AFN: How do you explain Erika's insanity?
Elfriede Jelinek: She is certainly not insane, not at all. Neurotic, but not insane. As I just tried to explain, this is all the bloody (in
the truest sense of the word) consequence of the fact that a woman is not allowed to live if she claims a right that is not
hers and that she obtains only in the rarest of cases: artistic fame. The right to choose a man and also to dictate how he
tortures her - that is, domination in submission -- this she is not permitted. Indeed for a woman almost everything beyond
the bearing and raising of children is a presumption. You are not particularly easy on women. That isn't my role. I seek to
cast an incorruptible gaze on women, especially where they are the accomplices of men.
AFN: When it was published, certain critics in Austria qualified the novel as pornographic. Were you hurt by this response?
Elfriede Jelinek: The novel is the opposite of pornographic. Pornography suggests desire everywhere and at every moment. The novel proves that
this does not exist, that it is a construct meant to keep women willing, because most of them are the object of pornography
anyway, while men look at them, and can almost see inside their bodies. But I am used to being misunderstood. I am even blamed
for what I attempt to analyze in my writing. As so often happens, the messenger is attacked, and not what she expresses. No
one is interested in that. About your characters you have said, "I strike hard so nothing can grow where my characters have
AFN: Is redemption impossible?
Elfriede Jelinek: My writings are limited to depicting analytically, but also polemically (sarcastically), the horrors of reality. Redemption
is the specialty of other authors, male and female. My writing, my method, is based on criticism, not utopianism.
AFN: Behind the description of a pathological case, is there not a denunciation of Austria's musical culture, which contributes
to your country's identity?
Elfriede Jelinek: Yes, precisely. The idolization of high musical culture, which the country lives off (think how these great masters were
often treated in their lifetimes, and how contemporary artists are treated!), and through which it is bought. Indeed Hegelian
master-servant relationship. High culture is the master, the female piano teachers are the serving maids. They have no right
to any creative energy, not even to a life of their own (I carried this to its extreme in the text).
AFN: Would you have made the same musical choices as Michael Haneke?
Elfriede Jelinek: We discussed the choice of music beforehand. Anyway most of the pieces are specified in the text.
AFN: Just like Michael Haneke with his camera, you wield your pen like a scalpel. Are there similarities in your work?
Elfriede Jelinek: That is why Michael Haneke is so well suited to adapt this novel for the screen, because we both proceed analytically and
dispassionately, perhaps like scientists studying the life of insects. You see the mechanisms better from a distance than
when you are in the middle of them.
© 2001 wega-film