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The Piano Teacher: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Elfriede Jelinek , Joachim Neugroschel
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The most popular work from provocative Austrian Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek, The Piano Teacher is a searing 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 boring, but Erika, a quiet thirty-eight-year-old, secretly visits Turkish peep shows at night and watched 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 perversity, violence, and degradation.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Teaching piano daily at the Vienna Conservatory is all that remains of Erika Knout's once promising career. Lately, however, her love for her star student, Walter Klemmer, is disrupting both her well-ordered professional life and her emotionally rigorous world at home with Mother. This neurotic love triangle, in which violence is confused with love, evolves toward inevitable breakdown as Erika finally defies Mother and, through Klemmer, excites chaotic passions. With her facility for metaphor and stylish narrative, Austrian Jelinek bears comparison to Schmidt and Boll at their best. Hers is a powerful debut in English; with five other novels awaiting translation, she should develop a large audience among serious readers. Paul E. Hutchison, Pennsylvania State Univ., University Park
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 472 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (October 13, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005FFPVVS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #357,520 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
95 of 101 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A devastating meditation April 27, 2002
Format:Paperback
You might not expect to find a novel that among other things links chamber music with the perils of perfectionism, sexual masochism and sadism - and the inner and outer life of a talented and tormented woman. "The Piano Teacher" does this and much more.
Erika Kohut is a former music prodigy in her late thirties, a teacher at the Vienna Conservatory, strict and rigid with her students - as well as with herself. Her father left shortly after her birth and she lives with her elderly mother, who is, we are told, old enough to be her grandmother, and her "inquisitor and executioner all at once." Her mother has given her all to assuring her daughter's talent: "Erika has never had to do housework, because dustrags and cleansers ruin a pianist's hands." The daughter's "vocation is her avocation: the celestial power known as music." Erika has a room of her own in their apartment - mostly a place to hide some of her possessions. Mother and daughter sleep in one bed. Her mother expects obedience, loyalty - and Erika's paycheck, which is to help buy them a new apartment.
Erika wants a life of her own but has no idea of how to go about getting it. She is repulsed by the fact of her aging and by her femaleness. Love and suffering are inextricably linked. She wanders through Vienna after work and lies to her mother in order to indulge herself occasionally in excursions to peep shows and furtive shopping trips to buy beautiful, well-made clothes which she takes home stuffed in her briefcase - so that Mom won't see.
Erika's cacophonous memories of her past sexual episodes with men roil in her head. She is overwhelmed by herself. She cannot feel nor respond to conventional expressions of tenderness and love.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Twisted Minds March 16, 2003
Format:Hardcover
I was first exposed to The Piano Teacher by way of film, which is excellent, but it left some lingering questions about the psychological mindframe of the leading characters. The book offers a very twisted glimpse into the minds of Erika, her Mother and Walter Klemmer, and does so with incredible dexterity.
If anything, I was impressed by the fluidity of the text, of the author's ability to integrate all three voices into one and still sound impartial with every character. Her language might bore some people as it is filled with curious metaphors and details, but she has an amazing ability to go on many tangents from something very trivial to something quite absurd.
This book is very psychologically disturbing. There is a constant power struggle within the Mother-daughter-intruder triangle and the roles are constantly switching off, with the rarest of outcomes. Sexual roles are also misplaced, with the woman the violent and rapeful while the man is cast into the submissive and traditional type.
If you could look past the violence and insanity of this book, you would find it highly enjoyable and thought provoking.
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38 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Devastating December 17, 2003
Format:Paperback
Chamber music and sado-masochism: not your usual mix, but they represent the inner and outer lives of a tormented woman. Holy moly, what a story, as well written as it is shocking, as mesmerizing as it is terrible.
Erika, a child musical prodigy, is now in her late thirties, a teacher at the Vienna Conservatory, a teacher as strick and rigid with her students as she is with herself. She lives very unhappily with her elderly mother who has given her all to assure her daughter's success. Erika has a room of her own in the small apartment they share, a room in which she hides the secret yearnings of her stifled life. But mother and daughter share a bed - definitely a weird dynamic going on here, and it gets weirder. In return for her lifetime of sacrifice, the mother expects loyalty and devotion; Erika wants only to escape - but she's powerless to know how to do it - except by the excesses of her sado-masochistic desires. It's when she enlists the complicity of a young male student, Walter Klemmer, that things begin to veer into the truly disturbed corners of Erika's brain, cracking the fragile shell of a life thoroughly dedicated to control and perfection.
Yowie!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A compelling pathology June 13, 2006
Format:Paperback
This is a difficult book, though gruesomely compelling in its exploration of psychological and sexual pathology. Erika Kohut, in her late thirties, is a piano teacher at what is clearly the extension division of the Conservatory. A failed concert pianist, she has been brought up under the total control of her mother, who still shares a bed with her. But Erika has a fantasy life of her own, and when she attracts the attention of a much younger student, her fantasies and the young man's interests collide, dragging both down into a mire of perversion.

The first hundred pages are the most difficult, since they set up the background for what follows. Jelinek writes in a dense but colloquial prose style that mingles various strands of psychic monologue, sometimes dealing with the past, sometimes the present, sometimes occupying a dream world, sometimes almost literal, so that the reader is forced to let go of all normal landmarks. But by the time the actual narrative takes hold, one has been mesmerised into following the story from the inside of the characters' minds rather than as a series of external events. That in itself is quite an achievement.

Jelinek was herself a student at the Vienna Conservatory, so she knows what she is talking about in musical matters. Music is used as a constant frame of reference, though more frequently as a demanding taskmaster than a romantic escape. But while all this rings true to a professional musician (I am one myself), I do not think that the metaphors would be lost to those without a musical background. On the other hand, do not read this book expecting a window on a glamorous world; there is very little glamor in Erika's life, and her service to music is no exception.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars First two thirds of book has beautiful but difficult language
First two thirds of book has beautiful but difficult language, almost out of control- racing along without pause. Little happens till last part. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Aldo E. Salerno
2.0 out of 5 stars Best novel I did not like
So here it is - I get Nobel fiction and the comment on the human condition in all its good and bad. That said, this work is amazing and really hits the mark, however, just not for... Read more
Published 6 months ago by LarsLancejr
1.0 out of 5 stars Strange book
I may have missed something, but I really never understood the relationship between music and the sexual dysfunction that seemed to be essence of the story.
Published 6 months ago by LVC
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, cruel and yet so human.
The pessimistic view of life and human relations doesn't reflect my ideals, yet the characters' monologue and inner torment are depicted with such sincerity that the rythm never... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Muriel garderobes
3.0 out of 5 stars Gruesome reading
This is a tough one to rate and review. From a literary-technical point of view this book is phenomenal: a thoroughly constructed (though relatively conventional told) story,... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Marc L
2.0 out of 5 stars Not very entertaining.
I didn't like the 3rd person type of storytelling and am finding it too long winded and actually quite boring. Read more
Published 13 months ago by George Vorster
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic, but not for the faint of heart!
Beautifully written yet disturbingly graphic, this is classic literature for the fem-dom crowd. The movie does not due this work justice.
Published 14 months ago by Noah Wilson
2.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant writing can't overcome repulsive subject matter
Made a real effort to continue with the book, despite it's skillfully vivid, repulsive descriptions. Read more
Published 15 months ago by levysand
4.0 out of 5 stars extremely complicated and cruel; and (possibly) funny....
Unfortunately, I read the book only after watching the movie. I was curious if the book had any longer discussions about the connection of music with sexuality. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Witold
1.0 out of 5 stars awful
Revolting characters and a plot that makes you say so what at the end.
A story that goes nowhere - like being on a bone jarring bus that has no destination.
Published 20 months ago by kath
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