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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbingly fascinating
Something written on the cover describes this book very well: "love, fear, and self-destruction".
We follow a late 30-ish woman, Erika, in Vienna. She's a piano teacher ruthlessly controlled by her mother with whom she still lives. Into her life comes a young man, a student of the fine arts she teaches. Perhaps one cannot say he upsets her life, but through this...
Published on 12 Aug. 2005 by Johan Klovsjö

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A study of power and supression or high-brow filth?
The Piano Teacher is a pressure cooker of a novel, claustrophobically building up the tension around piano teacher, Erika Kohut, as she struggles between the amorous demands of her pupil Walter Klemmer and the lifelong domination of her mother. It is a complex study of control and subordination: mother-daughter, teacher-pupil, male-female, age-youth, lover,...
Published on 19 Jun. 2009 by Sofia


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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbingly fascinating, 12 Aug. 2005
By 
Johan Klovsjö (Göteborg, Sweden) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Piano Teacher (Paperback)
Something written on the cover describes this book very well: "love, fear, and self-destruction".
We follow a late 30-ish woman, Erika, in Vienna. She's a piano teacher ruthlessly controlled by her mother with whom she still lives. Into her life comes a young man, a student of the fine arts she teaches. Perhaps one cannot say he upsets her life, but through this man's encounter with Erika we get to discover some truly unsettling truths about this woman's psyche, relating to sexual identity more than anything. The relationship between Erika and her dominant mother is also an intricate part of the story.
More than anything the language of Jelinek is truly wonderful, like an intricate melody. Might sound like something I am saying to appear clever, but it's not. She knows her alliterations very well and use them freely. A couple of times perhaps a bit too obviously, but most often not. The writings flows from one persons perspective into anothers without pause, line break, or anything to help you, like shadows of the characters melting into each other. Still it was not hard to follow the perspective. A few times I thought she said something only to make a comment or sound clever, that felt a bit besides the point of the story. But maybe I am being too critical. The language is still what I take with me after reading this book. It was truly amazing (even after translation), and I am definitely going to have to read more books by this author!
People with little patience beware, Jelinek can take a couple of pages to get to the climax. More than once she falls into the habit of describing the situation by looking closer at who this person is and why it is doing what it is. I wouldn't say this disturbed me, as I was amazed with the way she writes, but I really felt that I was being held away from know what's going to happen. I guess that was the point, and she managed very well to work up the suspence this way.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A study of power and supression or high-brow filth?, 19 Jun. 2009
By 
Sofia (Bristol, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Piano Teacher (Paperback)
The Piano Teacher is a pressure cooker of a novel, claustrophobically building up the tension around piano teacher, Erika Kohut, as she struggles between the amorous demands of her pupil Walter Klemmer and the lifelong domination of her mother. It is a complex study of control and subordination: mother-daughter, teacher-pupil, male-female, age-youth, lover, artist-athlete, prostitute-customer, lover-voyeur. It explores and exploits a number of genuinely challenging ideas through Erika: how prolonged parental domination can destroy normal life; how society views women, the differences between love and lust; self-harm and jealousy among others. This is a properly thought-provoking novel and many of Jelinek's images are genuinely innovative and arresting.

And yet, a lot of the subject matter is horribly gratuitous. At times the graphic descriptions of women in peep-show booths, prostitutes, imagined sado-masochism and various sexual encounters rendered this almost unreadable for me. It's not the sort of novel where you'd feel happy to have someone read a sentence over your shoulder, because for pages at a time it's as close to porn as a high-brow novel is ever likely to get.

So, a challenging, interesting read but with a strong warning for its sexual content.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Difficult read but thought provoking"., 14 Dec. 1999
By A Customer
I've just finished reading the German original of this, and although it was not an easy read, it was well worth it. I hadn't read anything by Jelinek before, but have read quite a lot of Christa Wolf and Bachmann, who write on a similar vein,
For me, this book was more lurid and graphic than anything by the other two writers. Jelinek takes the theme of the suppression / silencing of women and creates a character who really only finds expression in music - she is utterly incapable of using conventional modes of expression (language) to voice her thoughts and feelings, and as a result her feelings themselves become distorted - Erika doesn't know how to live as a 'normal' human, and cannot distinguish between love, lust and violence.
The book had an interesting twist in that Erika is suppressed not only by the masculine world in which she lives, but also by her (nameless) mother - when the status of 'mother' is ironically the ultimate representation of woman. The mother becomes a tyrant, subordinating her daughter's desires and very personality to her own needs because she too cannot function in the outside male-dominated world.
This book was never an easy read, or comforting, but gave me a lot to think about, particularly in our world where people (especially women) are so judged on appearances. Erika seemed to be an example of how the outside world can alienate individuals, causing them to harm themselves mentally and physically. Erika comes across as a bizarre and eccentric character, but there is a lot of truth in how Jelinek depicts her.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars dark themes, 24 May 2009
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This review is from: The Piano Teacher (Paperback)
Jelinek has won the Nobel Prize for literature and this book is listed as one of teh 1001 books to read before you die.

It deals in dark themes: a suffocating mother-daughter relationship, self-harm, voyeurism and (potentially) masochism (though it's not clear how far Erika is really looking for this).

Much of this is persuasive, telling and gripping - though I found the central plotting unclear - why does Erika want something different in her relationship with Klemmer than from her previous relationships? And what does she want? (what she says she wants or what the novelist tells us she wants?)

As to the style, I don't read German, sadly, otherwise I would have given this a go. My suspicion is that it's probably quite masterly, alert in every sentence, in the original. In the translation, it's a bit hit and miss - more hit than miss, but quite a lot of infelicities.

Overall: you won't soon forget this book if you choose to read it. Is it a masterpiece of world literature - I'm not sure. I might try to read something else by this author one day.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 'a harsh expressionistic picture of sexuality', 17 Feb. 2013
By 
sally tarbox (aylesbury bucks uk) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Brilliantly written yet rather horrible story; I almost gave up on it in the earlier part but later on got quite hooked into the narrative.
Erika Kohut, a middle aged Austrian piano teacher, lives in a weird relationship with her overbearing mother, even sharing her bed and forced to bow to Mother's decisions about where she may go and what she may wear. Yet despite furious fights at times and her tendency to self-harm, Erika seems to enjoy the cosy world they share. And she works out her physical needs through visits to sex shows in the red light district.
Meanwhile handsome student Walter Klemmer has set himself the challenge of seducing his teacher before moving on to something better.
'Her two chosen mates will encompass her like crab claws: Mother and Klemmer. Erika can't have both, and she can't have just one, because then she would miss the other dreadfully.'
The strange and grotesque working out of this storyline was compulsive reading. Not for the easily shocked.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Genuinely horrifying, and frighteningly realistic, 15 Feb. 2011
This review is from: The Piano Teacher (Paperback)
Plot spoilers follow!!

Trapped in an oppressive relationship with her suffocating mother, Erika Kohut treads an uneasy line between bourgeoise expectations of someone of her class, occupation, and upbringing - not to mention gender stereotypes - and her secret desires. Erika slyly pokes or pinches or jabs or punches people on the street car, she spies on couples making love in the park near the docks, she sneaks around the peep shows, she cuts herself with a razor, she buys inappropriate and expensive clothing that she will never wear and which Mother rips apart in a rage when she comes home late.

This is a tough read: there are times, especially in the first half of the novel, when you simply cannot separate Erika's memories from her fantasies, the things she thinks from the things she's been told, and those from the things she is observing. Sometimes in a single sentence all these different states of consciousness seem to be covered.... But gradually the fragments start to make more sense and the true tragedy of Erika's "case history" becomes apparent. It's roughly half-way through the narrative that it dawned on me that Erika (who is heading towards the age of 40) does not even have a bed of her own, she must cuddle up to Mother every night.

In the second half of the novel, a more conventional style of narrative is adopted, and the story takes an even darker turn: you can read more quickly and the story itself also gathers momentum, which heightens the sense of events spiralling out of control.

A dark, disturbing, depressing, distressing novel but clearly deeply felt, scrupulously honest, politically acute, and quite possibly at least semi-autobiographical. Every bit as brilliant as Michael Haneke's film adaptation and unreservedly recommended to any serious reader. It might even achieve some kind of crossover into the misery memoir market...though I kind of doubt it!
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2.0 out of 5 stars HOW dull, 28 Nov. 2013
By 
JackieO (Chester-le-Street, County Durham) - See all my reviews
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Not what I was expecting from a prize winning novel. Quite a diosappointment. I only managed a couple of chapters before givind up in despair.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars odd, odd, odd, 10 Jun. 2010
By 
Allhug (Newcatle upon Tyne) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Piano Teacher (Paperback)
I'm not quite sure what to make of this novel. On the one hand there are some interesting little openings into the psychology of base human nature and the perils of overachievement, underachievement, pushy parents etc but on the other hand - the depravity and utter cringeworthiness of it all is quite offensive and not for the faint hearted. - Why it won an award is uncertain - unless for shock value??? - its odd odd odd...

I can appreciate that the writing is good - very evocative and some wonderful descriptions. BUT - I feel like I've lost something in reading this book - it's about a subject that I'd rather not have been exposed to but I suppose that says more about me than it does about the book itself. - I won't be recommending it to others.

I didn't like it. It only warrented the extra star because I can see some genius in the writing itself.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Life is too short to read a book so dull, 20 Oct. 2014
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I had to read this book for my book club. I made it 20% then refused to read a page more. Life is too short to read a book so dull
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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A portrait of Vienna, 5 Feb. 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Piano Teacher (Paperback)
This is the film tie-in edition of Jelinek's 1983 novel; Michael Hanke's adaptation has roused much controversy. The story focuses on a piano teacher, Erika- who lives with her aging mother in Vienna. Her time, when not teaching is spent in a variety of masochistic manners: self-mutilation,in the seedy lowlife of porn (where the whores hustle & the hustlers whore)and finally succumbing to a 'Mrs Robinson'-style relationship with a besotted (?) pupil, Walter. The novel gives more reason WHY Erika behaves as she does than Haneke's film. Vienna is more richly evoked and Walter is a far more impotent character than his on-screen counterpart (until his final 'game' with Erika). I admired the film, though felt it was exploitative (of the viewer). The book made me comprehend the cinematic adaptation- the flashbacks to Erika's formative sexual (non)experiences aided the character portrait. The only flaw is that of translation- the repetition of certain phrases ("She would stew in her juices", for example)sound either cliched or dumb (sometimes both) in English. Despite that, this is an interesting novel about the formation and destruction of a female in 1980's Vienna.
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The Piano Teacher (Serpent's Tail Classics)
The Piano Teacher (Serpent's Tail Classics) by Elfriede Jelinek (Paperback - 4 Nov. 2010)
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