A life spent chronicling the brutality of dictatorships has propelled Romanian-born German Herta Mueller to this year’s Nobel Literature prize. The announcement was a surprise to many, not least Mueller herself:“I still can’t believe it. I know it’s true, but I don’t believe it,” she said. “It’s not really there in my mind.” Mueller is best-known for works such as “The Land of Green Plums” which she dedicated to Romanian friends killed during the rule of Nicolae Ceausescu. She herself was harrassed by the secret police for refusing to become an informer. “I know what I’m writing about because I spent more than 30 years living in a dictatorship. I had to leave, just three years before that dictatorship fell. That made me very happy.” Mueller’s success has delighted the Romanian village where she grew up. The local mayor said it had put Nitzkydorf on the map. It has also gone down well in Germany, her adopted homeland. “20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is wonderful that such high-class literature and this kind of life experience gets honoured with the Nobel prize,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel. Mueller joins the list of European writers who have dominated the Nobel literature award in the past decade. She is the 12th woman to win the prize since it was created in 1901.