Monday, June 1, 2009

Booking It--Literary Amnesia

Is there a book that you wish you could “unread”? One that you disliked so thoroughly you wish you could just forget that you ever read it?

I can only think of one book that I've ever read that I've had that kind of reaction to: Elfriede Jelinek's The Piano Teacher. I had to read it as an undergrad in a German Lit class, and it bothered me deeply. It was unlike anything I'd ever read before--shocking, degrading, and dark. I would never have finished it if it hadn't been assigned, and quite a few others in the class were also disturbed by it. If this tells you anything about the violence of my reaction, it's the only book I've ever studied in a literature class that I got rid of as soon as the class was over. I might very well have a radically different reaction to the novel now, but I remember at the time really wishing I hadn't been exposed to it.

Here's what Google Book Search says about the novel:

The Piano Teacher, the most famous novel of Elfriede Jelinek, who was awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize in Literature, is a shocking, searing, aching portrait of a woman bound between a repressive society and her darkest desires.

Erika Kohut is a piano teacher at the prestigious and formal Vienna Conservatory, who still lives with her domineering and possessive mother. Her life appears to be a seamless tissue of boredom, but Erika, a quiet thirty-eight-year-old, secretly visits Turkish peep shows at night to watch live sex shows and sadomasochistic films. Meanwhile, a handsome, self-absorbed, seventeen-year-old student has become enamored with Erika and sets out to seduce her. She resists him at first, but then the dark passions roiling under the piano teacher's subdued exterior explode in a release of sexual perversity, suppressed violence, and human degradation.

Celebrated throughout Europe for the intensity and frankness of her writings and awarded the Heinrich Böll Prize for her outstanding contribution to German letters, Elfriede Jelinek is one of the most original and controversial writers in the world today. The Piano Teacher was made into a film, released in the United States in 2001, was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes.

1 comment:

Courtney said...

I felt that way about Henry Miller's Tropic of Capricorn.