In a long interview about her writing, the Nobel Prize-winner Herta Müller articulates the importance of what her characters don’t say:
Silence is also a form of speaking. They’re exactly alike. It’s a basic component of language. We’re always selecting what we say and what we don’t. Why do we say one thing and not the other? And we do this instinctively, too, because no matter what we’re talking about, there’s more that doesn’t get said than does. And this isn’t always to hide things—it’s simply part of an instinctive selection in our speech. This selection varies from one person to the next, so that no matter how many people describe the same thing, the descriptions are different, the point of view is different. And even if there is a similar viewpoint, people make different choices as to what is said or not said. This was very clear to me, coming from the village, since the people there never said more than they absolutely needed to. When I was fifteen and went to the city, I was amazed at how much people talked and how much of that talk was pointless. And how much people talked about themselves—that was totally alien to me.
For me, silence had always been another form of communication. After all, you can tell so much just by looking at a person. At home we always knew about each other even if we didn’t talk about ourselves all the time. I encountered a lot of silence elsewhere as well. There was the silence that was self-imposed, because you could never say what you really thought.