The Piano Teacher (Elfriede Jelinek)
By Draco Malfoy,
Sexuality and violence are coupled in this brilliant, uncompromising book set in modern-day Vienna, by the winner of the 1986 Heinrich Boll Prize. 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. She goes to a peep show, frequents the local park where Turks and Serbo-Croats pick up women and, just for kicks, slices herself with a razor. When one of her students, Walter Klemmer, falls in love with her, Erika demands sadomasochistic rituals before she’ll agree to sleep with him. While the subject matter is deliberately perverse, Jelinek gets behind the cream-puff prettiness of Vienna; this novel is not for the weak of heart. Violence is a cleansing force, a point that brings back uncomfortable overtones of an Austria 50 years ago.
…This blade is destined for HER flesh. This thin, elegant foil of bluish steel, pliable, elastic… She knows from experience that such a razor cut doesn’t hurt, for her arms, hands, and legs have often served as guinea pigs. Her hobby is cutting her own body.
Like the mouth cavity, this opening cannot exactly be called beautiful, but it is necessary. She is entirely at her own mercy, which is still better than being at someone else’s mercy. It’s still in her hands, and a hand has feelings too. She knows precisely how often and how deep.
Book Title The Piano Teacher: A Novel
Author Elfriede Jelinek