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The Piano Teacher

A book by Elfriede Jelinek

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Abysmally depressing and bleak, a work offering emptyness.

  • May 10, 2013
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Upon Elfriede Jelinek's selection for the Nobel Prize for Literature, with the novel-The Piano Teacher-being specifically cited, the Italian newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, courageously criticized the choice. And I, as a reader, couldn't have agreed more. In its explaination, it stated: "...Three hundred pages of brutal recklessness, perverse psychologies and destructive feminine genealogy, intended only to denounce the irremediable inheritance of evil, sin, violence in every form of love." It also read that her works are: "Cold and sad, marked by a lack of communication and abuse, the union of bodies is never open to delicacy or dignity of soul of purpose. [The Piano Teacher's] devastating lasciviousness in the name of political and social denunciation [is] translatable in absolute nihilism."

On reading the The Piano Teacher, what, to me, was impressively conveyed was the mental blurring of day-to-day outer visual realities with the subterfuge of the tormented inner self: the private addiction to pornography, sadomasichism, isolationism and the stark refusal to confront the demon within, as was clearly illustrated with the warped character, Erika Kohut. However, Walter Klemmer's character, his perception of love and what it entails, is equally perveted to the extent that you wanted to dismiss them both. And if both characters-among the others-are supposed to be representative of a vast sense of realistic humanism, why should we want to leave them both behind, despite the fact that they are both so boldly despicable? But that is what Jelinek almost wants to have happen-the manifestation of abandonment, with the emergence of power dominion in tact. Jelinek's characters are not humans. They are robots. Power, not redemptive love, compassion or understanding, is the core theme. The characters are utterly unconvincing, nothing but cliche, cardboard cutouts who revolve around their own obsessed stupidity for a minute degree of unrelenting gender powerplay, where the woman's emotional mentality becomes a man's and vice versa. No normal egressions are at all offered, neither physically nor emotionally. And that somehow stunts the characters and their situations to the point of the whole novel being rather laughable than 'serious' literature.

As a clear illustration of the whole essence of this work, I'd like to cite an excerpt on page 226 with Erika imploring: "Now she pleads for rape, which she pictures more as a steady announcement of rape, nothing could save me from it...tell me in advance that I'll be beside myself with bliss when you treat me brutally but thoroughly...He (Klemmer) should blissfully keep slapping her, hard and steadily. Thank-you very much in advance!" And it gets much, much worse. If that is an aspect of feminism, I feel really sorry for feminists or anyone who adopts the ideal that sex is a form of power control to be used and manipulated for gain and self-glorification--irrelevant of genders. And to the Nobel Academy, I think their choice speaks for itself.
Abysmally depressing and bleak, a work offering emptyness.

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More The Piano Teacher reviews
review by . January 31, 2005
Upon Elfriede Jelinek's selection for the Nobel Prize for Literature, with the novel-The Piano Teacher-being specifically cited, the Italian newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, courageously criticized the choice. And I, as a reader, couldn't have agreed more. In its explaination, it stated: "...Three hundred pages of brutal recklessness, perverse psychologies and destructive feminine genealogy, intended only to denounce the irremediable inheritance of evil, sin, violence in every form of love." It …
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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.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Details

ISBN-10: 1852427507
ISBN-13: 978-1852427504
Author: Elfriede Jelinek
Publisher: Serpent's Tail

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