Monday, September 20, 2010

DPA: Nobel literature winner Mueller shocked: hero was enemy spy

Berlin - Herta Mueller, current holder of the Nobel Prize for Literature, was in shock Friday after the revelation that the real-life hero of her latest anti-totalitariannovel had actually been a communist spy.

Romanian-born Mueller, who lives in Berlin, received the prize last December for her chilling booksabout the cruelty of communism and her own persecution by Romania's Securitate secret police.

Last year, she published a novel, entitled Atemschaukel (rocking of breath) in German, about a homosexual Romanian who is locked up by the Soviets in a Ukrainian gulag where many people starve to death.

Her close friend, Oskar Pastior, helped her till his sudden death in 2006 to write it. It was based on his true story.

On Thursday, a literary scholar revealed that Pastior, a poet and an ethnic German like Mueller, had been a traitor.

Using the code name 'Otto Stein,' he worked as an informer from 1961 to 1968 for the Securitate, documents in Bucharest show.

Stefan Sienerth, the scholar, disclosed Pastior's involvement in the literary quarterly Spiegelungen, publishing the June 8, 1961 document signed by Pastior in which he agrees to pass on information about his friends and associates to the secret police.

The document offered rehabilitation to Pastior. After his 1949 release from the gulag, Pastior wrote poetry in German, married and become a radio reporter. The spying ended when he was allowed through the Iron Curtain to live in the West in 1968.

The German daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine quoted Mueller on Friday saying that she had learned of the document's discovery several weeks ago, and 'felt both horror and rage.'

'It was like being slapped in the face,' she said.

Mueller said she had since progressed to a state of mourning.

During a Thursday evening literary reading, Mueller seemed to have bottled up her feelings again, speaking only of Pastior's ordeal in the gulag. They visited the former concentration camp site together before his death.

Over the years the writer has clashed with Romania's post- communist intellectuals with her remorseless campaign against former Securitate informers, demanding that writers and theatre people who were on the police payroll be unmasked and punished.

A Romanian poet Mircea Dinescu said Friday he was saddened by the disclosure of Pastior's involvement.

'It's just as well he is dead and does not have to live through his unmasking,' Dinescu told the German Press Agency dpa.

Sienerth, the Munich academic, said Pastior must have been put under immense pressure from the Securitate to collaborate.

'One should not forget that Pastior's contributions to literature were quite large,' he said.

The Securitate was one of eastern Europe's nastiest secret police agencies till communism collapsed in 1989. Scholars estimate Securitate officers made 10,000 people 'disappear' during its 40-year reign of terror.

It had 18,000 regular employees, plus a 50,000-strong paramilitary force and 162,000 informers under contract.

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