Greed

GreedI started reading Elfriede Jelinek’s novel, Greed, and almost immediately was confused. The indirect narration by shifting narrators is hard to follow and in this novel there is very little direct exposition: everything is cloaked by the opinions of the narrator and even (fiction wise) by occasional authorial interjection. Two things helped me out: first I related the novel to novels by Robert Pinget whom I had already struggled with and conquered to some extent (also authors such as Joseph McElroy and Samuel Beckett); second, I read the publisher’s blurb on the novel and it gave me just enough of an insight into the narrative so as to keep me reading in the right spirit.

Here is that little summary:

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Wonderful Wonderful Times

This is from Wonderful Wonderful Times by Elfriede Jelinek:

From countless portraits and ceiling frescoes, the Lord God looks down on His children, who have turned out so wretchedly, and is astonished the He could have created something like that and then taught them this fact in religious instruction classes. Belief still causes Rainer problems in his honest moments, he cannot yet rule out the possibility that such a God does exist, even if he and Camus have substituted Nothingness. He hasn’t disappeared yet, and numerous priests are even personally acquainted with His family.

The next paragraph starts with the mother calling her family to the dinner table, but the bridge is at first ambiguous:

Come and get it, children.

There are many interesting passages in this novel to explore, but this one sticks with me (I even remembered the page number). The image that God looks down on his creation through the eyes of the paintings and frescoes depicting his image suggests this God is tightly coupled to art and artistic representation,  not in the sense that He is a supporter of fine art, rather that He is an imaginative creation of Man and not the other way around.

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Elfriede Jelinek

She is not very well known and the critics have problems with her feminism and open sexuality, but then she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Although I’m sure the musicality of her prose is more obvious in the original German, the Austrian novelist and playwright Elfriede Jelinek is a must read author.

You may have seen the movie made from the author’s novel, The Piano Teacher. There were enough disturbing elements in the novel to make the film a bit of a shocker. Right now I am reading Wonderful, Wonderful Times. The blurb on the back cover is as good an introduction to the author’s writing as anything I might write:

It is the late 1950s. A man is out walking in a park in Vienna. He will be beaten up by four teenagers, not for his money or anything he may have done to them, but because the youths are arrogant and very pleased with themselves. This arrogance is their way of reacting to the decaying corpse that is Austria, where everyone has a closet in which to hide their Nazi histories, their sexual perversions, and their hatred of the foreigner.

Not all of Jelinek’s novels have been translated into English (could be a good reason to learn German).

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