the hands of the Securitate – which she refers to as the "abstract monster" of the Ceausescu regime – has yet to react to the accusations. But in an essay "The Securitate is Still in Service," which attracted widespread attention when it was published recently in Die Zeit, she detailed how the Securitate terrorised her over years. In the same essay, she also wrote that despite the end of the Ceaucescu regime, following his execution on Christmas day, 1989, it remains largely intact, with agents still operating at home and abroad, mainly under the guise of the post-communist secret services, the SRI, or Romanian Information Service.
She described how agents or "securists" bugged her house, hounded her from her job, turned friends against her, interrogated her, threatened to kill her and even continued to follow her once she had left Romania – incidents that are dealt with in detail in her novels. "According to their own figures, 40% of the staff [of the SRI] was taken on from the Securitate ... the rest are retired ... or the architects of the market economy," she wrote.
Müller also detailed the "psychological terror" she endured over years. "The secret service came and went as it liked when we weren't at home. Often they left deliberate signs that they'd been there such as planting cigarette butts, taking pictures off the wall, turning chairs upside down. The creepiest thing was stretched over weeks, when a fox fur that was on the floor was bit by bit taken apart – the tail, the feet and finally the head was cut off," she wrote.
Much of her maltreatment is documented in her Securitate file, which runs to 914 pages.
Tinu, who is now the Timisoara branch manager of the Romanian insurance company Asirom, claimed that Müller was "treated with kid gloves", because she was "surrounded by German secret service", and for the sake of diplomatic relations with Germany it was considered too great a risk to handle her otherwise.
Tinu's attack is the latest in a wave of hostile reactions towards Müller in her native Romania since the announcement last month that the writer had secured the world's top literary prize. While she has been celebrated in her adopted Germany (she emigrated in 1987 and is now living in Berlin), Müller's achievement has attracted mixed reactions in her homeland, including accusations that she has deliberately sought to denigrate Romania.
In one outspoken attack, Cristian Tudor Popescu, one of Romania's most prominent journalists, said Müller's reputation was based purely on her ability to attack the Ceausescu regime, rather than on any literary merit. "When she got the prize she spoke about the dictatorship, but not about literature, as if she were Nelson Mandela. The Nobel Peace prize would have suited her better," he said.
But Beatrice Unger, editor of the Sibiu weekly Hermannstadter Zeitung, said accusations that Müller had "profited" from the Ceausescu regime were driven by envy over her success."The only people to profit from the regime were Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu. Herta Müller? Only in so much as she was able to leave the country at a time when others could only dream of a passport. These attacks are driven by envy," she said.
Müller's latest novel, Atemschaukel, is due to be published in the UK next year as Everything I Possess I Carry With Me. She was praised by the Nobel prize committee for depicting "the landscape of the dispossessed", with the "concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose".