Elfriede Jelinek

Elfriede Jelinek

Infobox Writer
name = Elfriede Jelinek
awards = awd|Nobel Prize in Literature|2004

pseudonym =
birthname =
birthdate = birth date and age|1946|10|20
birthplace = Mürzzuschlag, Styria, Austria
occupation = playwright, novelist
nationality = Austrian
period =
genre = Feminism, social criticism
subject =
movement =
notableworks = Die Klavierspielerin
influences =
influenced =
website = http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/elfriede/

Elfriede Jelinek (IPA2|ˀɛlˈfʀiːdɛ ˈjɛlinɛk) (born 20 October, 1946) is an Austrian feminist playwright and novelist. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in 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. Her father, a chemist of Jewish-Czech origin ("Jelinek" means "little deer" in Czech) managed to avoid persecution during the Second World War by working in strategically important industrial production. However, several dozen family members became victims of the Holocaust. Her mother, with whom she shared the household even as an adult, and with whom she had a difficult relationship, was from a formerly prosperous Vienna family. As a child, Elfriede suffered from what she considered an over-restrictive education in a Roman Catholic convent school in Vienna. Her mother planned a career as a musical Wunderkind for Elfriede. From an early age, she was instructed in piano, organ, guitar, violin, viola and recorder. Later, she went on to study at the Vienna Conservatory, where she graduated with an organist diploma. Jelinek also studied art history and drama at the University of Vienna. However, she had to discontinue her studies due to an anxiety disorder that prevented her from following courses.

Jelinek started writing poetry at a young age. She made her literary debut with the collection "Lisas Schatten" in 1967.

In the early 1970s, Jelinek married Gottfried Hüngsberg.

Work and politics

Prior to winning the Nobel Prize, her work was largely unknown outside the German-speaking world and was said to resemble that of acclaimed Austrian playwright Thomas Bernhard, with its pathology of destruction and its concomitant comedic abrogation. In fact, despite the author's own differentiation from Austria, Jelinek's writing is deeply rooted in the tradition of Austrian literature, showing the influence of Austrian writers such as Ingeborg Bachmann and Robert Musil.

Jelinek's political positions (in particular her feminist stance and her party affiliations) are of vital importance to any assessment of her work. They are also a part of the reason for the vitriolic controversy surrounding Jelinek and her work.

Brief history of Jelinek's political engagements

Jelinek was a member of Austria's Communist Party from 1974 to 1991. Jelinek became a household name during the 1990s due to her vociferous clash with Jörg Haider's far-right Freedom Party. Following the 1999 National Council elections and the subsequent formation of a coalition cabinet consisting of the Freedom Party and the Austrian People's Party, Jelinek became one of the new cabinet's most vocal critics. Citing the Freedom Party's alleged nationalism and authoritarianism, many European and overseas administrations swiftly decided openly to ostracize Austria's administration. The cabinet construed the sanctions against it as directed against Austria as such and attempted to prod the nation into a national rallying ("Nationaler Schulterschluss") behind the coalition parties. This provoked a temporary heating of the political climate severe enough for dissidents such as Jelinek to be accused of treason by coalition supporters.

Jelinek's work

Jelinek's work is multi-faceted and highly controversial. It has been by turns praised and condemned by leading literary critics (in the wake of the Fritzl case, for example, she was accused of "executing 'hysterical' portraits of Austrian perversity" [" [http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23643630-2703,00.html Wife of incest dad under suspicion] ". The Australian, May 5, 2008.] ). Likewise, her political activism evokes divergent and often heated reactions. Despite the public controversy surrounding her work, Jelinek has won many distinguished prizes, among them are the Georg Büchner Prize in 1998; the Müllheim Dramatists Prize in 2002 and 2004; the Franz Kafka Prize in 2004; and the Nobel Prize in Literature, also in 2004.

Prevalent topics in her prose and dramatic works are female sexuality, its abuse and the battle of the sexes in general. Texts such as "Wir sind Lockvögel, Baby!" ("We are Decoys, Baby!"), "Die Liebhaberinnen" ("Women as Lovers") and "Die Klavierspielerin" ("The Piano Teacher") showcase the brutality and power play inherent in human relations in a style that is at times ironically formal and tightly controlled. According to Jelinek, power and aggression are often the principal driving forces of relationships. Her provocative novel "Lust" contains graphically-delineated descriptions of sexuality, aggression and abuse. It received poor reviews by many critics, some of whom considered it little more than pornography, but was considered misunderstood and undervalued by others, who noted the power of the cold descriptions of moral failures.

In her later work, Jelinek has somewhat abandoned female issues to focus her energy on social criticism in general and Austria's difficulties to owning up to its Nazi past in particular; an example is "Die Kinder der Toten" ("The Children of the Dead").

Her plays often involve an emphasis on choreography. In "Sportstück", for example, the issue of violence and fascism in sports is explored. Some consider her plays taciturn, others lavish, and others still a new form of theater altogether.

Jelinek's novel "Die Klavierspielerin" ("The Piano Player") was filmed with title "The Piano Teacher" by Austrian director Michael Haneke, with French actress Isabelle Huppert as the protagonist.

In late April 2006, Jelinek stood up to protect Peter Handke, whose play "Die Kunst des Fragens" ("The Art of Asking") was removed from the repertoire of Comedie Francaise for his alleged support of Slobodan Milosevic.

The Nobel Prize

Commenting on the Nobel Prize, she said she felt very happy to receive the Prize, but also felt despair: "despair for becoming a known, a person of the public". Paradigmatic for her modesty and subtle self-irony, she - a reputed feminist writer - wondered if she had not been awarded the prize mainly for "being a woman" and suggested that among authors writing in German, Peter Handke whom she praises as a "living classic", would have been a more worthy recipient.

Jelinek was criticized for not accepting the prize in person; instead, a [http://nobelprize.org/literature/laureates/2004/jelinek-lecture.html video message] was presented at the ceremony. Others appreciated that Jelinek openly disclosed that she suffers from agoraphobia and social phobia, anxiety disorders which can be highly disruptive to everyday functioning yet are often concealed by those affected out of shame or feeling of inadequacy. Jelinek has said that her anxiety disorders make it impossible for her even to go to the cinema or to board an airplane (in an interview she wished to be able to fly to New York to see the skyscrapers one day before dying), and she felt incapable of taking part in any ceremony. However, in her own words as stated in another tape message: "I would also very much like to be in Stockholm, but I cannot move as fast and far as my language."

In 2005, Knut Ahnlund left the Swedish Academy in protest, describing Jelinek's work as "whining, unenjoyable public pornography" as well as "a mass of text shoveled together without artistic structure". He said later her selection for the prize "has not only done irreparable damage to all progressive forces, it has also confused the general view of literature as an art". [" [http://www.boston.com/ae/books/articles/2005/10/12/members_abrupt_resignation_rocks_nobel_prize_community Member's abrupt resignation rocks Nobel Prize community] ". "Boston Globe", October 12, 2005.]



* "bukolit. hörroman"; Wien 1979 ISBN 3853940234
* "wir sind lockvögel baby!"; Reinbek 1970 ISBN 349912341X
* "Michael. Ein Jugendbuch für die Infantilgesellschaft"; Reinbek 1972 ISBN 3499250128
* "Die Liebhaberinnen"; Reinbek 1975 ISBN 3499250640
* "Die Ausgesperrten"; Reinbek 1980 ISBN 349803314X
* "Die Klavierspielerin"; Reinbek 1983 ISBN 3498033166
* "Oh Wildnis, oh Schutz vor ihr"; Reinbek 1985 ISBN 3499134071
* "Lust"; Reinbek 1989 ISBN 3498033239
* "Die Kinder der Toten"; Reinbek 1997 ISBN 3499221616
* "Gier"; Reinbek 2000 ISBN 349923131X
* "Neid: Privatroman"; 2007


* "Was geschah, nachdem Nora ihren Mann verlassen hatte; oder Stützen der Gesellschaften (What Happened after Nora Left Her Husband; or Pillars of Society)" premiered in Graz, Austria (October 1979) With Kurt Josef Schildknecht as director.
* "Clara S, musikalische Tragödie (Clara S, a Musical Tragedy)" Premiered at Bonn (1982) OCLC|41445178
* "Burgtheater. Posse mit Gesang (Burgtheater. Farce with Songs)" Premiered at Bonn (1985)
* "Begierde und Fahrererlaubnis (eine Pornographie) (Desire and Permission To Drive - Pornography)" Premiered at the Styrian Autumn, Graz (1986)
* "Krankheit oder Moderne Frauen. Wie ein Stück (Illness or Modern Women. Like a Play)" Premiered at Bonn, (1987) ISBN 9783922009887
* "Präsident Abendwind. Ein Dramolett, sehr frei nach Johann Nestroy (President Abendwind. A dramolet, very freely after Johann Nestroy)" Premiered at the Tyrol Landestheater, Innsbruck (1992)
* "Wolken. Heim (Clouds. Home)" Premiered at Bonn (1988) ISBN 9783882431476
* "Totenauberg." Premiered at the Vienna Burgtheater (Akademietheater) (1992) ISBN 9783498033262
* "Rastätte oder Sie machens alle. Eine Komödie (Service Area or They're All Doing It. A Comedy)" Premiered at the Burgtheater, Vienna (1994)
* "Stecken, Stab und Stangl. Eine Handarbeit (Rod, Staff, and Crook - Handmade)" Premiered at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg (1996)
* "Ein Sportstück (A Sport Play)" Premiered at the Burgtheater, Vienna (1998)
* "er nicht als er (zu, mit Robert Walser) (him not himself - about/with Robert Walser)" Premiered at the Salzburg Festival in conjunction with the Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg (1998)
*"Das Lebewohl (Les Adieux)" Premiered at the Berliner Ensemble (2000)
*"Das Schweigen" ("Silence")" Premiered at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg (2000)
*"Der Tod und das Mädchen II (Death and the Maiden II)" Premiered at EXPOL 2000 in Hanover in conjunction with the Saarbrücken Staatstheater and ZKM Karlsruhe (2000) ISBN 9783442761623
*"MACHT NICHTS - Eine Kleine Trilogie des Todes ("NO PROBLEM - A Little Trilogy of Death")" Premiered at the Zürich Schauspielhaus (2001) ISBN 9783499226830
* "In den Alpen ("In the Alps")" Premiered at the Munich Kammerspiele in conjunction with the Zürich Schauspielhaus (2002) Berlin: Berlin Verlag. (2002) 259 pages. ISBN 9783827004574
*"Prinzessinnendramen: Der Tod und das Mädchen I-III und IV-V (Dramas of Princesses: Death and the Maiden I-III and IV-V)" Parts I-III premiered at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg (2002) Parts IV-V premiered at the Deutsches Theater, Berlin (2002)
* "Das Werk. (The Works)" Premiered at the Vienna Burgtheater (Akademietheater) (2003)
* "Bambiland" Premiered at the Burgtheater, Vienna (2003) ISBN 9783498032258
* "Irm und Margit A part of "Attabambi Pornoland" Premiered at the Zürich Schauspielhaus (2004)
* "Ulrike Maria Stuart" Premiered at Thalia Theater Hamburg (2006)


* "Die Enden der Parabel" ("Gravity's Rainbow") novel by Thomas Pynchon; 1976
* "Herrenjagd" Drama by Georges Feydeau; 1983
* "Floh im Ohr" Drama by Georges Feydeau; 1986
* "Der Gockel" Drama by Georges Feydeau; 1986
* "Die Affaire Rue de Lourcine" Drama by Eugène Labiche; 1988
* "Die Dame vom Maxim" Drama by Georges Feydeau; 1990
* "Der Jude von Malta" Drama by Christopher Marlowe; 2001
* "Ernst sein ist alles" Drama by Oscar Wilde; 2004
* Lyrik und Kurzgeschichten (latein)amerikanischer AutorInnen

Opera libretto

* "Lost Highway" (2003), adapted from the film by David Lynch, with music by Olga Neuwirth

Jelinek's novels in English

* "The Piano Teacher" (1988), translation of "Die Klavierspielerin" by Joachim Neugroschel. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, ISBN 9781555840525.
* "Wonderful, Wonderful Times" (1990), translation of "Die Ausgesperrten" by Michael Hulse. London: Serpent's Tail, ISBN 9781852421687.
* "Lust" (1992), translated by Michael Hulse. London: Serpent's Tail, ISBN 9781852421830.
* "Women as Lovers" (1994), translation of "Die Liebhaberinnen" by Martin Chalmers. London: Serpent's Tail, 1994, ISBN 1852422378.
* "Greed" (2007), translation by Martin Chalmers. Seven Stories Press, ISBN 9781583227572.


External links

* [http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/elfriede/ Official website] de icon
* [http://www.goethe.de/kue/the/nds/nds/aut/jel/enindex.htm Elfriede Jelinek: New German dramatic art.] Goethe-Instituts
* [http://www.praesens.at/elfriede-jelinek-forschungszentrum/ Elfriede Jelinek-Forschungszentrum]
* [http://nobelprize.org/literature/laureates/2004/jelinek-bibl.html Nobel site biography]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/3723390.stm BBC synopsis]
* [http://www.fembio.org/english/biography.php/woman/biographie/elfriede-jelinek Biography at FemBio]
* [http://www.gewaltproblematik-jelinek.de/ Die Gewaltproblematik bei Elfriede Jelinek]
* [http://www.rudolf-maresch.de/interview/23.pdf Elfriede Jelinek: Nichts ist verwirklicht. Alles muss jetzt neu definiert werden.] de icon
* [http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/perloff/ Marjorie Perloff's article Vienna Roast: On Elfriede Jelinek]
* [http://www.goethe.de/kue/the/nds/nds/aut/jel/stu/enindex.htm Goethe Institut's entry on Elfriede Jelinek]

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