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Woman Wins 2004 Nobel Prize for Literature


Elfriede Jelinek, 57, is the tenth woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 103 years, which causes her "more despair than peace"; she is quoted from her home in Vienna. This reaction is in keeping with the author's reputation as a challenging and unique voice whose work characterizes women in post-war Europe.

  photo Noble Prize Website


October 13, 2004
— Jelinek writes plays, novels, oratorios and libretti. But like Coetze before her, Jelinek is not going to attend the Nobel ceremony, siting an unfortunate mental condition of social phobia.  She is however, thrilled with the $1.3m which she says will provide her financial freedom. 

"Jelinek's best-known work is The Piano Teacher (1983), adapted as a film in 2001, directed by Michael Haneke and starring Isabel Huppert. Jelinek specialises in often unemotional description of brutality and power-play in human relations. 

Her work tends to see power and aggression as the driving forces of relationships, in which men and parents subjugate women. But, as an admirer of Bertold Brecht, she sometimes brings to her dramas a touch of vaudeville. 

Jelinek is considered by many to be Austria's most distinguished author, though some of her plays have recently had icy receptions, with boos, walkouts and shouting matches. 

Her latest play, Bambiland, written in 2003 and translated into English this year, is a full-throated attack on the US-led invasion of Iraq."  John Ezard, arts correspondent, October 08 2004 The Guardian

Books & Plays




The Piano Teacher, Serpent's Tail (2003) Sexuality and violence are coupled in this brilliant, uncompromising book set in modern-day Vienna. Erika Kohut, a spinster in her mid-30s, has been selected by her domineering mother to be sacrificed on the altar of art. Carefully groomed and trained, she's unfortunately not gifted enough to become a concert pianist. Instead, she teaches piano at the Vienna Conservatory. She still lives at home, and in the eyes of the world is the dutiful daughter. But there's another, perversely sexual side of Erika that she finds difficult to repress. (Publisher's Weekly)

Lust, Serpent's Tail (1993)  Set in an Alpine ski resort, built on the profits generated by tourism and a polluting paper plant, the director of the plant is a swaggering vulgarian who divides his time between oppressing his workers and having sex with his wife. Gerti, (his wife) is gradually breaking down under this constant sexual attention, drinking heavily, until one day she wanders out of the house in a dressing gown and slippers. She is "rescued" by Michael, an ambitious young man with designs on a political career, who is no less of a sexual predator than her husband. Skillfully translated by Michael Hulse. (Publisher's Weekly)

Wonderful, Wonderful Times, Serpent's Tail (1990)  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 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. (Publisher's Weekly)


Nobel Prize Website "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"

Other BookBuffet Articles on Viennese Writers:

Book Browsing in Vienna and Budapest



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