Austrian literature: Elfriede Jelinek, Sportstück, 3-sat tv broadcast of premier in Burgtheater

Elfriede Jelinek (1946 – )

Elfriede Jelinek is the younger counterpart of Austrian playwright Thomas Bernhard. As 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, to put it nicely.
Be that as it may, Elfriede Jelinek is one of the most influental contemporary writers.

Prevalent topics in her prose and dramatic work are female sexuality, its abuse and the war of sexes in generall. 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 readers 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 describtion of sexuality, agression and abuse. It did not go too well with the critics. Rather than the plot itself it is the cold describtion of moral failures that irritates and haunts you.

In her later work, Jelinek somewhat abandones 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 an acclaimed movie by Austrian director Michael Haneke with Isabelle Huppert playing the repressed pianist.

In October 2004 Elfriede Jelinek has won the Nobel price for literature. The price was awarded "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". She is the first Austrian writer to be honoured with a Nobel price for literature!

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