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Elfriede Jelinek (1946 - )

Lifespan: 1946 -

Related: Austria - literature

Titles: The Piano Teacher (1983)

Austrian Novelist Jelinek Wins Nobel Prize in 2004

Jelinek's most famous novel, "The Piano Teacher," was adapted into a 2001 film that starred Isabelle Huppert, although other works such as "Lust" are well-known in German-speaking countries and she is widely translated in French. A few of her books have been released in English by Serpent's Tail, a small, London-based publisher specializing in political and experimental works. --ABC News, 2004


Elfriede Jelinek (born in 20 October 1946) is an Austrian feminist playwright and novelist. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 2004 "for her musical flow of voices and counter-voices in novels and plays that with extraordinary linguistic zeal reveal the absurdity of society's clichés and their subjugating power".

Jelinek was born in Mürzzuschlag, Styria, Austria. She is seen as the younger counterpart of Austrian playwright Thomas Bernhard. Like Bernhard, she is at the same time a highly acclaimed writer (especially abroad) and proverbial Beelzebub abused for her critical views (especially in Austria). Her prose and plays are controversial. Elfriede Jelinek is one of the most influential contemporary writers.

Prevalent topics in her prose and dramatic work are female sexuality, its abuse and the war of sexes in general. Texts like wir sind lockvögel, baby (we are decoy, baby), Die Liebhaberinnen (Lovers) or Die Klavierspielerin (The Pianist) illustrate her point nicely and shock the reader with the unemotional description of brutality and power play in human relations. According to Jelinek, power and aggression are the driving forces of relationships.

Her novel Lust is a pornographic description of sexuality, aggression and abuse. It did not go too well with the critics. Rather than the plot itself, it is the cold description of moral failures that irritates and haunts you.

In her later work, Jelinek has somewhat abandoned female issues to focus her energy on social criticism in general. Her plays are taciturn, yet lavish productions with an emphasis on choreography like Sportstück which explores the issue of violence and fascism in sports.

Jelinek's novel Die Klavierspielerin was turned into The Piano Teacher, an acclaimed movie by Austrian director Michael Haneke with Isabelle Huppert playing the repressed pianist.

Jelinek supported the resistance against the Austrian right-wing government under Wolfgang Schüssel. She was a member of the Communist Party of Austria from 1974 to 1991. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elfriede_Jelinek [Oct 2004]

The Piano Teacher (1983) - Elfriede Jelinek

The Piano Teacher (1983) - Elfriede Jelinek [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

From Publishers Weekly
Sexuality and violence are coupled in this brilliant, uncompromising book set in modern-day Vienna, by the winner of the 1986 Heinrich Boll Prize. Erika Kohut, a spinster in her mid-30s, has been selected by her domineering mother to be sacrificed on the altar of art. Carefully groomed and trained, she's unfortunately not gifted enough to become a concert pianist. Instead, she teaches piano at the Vienna Conservatory. She still lives at home, and in the eyes of the world is the dutiful daughter. But there's another, perversely sexual side of Erika that she finds difficult to repress. She goes to a peep show, frequents the local park where Turks and Serbo-Croats pick up women and, just for kicks, slices herself with a razor. When one of her students, Walter Klemmer, falls in love with her, Erika demands sadomasochistic rituals before she'll agree to sleep with him. While the subject matter is deliberately perverse, Jelinek gets behind the cream-puff prettiness of Vienna; this novel is not for the weak of heart. Violence is a cleansing force, a point that brings back uncomfortable overtones of an Austria 50 years ago.

Lust (1989) - Elfriede Jelinek, Michael Hulse

Lust (1989) - Elfriede Jelinek, Michael Hulse [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

From Publishers Weekly
The acclaimed author of The Piano Teacher again reveals the grotesque corruption of post-WW II Austrian society. The setting is an Alpine ski resort, built on the profits generated by tourism and a polluting paper plant. The director of the plant is a swaggering vulgarian who divides his time between oppressing his workers and having sex with his wife. Like virtually all the book's characters, he is driven by his insatiable lust. His wife, Gerti, is gradually breaking down under this constant sexual attention, drinking heavily, until one day she wanders out of the house in a dressing gown and slippers. She is "rescued" by Michael, an ambitious young man with designs on a political career, who is no less of a sexual predator than her husband. Jelinek tells this story in a compulsively punning, often witty prose (skillfully translated by Hulse), but the book is disfigured by repetitiveness and the author's undisguised contempt for her characters. Marriage is depicted as little more than legalized prostitution, women are trapped and pummeled but unworthy of sympathy, children are greedy little narcissists, everyone is corrupt, venal and stupid. The town is little more than a parody of Marx's description of capitalism as the war of each against all. Ultimately, for all the considerable skill with which Lust is crafted, it is shrill and deadening. Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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