Herta Müller was born in 1953 in the German-speaking town Nitzkydorf in Banat, Romania. Her father had served in the Waffen SS during World War II and her mother spent five years in a work camp in present-day Ukraine. Many years later, in Atemschaukel (2009), Müller was to depict the exile of the German Romanians in the Soviet Union.

From 1973 to 1976, Müller studied German and Romanian literature at the university in Timisoara (Temeswar). During this period, she was associated with Aktionsgruppe Banat, a circle of young German-speaking authors who, in opposition to Ceausescu’s dictatorship, sought freedom of speech. After completing her studies, she worked as a translator at a machine factory from 1977 to 1979. She was dismissed when she refused to be an informant for the secret police. After her dismissal, she was harassed by Securitate.

Müller made her debut with the collection of short stories Niederungen (1982), which was censored in Romania. Two years later, she published the uncensored version in Germany and, in the same year, Drückender Tango in Romania. Because Müller had publicly criticized the dictatorship in Romania, she was prohibited from publishing in her own country. In 1987, Müller emigrated together with her husband, author Richard Wagner.

The novels Der Fuchs war damals schon der Jäger (1992), Herztier (1994; The Land of Green Plums, 1996) and Heute wär ich mir lieber nicht begegnet (1997; The Appointment, 2001) give, with chiselled details, a portrait of daily life in a stagnated dictatorship. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2009.