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Another novel: The Piano Teacher

I recently read Elfriede Jelinek’s The Piano Teacher.  I previously had seen the arresting and controversial movie based on it, starring Isabelle Huppert.  Jelinek is Nobel Prize winning novelist who writes in the post-war Germanic realist-nihilist style, often with graphic and disturbing sexuality.

As a novel for pianists, this one disappoints. The main character Erika Kohut, is not-quite-concert-level pianist who falls back on teaching at the Vienna Conservatory.  We get a glimpse of her frustration with teaching, and her ambivalence about success (or its absence).  But the story is mostly about a toxic mother-daughter relationship, and how Erika works it out through masochistic sexual explorations and a disastrous relationship with one of her students.  Fascinating story, but Jelinek does not capture much of the inner or outer daily life of a professional musician.

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