Thursday 12 February 2009

The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek. Translated from German by Joachim Neugroschel

pianoteacherPublished by Grove/Atlantic Inc

Erika Kohut is a 38-year-old piano teacher who shares an apartment with her mother. A mother who seems to live through her daughter, micromanaging every aspect of her life right down to the clothes she wears and what happens to her wages. She bullies, screams, slaps, and shouts at her daughter while simultaneously declaring her love and that all her words and actions stem from her love for her offspring.

Erika appears to remain the perfect daughter while struggling with both sadistic and masochistic tendencies. She ventures to a seedy part of town to take in a peep show after work sometimes, visits the cinema to view brutal, dark and violent movies featuring S&M, other times she prefers spying on unsuspecting lovers in the woods. When a 17 year old student of hers shows an interest in her and also displays an unwillingness to give up on his desires she wonders if this could be the one, the man with the unbending will, the one who can give her all she needs and who will understand her darkest desires.

A friend of mine, who lives overseas, had mentioned this book to me a few times. I finally bought it and I am so thankful I did. So many books can lose a certain quality when being translated to other languages (A prime example is the Mercy Room which I reviewed a while ago) but The Piano Teacher is certainly not one of those books. I read it from cover to cover within 48 hours. It was one of those books that left me wishing I didn't need sleep and could just stay up and finish it. In an ideal world I would have done just that.

The writing is fantastic, the characters are excellently developed, and the reader can't help but be pulled in by the story. As I was reaching the last few pages, I wished that the book could have magically sprouted a few more chapters. This is my first book by this author but it will definitely not be my last. I love the cover on this book too.

1 comment:

Alexi Frest said...

I'm so very glad to find your writing about Ms. Jelinek.
She is incredible, I love her. I will always respect her, she is the bravest woman in this world, and such a genius!
I love her and will always.

Actually I try to do something similar - write about my life honestly, adding a bit of dark atmosphere -, but if I compare my works to Jelinek's, I want to cry as I would never be half as good as her. At the same time I'm delighted to know that there is someone in this world who is as genial and great like Elfi. She is... I cannot find the words, really.