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Wonderful, Wonderful Times

A book by Elfriede Jelinek

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Another literary dud from Austria's Elfriede Jelinek.

  • Nov 17, 2010
Rating:
-1
Published in 1980, Wonderful Wonderful Times is a novel whose title is a complete contradiction to anything of what the book is indicative of. Understood and accepted. For me, however, it was a confirming piece of drip-drab fiction that only reiterated my original assessment of her after reading the perennial fan favorite, The Piano Teacher, a butcher job of a novel if ever there was one. This novel could take second honors, however.

Set in the 1950s after WWII, Austria is trying to assume an air of normality and goodness, letting the past be the past and keeping the ghosts of history forcibly at bay. There are no spillover ramifications from the atrocities of war. In truth, that is untrue, but the character elders in Jelinek's stiff and poorly written and unconvincing novel would be hard pressed to have it otherwise, for their contaminated "children" are defects of a dark and wanted closeted history, poisoned brats who are extensions of the prior Hitlerian generation, perhaps a new "lost" generation.

By using internal thoughts and musings, Jelinek creates a battered, soulless, snotty teen world, pumped up with lust and all the trappings that so commonly ensnare youths with their more-often-than-not unfounded angst and bitterness. Forget the dark nether reaches of the goth world and the escapist play games of the mentally demented, for the four direct characters: Rainer Witkowski, his sister Anna, Hans Sepp and Sophie, their world is the here and right now. It is the prowling and the attacking, the lying and the arrogant indifference, the self-absorption and the truthfulness in all the horror of the above said actions, the Nazi element being in all of those traits that fostered the cruel lunacy of human evil. The teens are not retaliatory of the past. They are a modernized re incarceration of it. And herein is Elfriede Jelinek's greatest shortcoming. Her plot is simply unconvincing and poorly strung together, an altogether limp and trite piece of nonsense, just like the unremarkable The Piano Teacher.

The characters who have the potential for something greater are obviously stunted, even deliberately so, but their attempts at unmasking the hypocrisy of those in their immediate environment and even further away falls way too short, and no amount of ad-libbed "justified" philosophy as preached by Rainer compels those actions to be any more right than wrong. They are not preachers of reflection and healing. They are punks. They don't even come close. It is just too ridiculous and stupid, and I found myself saying, Give me a break! Mediocrity of this nature could be taught in a creative writing 101 class. This was dystopian fiction at its worst, and Anthony Burgess-were he still alive-could have taught Jelinek a thing or two.

Not long ago, members of the Nobel Academy were asked if mistakes had been made in who had and who had not been selected to be a Nobel laureate, for Jelinek was so honored in 2004 for the "musical flow of voices and counter-voices..." Admittedly, he said yes, that errors had happened, first and foremost that Karen Blixen also known as Isak Diensen, the Danish authoress of Out of Africa was not chosen, that that was a big regret. He said that some authors should not have been selected, but he stopped short as to mentioning who specifically. It made me wonder if it was a not-too-subtle swipe at Jelinek's surprise selection, for an academy member did resign his post due to his very strong beliefs in her lack of literary merit. If a reader must pick up this book, be wowed not by its supposed merit and accolades, be stupefied by its pretentiousness and sloppiness.

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review by . May 06, 2013
Another literary dud from Austria's Elfriede Jelinek.
Published in 1980, Wonderful Wonderful Times is a novel whose title is a complete contradiction to anything of what the book is indicative of. Understood and accepted. For me, however, it was a confirming piece of drip-drab fiction that only reiterated my original assessment of her after reading the perennial fan favorite, The Piano Teacher, a butcher job of a novel if ever there was one. This novel could take second honors, however.      Set in the 1950s after WWII, Austria …
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Christian Engler ()
Ranked #690
Not much to say; my info section and likes pretty much says it all. Cheers.
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A dozen years after the collapse of the Third Reich, four adolescents commit a gratuitously violent assault and robbery in a Viennese park. So begins Jelinek's ( The Piano Teacher ) brilliant new novel, an unrelenting and horrifying exploration of postwar Austria, where the sins of the fathers are visited upon a new generation too disaffected to understand the source of its inarticulate rage. Jelinek's prose is breathless and incisive as she paints psychological portraits of her characters in swift, sure brushstrokes. Among the group of young criminals in the park are Rainer Witkowski, a liar and a coward who fancies himself a poet, an intellectual and a leader of men, and his twin sister, Anna, who responds to rejection by losing her ability to speak. Their father, Otto, is a brutally sadistic, crippled ex-Nazi who takes pornographic pictures of his battered wife and whose sexual abilities are failing now that the aphrodisiac of Auschwitz is only a dim memory. He is unrepentant; history, he believes, has forgiven him. The son cites Sartre's proposition that history does not exist. But it does, and it repeats itself here in an explosion of sickeningly familiar violence.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Books, Elfriede Jelinek

Details

ISBN-10: 1852421681
ISBN-13: 978-1852421687
Author: Elfriede Jelinek
Publisher: Serpent's Tail

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