Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Eldriede Jelinek

Book by a Nobel Laureate, disturbing and powerful. Very dark subject matter, and it’s not the type of book that’s compelling and effective in spite of this. Rather it’s a great novel precisely because it jumps straight on into some very dark subjects, moving unflinching into the disturbed patterns of misogny, didsgust, masochism and sadism that drive character snetiments in the story. The environment is contemporary rural Austria, although much of the story isn’t bound to that particular locale, and what renders it distinct is less the foreigness of the environment than the particular authorial view proivded, the deep and unsympathetic focus given to drawn out character encounters. It’s a book where the relation of people to each other drives the pace, or rather how people relate to others as objects, seeking exploitation, benefit, making use of, with an enormous distance from any real sentiment or emotional connection. That disconnect emerges particularly forcefully in the presentation of sex, of which there is a great deal in the novel, much of it disturbing and morally troubling, the rest merely disquieting. In any case, however, it’s undeniably intense, and provides a very strong sense of how materiality can function, how the limits of bodies becomes the defining aspect of all one’s perspective on the world, and how this view distorts the main psychology. That all this fetishization and pain/pleasure melding is rendered because of modern consumer-driven capitalism is made quite clear without having to be made at all preachy. Greed was a consistently disturbing novel, but that was completely intentional, and it shakes up expectations in a way I feel works, politically and aesthetically. Also distinguished by great quality of writing and a simply extraordinary command over voice. One of the best Nobel laureates I’ve yet read.

Worse than: The Sleepwalkers by Hermann Broch
Better than: The New Life by Orhan Damuk

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