I had not come across Herta Müller until we studied her book Atemschaukel (available in English as The Hunger Angel) in a seminar about German writers from Eastern Europe. I loved the book and its style of prose - many of the phrases that appear throughout the book are the compound nouns that are so popular in the German language, but used in a way that you have never encountered before. Take the "Atemschaukel", for example, which you would literally translate as "BreathSwing", or "Wangenbrot" ("cheek bread"). It is also an eye-opening read: The book covers a part of history that is not particularly well known here in the UK: the German-speaking minority in Romania and their deportation to Russian labour camps during the Second World War.
During the talk, Müller discussed the background to the book and how its distinctive style had developed. Originally, the book was due to be a collaborative effort between Müller and the German/Romanian poet Oskar Pastior, who had actually been deported to a labour camp during the war. She described how Pastior spoke of his language being "broken" during his time at the camp and having to be rebuilt, which is how these new nouns were created. When Pastior passed away before their work could be completed, Müller wanted to capture his unique voice in the finished novel.
The discussion was also interspersed with readings from both the original German version and English translation of Atemschaukel, which was a real treat after enjoying the book so much. The event concluded with a brief Q and A and - as the event took place a mere week before the German election - politics could not be ignored!