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The Piano Teacher (1983)

by Elfriede Jelinek

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,871397,836 (3.45)1 / 141
Deep passion, thwarted sexuality and love-hate for a mother dominate the life of Erika Kohut, a piano teacher at the Vienna Conservatory. Whilst her mother waits up for her, Erika Kohut trawls the porn shows of Vienna in search of tacky pleasure. Into this emotional pressure-cooker bounds Walter Klemmer, music student and ladies' man. As the relationship between teacher and pupil spirals downward, Jelinek paints a frightening picture of a woman consumed by the ecstacy of self-destruction. A best-seller in German - with sales of 100,000 copies -The Piano Teacher has been translated into French and Dutch and is currently being filmed.… (more)
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 Literary Snobs: Lit Snobs Group Read: The Piano Teacher32 unread / 32leigonj, January 2014

» See also 141 mentions

English (33)  French (2)  Swedish (1)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (39)
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
Erika Kohut is a woman in her mid-thirties who teaches piano at the prestigious Vienna Conservatory. She lives with her controlling mother in a very taught and unhealthy relationship. Erika rebels in various including buying clothing she never wears, self-harm, and deliberately injuring strangers. Over the course of the novel she also explores her repressed sexuality by going to pornographic movies, peep shows, and practicing voyeurism.

Walter Klemmer, a student over a decade younger than Erika, begins to show her attention. Their desire grows and when they finally acknowledge it, Erika requests a sadomasochistic relationship. Walter, who is an arrogant prick, really justs wants to have sex with an older woman and move on. Things go horribly, horribly wrong.

I saw this book described as "erotic" but there's absolutely nothing sexy about it. In fact, it is quite repulsive. Jelinek seems to revel in using the most unpleasant description possible for the human condition and the human body. It just gets worse and worse and I really struggled to finish this book. I've also seen the book described as "satire," but it reads to me as nothing more than caustic misanthropy. ( )
  Othemts | Jul 15, 2021 |
A uniquely structured but uneven novel that largely deals with control, The Piano Teacher operates through childhood trauma and sexual repression underneath its series of masochistic degradation and violation. In this mother-daughter relationship moulded from unhealthy dependencies, a seemingly omniproof protection asphyxiates the prey: the middle-aged daughter Erika Kohut who does not have a life of her own outside her piano lessons. What seems to be a maternal preservation of innocence becomes a descent to self-destruction; and what seems to be the appealing notion of parental trust becomes a game of manipulation. Whilst this habitual power trip also tips the already off-balanced relationship it further plunges down with the arrival of a student who becomes infatuated with Erika. A cat-and-mouse chase ensues until it reveals itself to be another, but much perverse, game of manipulation. "Love" has a deformed face. Who shall be in control this time?

Behind the voyeuristic nature of the narrative which at times is horrific, even revolting, a gamut of loneliness runs its course amidst Erika’s filthy actions. There is a painful attempt at trying to take back any kind of control for one’s own sanity, however drastic, in any way possible. And it may be that even sanity loses itself in the process. The result is a dismal self-infliction. Adulthood is only a childhood warped in its worsened state with a worse outcome ("I have no feelings. Get that into your head. If I ever do, they won't defeat my intelligence"). It suggests a cycle without an end so long as loneliness is (un)successfully alleviated by dangerously pleasure-seeking comforts and consumingly fatal / foetal type of reliance. The possession of self-identity is lost or rather nonexistent in the first place. Art becomes a malady instead of a therapy; classical music will definitely never be the same.

(This is certainly one of the few instances where I prefer the film from the book. The outstanding Isabelle Huppert under Michael‌ Haneke’s direction has made an easily detestable character into a much conflicted and complex woman.) ( )
  lethalmauve | Jan 25, 2021 |
Az egyik legnehezebben olvasható szöveg volt a számomra. A központozás és a párbeszédek jelölésének hiánya igencsak igénybe vette a figyelmemet. Hasonlóképpen a tömény és nyers közlések a szereplők viszonyairól. A legbonyolultabb anya-lány kapcsolat, amit eddig olvastam. Még a zene sem tudja feldobni és könnyebbé tenni a történetet, mivel a zenészlét/művészlét árnyoldalait igencsak szemléletesen elemzi. Egy teljes női sorsot, családi drámát sűrít szinte novellaszerű mennyiségbe. Feloldhatatlan konfliktusok és viszonyok, értelmezhetetlen kötődések húzódnak végig a regényen. Csak végletesen lehet csapongani a megértés és a teljes elutasítás között, amit a szereplők személyisége, tettei kiváltanak. ( )
  gjudit8 | Aug 3, 2020 |
I found it very hard to read this book. The style of writing was unfamiliar and uncomfortable. At times, after yet another 'twist' it had me guessing who was talking to me.

I felt sorry for Erika, who couldn't feel sorry for her, growing up in that kind of family circumstances. But how can she not escape from it, even now she's grown up and financially independent. I don't get it.

Not sure what to make of it, glad to be done with another one of the list! ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | Jul 30, 2020 |
A while ago I read "the vagina monologues" out of curiosity and there's a lot of accidental humor in there, like when the author invites women to share what their vagina smells like and most of the answers are like "rain" "paradise" "God," except for one woman, who answers "wet garbage." This is an urgent, erotic (?), violent book written by the woman who answers "wet garbage" when asked what her vagina smells like. There is no sex scene without talons, no fingers not compared to sausages. RELENTLESS. ( )
  uncleflannery | May 16, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (39 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Elfriede Jelinekprimary authorall editionscalculated
Davids, TinkeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Iqbal, RaziaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jílková, JitkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Neugroschel, JoachimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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rororo (851 ; 15812; 23539)
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Učiteljica glasovira Erika Kohut banula je poput vihora u stan u kojem živi s majkom.
The piano teacher, Erika Kohut, bursts like a whirlwind into the apartment she shares with her mother.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Deep passion, thwarted sexuality and love-hate for a mother dominate the life of Erika Kohut, a piano teacher at the Vienna Conservatory. Whilst her mother waits up for her, Erika Kohut trawls the porn shows of Vienna in search of tacky pleasure. Into this emotional pressure-cooker bounds Walter Klemmer, music student and ladies' man. As the relationship between teacher and pupil spirals downward, Jelinek paints a frightening picture of a woman consumed by the ecstacy of self-destruction. A best-seller in German - with sales of 100,000 copies -The Piano Teacher has been translated into French and Dutch and is currently being filmed.

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