to me that the collective was always so important to the state because of the oppression It was needed as a contrast to the individual The individual was not a part but rather the enemy of the collective That was confirmed over and over again A few years later I was fired from school as a teacher because of individualism and failure to adapt to the collective Each cat jumps differently at the puddle but in this country all the cats were the same They didn t jump over the puddle I didn t jump over it either I jumped right into the puddle I even knew beforehand that all I could do was jump into the puddle Dignity is also when you jump right into the puddle with it When you walk around with the burden of your empty freedom you don t get lost as quickly as without it Even with nothing in freedom freedom is greater than no freedom whatsoever In the time before I was kicked out of the factory I said strange things to myself like Time is a village and fear has the shortest face I didn t know what such a sentence meant but it sounded like certainty and self control The sentence stuck in my head I used it so often that it lost the strangeness and became quite ordinary through wear and tear I told myself the sentence could want what it wanted Or the one to one doesn t work here That s its freedom Not only did it set itself free it set me free That was nice that was enough It was its ordinariness that proved the sentence wished me well If it s good to you anything can become ordinary The ordinary is invaluable It told me I still belonged to myself with the burden of my empty freedom That I may despair of this state but not of myself So after decades of dictatorship everything had turned around There was no ethical foundation anymore Society had finally lost its compass Everything was material ly and morally ruined The people too They did nothing for decades and then they rebelled against the regime But to the same extent also against themselves The eternally bad mood in socialism also came from the weariness as to the indignity of one s own opportunism It may be that the loss of dignity becomes evident later than the loss of freedom But then all the more forcefully That was the reason why in all situations where it mattered I got into unavoidable conflicts Where it mattered it mattered all the time I worked as a translator in a mechani cal engineering factory in my third year and I refused to spy on my colleagues for the secret service The harassment that followed went on for weeks One morning I wanted to go to my office but an engineer had moved in He said I had no business being there The operat ing manuals and my thick dictionaries were lying on the floor in the hallway I went to the bathroom to cry for a while so no one would see me Then a friend let me go to a cleared corner of her desk It was an open plan office A few days later she was waiting outside the office in the morning with my things in her arms She said her colleagues didn t want me in her office anymore after all I was an informer The slander was organized by the secret service It was revenge for my refusal to spy on my colleagues Everyone believed that There was nothing I could do There were certainly countless informers in the factory who nobody knew about who were rewarded with positions and money for their services I was so defenseless at that time the world had derailed for me Yet every day I knew that my refusal was right It was vital After that rejection I felt free I was free from doing anything that was expected of me It would probably have brought me advantages too it was normal from the regime s point of view and more than just allowed It was a permissible duty I knew very well that my refusal would have serious consequences Nevertheless I was relieved because from now on the matter was clarified on both sides it was clear to me I wouldn t participate in the oppression And the secret service knew they couldn t count on me But what wasn t clear to me and came over me daily was the loneliness afterwards This great abandonment so monst rous as if any relationship with me was pure poison I was shunned the colleagues of yesterday didn t want to know me anymore I had allowed myself a freedom and thereby rescued a dignity that was not intended in this country It even intensified the oppression I understood then that a person only comes to be considered an individual for a surveillance state if they become an enemy of the state Because it wants to destroy the person the state thinks up the methods for each one individually That s what it has to do to make the destruction work Through the stairwell you could see the factory cat with the torn ear outside in the yard I remembered the old expression At the edge of the puddle every cat jumps differently But everyone behaved the same here I thought that in this sense but only in this sense the socialist collective does exist What s collective is this equality which functions without any need for discussion or coordi nation in the prevailing state of digested and internalized fear But when it comes to community or collegiality the collective is just ideological drivel With the freedom I had taken from the absence of freedom it was brought home Essay40 Robert Bosch Stiftung Herta Müller Writer Herta Müller was born in 1953 in Nițchidorf Romania After her studies she worked as a translator in a machine factory She was dismissed for refusing to work for the Romanian secret service the Securitate Her first book Niederungen Nadirs was published in a censored form Herta Müller moved to Germany in 1987 Numerous works and international guest professorships followed Her novel Atemschaukel The Hunger Angel promoted by the Robert Bosch Stiftung with the Crossing Borders fellowship was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature Ph ot o S te ffe n R ot h FO C U S A ge nc y

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