Saturday, April 16, 2016

Review: "The Piano Teacher" by Elfriede Jelinek

The Piano Teacher, the most famous novel by Nobel Laureate Elfriede Jelinek is a more entertaining and decidedly more pleasant affair than the only other book of hers I have read, Wonderful, Wonderful Times, but that doesn’t mean it is anywhere near a happy book. In fact, it is filled with despair, as a forbidden relationship goes from something unhealthy to downright horrific. More so than Wonderful, Wonderful times, which I’m thinking now might just be a low quality book, this novel really shows Jelinek’s talent, fleshing out the three central characters as much as possible over the course of the books rather long 280 pages, with many interior dialogues as well as drawn out scenes of lovemaking that I found quite titillating. Whether that is a miscue of me or the book itself, I really don’t know. The central character out of the three is Erika, an over the hill music teacher whose relationships, especially with her mother, tend toward deviancy and masochism, evidenced by the opening scene where her mother brutally berates her for buying a dress, only to take all of it without reaction, and keep the dress hidden along with all the others she buys and never wears. When she is away from her home, she purposefully carries big instruments on the train with her, so they will bump into the other passengers; she spies on couples having sex, and goes to peep shows. One of her students, the attractive Walter, catches her eye, and they begin a relationship based on her abuse, which is thinly veiled expression of her masochism. You never fully hate Erika, because of all the abuse she lobs at Walter and those around her, the one she hurts most is herself, whether its physically as she cuts herself, or emotionally, like the last 50 pages, where all three’s desire and selfishness causes an explosion of violence and sadness. Bleak, for sure, but undeniably interesting.  
Rating: 4/5

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