Thursday, August 11, 2011

A soul burning read | The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek

I will always associate this painting
with the feelings stirred within me
by The Piano Teacher.
Anne Wischin's The Cat Kiss
Adapted from Gustav Klimt's The Kiss

Some literature just isn’t human. It’s depraved, disgusting and leaves you screaming your lungs out until you realise that you're trapped in a nightmare and no one can hear you.

Three pages into The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelink, my co-blogger, Reshma Krishnan claimed to be reaching for an oxygen mask.

Writers and their drama, I thought, glad to have her writing and drama on board. “Let’s read it together,” she exclaimed some time later, prompting me to order the book off Flipkart. As fate would have it, the book arrived less than 24 hours later. A sign. Maybe I'll use my Anne Wischin bookmark from Vienna!

Erika, a 30-something piano teacher at the Vienna Conservatory is a prisoner to her loving mother. She is allowed to share her musical genius with the world, but not her life and most definitely not her body. Even Erika doesn’t have access to those parts of herself. Mother guards her jealously from anything that might corrupt her, stopping at nothing – shame, mental torture, emotional blackmail – to keep her daughter pure, “a well-nourished fish in her mother’s amniotic fluid.”

I, of course, thoroughly enjoyed the first 50 pages of the book. Having lived, breathed and devoured a range of Freudian classics, this one seemed like coming home after a long time. But as I approached the end of Part I, I realised that this isn’t the type of book you read alone, just like The Exorcist isn’t the kind of move you watch by yourself.

Some writers burn a part of your soul which heals soon enough, but not without scars. Elfriede Jelinek is totally going to do that to me. If I were smart, I’d keep it beyond reach on the highest shelf of the tallest book case. But I just can’t. I've crossed the threshold with so much difficulty and giving up now, when the plot's about to reach it's peak, would be plain stupidity.

It’s like I’m itching to see how Erika makes a break for it. Will she, like Rapunsel, get rescued by a handsome stranger? Or will poetic injustice lead her to self-destruction like Nina Sayers, from The Black Swan, never knowing anything outside the tower in which her mother stashes her away?


  1. See you got the Black Swan reference too! I bet the script writer was influenced by this book.

  2. It also reminded me of this Canadian movie (can't remember the name) where the mother brings up her baby boy to believe he is a girl only so he won't leave her the way his father did. The results were messed up!

  3. they made a movie on the book. Same title. you can find it at movie empire. Nayan.



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