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Wonderful, Wonderful Times

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3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  576 ratings  ·  51 reviews
"That's brutal violence on a defenceless person, and quite unnecessary, declares Sophie, and she pulls with an audible tearing sound at the hair of the man lying in an untidy heap on the ground. What's unnecessary is best of all, says Rainer, who wants to go on fighting. We agreed on that."

It is the late 1950s. A man is out walking in a park in Vienna. He will be beaten up
...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published July 1st 1990 by Serpent's Tail (first published 1980)
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Best German/Austrian Literature
147th out of 520 books — 487 voters
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Vienna/Wien
16th out of 153 books — 58 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,078)
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Amy
Austria must be a really fucked up place. Granted, this perception is based almost solely upon the films of Michael Haneke, and now, the books of Elfriede Jelinek (who also wrote The Piano Teacher which Haneke made into a film)

In this story, four intellectual and rebellious teenagers commit a series of violent crimes just for the sake of violence. In their spare time they misread existentialist works, go to school, have terrible family-lives, and some fuck people as a form of manipulation. The t
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Shanmugam
Suffering is for sissies, full blown hurting is order of the day!

"Anna despises two classes of people: first, those who own their own homes and have cars and families, and second, everybody else. Constantly she is on the verge of exploding." Pretty much sums up the tone of this novel.

The setting is post-war Austria, late 1950s. After signing a treaty, occupied forces had left Austria. Bourgeois war criminals have been forgiven and taken back the reins of Austria again. Past fascist crimes and sk
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Nate D
Simple declarative sentences, epigrammatically mapping a deep and troubling national malaise. Seriously, this just pours the vitriol. I wonder if it's possible that Jelinek hates Austria as much Bernhard? In any event these three stars are just my subjective enjoyment of this, which for some reason never fully clicked with the material, though Jelinek is clearly vital and essential. Will be checking out more, perhaps The Piano Teacher, of which the film version is utterly devastating.
Leslie
Some rather brilliant moments, but 80 pages shy of completion I grew bored/restless/noncommittal. How can a brutal book be boring? Am I standing on the shores of pleasure staring off at bliss? I wouldn't doubt it. Apologies, Elfriede. I'm still your fan!
Cns
“And then there was that sentimental Hans Christian Andersen movie. The star killed himself and his wife and children because the wife was Jewish. Before he died he had one final opportunity to display his profoundly humane brand of humor, which was not a destructive sense of humor. That kind of humor only works if it comes from deep inside. Deep inside he was lacerated by fast-acting poison. Some people die less conspicuously and perhaps the torment they suffer is even greater. As it was, his i ...more
Brian
Elfriede Jelinek was born in Austria and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2004.

It took me quite a few pages to understand and adapt to her writing style but once I did this book became an interesting but uncomfortable read. A decade and a half after WW2 and ex-Nazis and concentration camp survivors are left in the past with their terrible secrets while their children roam the streets of Vienna carving out a new and oft times more brutal society.

This book reminded me of The Sailor Who Fell f
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Victoria
Apr 19, 2010 Victoria rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Victoria by: Ian Wilson
Shelves: germanlanguage
The first thing that always strikes me about Jelinek's work is how she manages to use such "dirty" language. I naturally don't mean cursing, but I do mean her inexplicable ability to always use the exact word in a situation that leaves the reader feeling as if they need to shower after her writing. This characteristic comes across to me, even a non-native German speaker, and seems intrinsic to her writing style. That said, this ability is a very good once since she writes about "dirty" things. N ...more
Christian Engler
Published in 1980, Wonderful Wonderful Times is a novel whose title is a complete contradiction to anything of what the book is indicative of. Understood and accepted. For me, however, it was a confirming piece of drip-drab fiction that only reiterated my original assessment of her after reading the perennial fan favorite, The Piano Teacher, a butcher job of a novel if ever there was one. This novel could take second honors, however.

Set in the 1950s after WWII, Austria is trying to assume an air
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Derek
Something of an unknown gem (at least here in the States), and easily the most pessimistic, nihilistic, unsettling, and harrowing book on this list, and perhaps holding on to those superlatives even if I extend it to every book I’ve read. Jelinek has an outstanding ear for characters’ interiority, especially useful here when those interiorities are so exaggeratedly disturbed. Set in Vienna in the late 1950s, and following the generation of young people whose parents were involved in the Second W ...more
Joanna
This was a bleak and horrifying book, but also an impressive one. I haven't read anything else by this author, not even her more famous book, The Piano Teacher. It took me quite a while to get into the writing style, which has a stream of consciousness on drugs feel to it. The point of view leaps from character to character and the thoughts run together in a way that is disorienting throughout, but in the skilled hands of this author, manages to work. Still, the book describes violence and sex q ...more
David Streever
This book depicts the brutality & violence that the middle & upper classes pursued after the war in Vienna.

Interestingly, the random brutality is mostly directed by the immaculate young woman from a wealthy family (Sophie). The large & muscular working class man (Hans) is focused on earning money & being with the wealthy Sophie.

Two other characters--siblings--Anna (a bit crazy and wild--but also has a psychological disorder causing her to cease speaking. Loves piano) & Rainer
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Gilgamesh  Nabeel
تحاول الكاتبة النمساويّة الحائزة على جائزة نوبل "إلفريده يلينك" البحث عن أسباب العنف لدى المراهقين والشباب من خلال قيامها بتشريح نفسي وإجتماعي لشخصيّات الرواية الرئيسيّة والتي تفرض ظروف البحث عن تلك الأسباب على الكاتبة أن تمنح الشخصيّات الأخرى من الجيل الأكبر حيّزا كبيرا ولا يقل أهميّة عن دور شخصيّات الشباب الأربعة لدرجة يكاد يختفي معها الحاجز بين الشخصيات الرئيسيّة والثانوية فيصبح للجميع دورهم ووجودهم الأساسي في حبكة الرواية التي تتجسّد في الواقع من خلال التحليل النفسي العميق لكل شخصيّة بطريقة ...more
S.
What strikes me about this book is the down-spiraling dynamic and the feeling no one's in control. As if there weren't even a narrator. The manic title, "Wonderful Wonderful Times," with its exaggeration and sarcasm, heightens that impression. That said, the German title is the more sober "Die Ausgesperrten," which means 'the outsiders,' or 'those left out' or 'barred,' and is in part a reference to Camus' "The Stranger/Outsider," which is alluded to numerous times.

This was a sad and horrifying
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Misa Escobedo
Es un libro bastante crudo, la historia es envolvente aunque un tanto deprimente y lastimosa. La autora se empeña en describir bastante bien los pensamientos y los motivos que llevan a los protagonistas a hacer lo que hacen, es una lucha donde cada quien se mueve bajo sus propios intereses... La forma en que está escrito puede hacer que uno se pierda por algunos momentos, ya que la autora hace cambios de narrador, a veces parece que te está contando la historia ella, a veces le pasa la voz a los ...more
Curtis Ackie
A brutal and unforgiving portrait of post-WW2 Austria, this book gives interesting insight into the European condition. Whilst some are offended by Jelinek’s style and uncompromising coarseness, I consider myself a fan.
Zon
Jan 25, 2012 Zon added it
Difficile à lire, en raison de la violence contenue dans chaque phrase; mais aussi à cause de l'écriture, qui perd le lecteur.

L'auteur expurge un malaise extrême, c'est assez incroyable.
amber
Right so it was a really good book but I finished it at like midnight and actually had to drink a bunch of bourbon just to get myself past the ending and able to sleep.
Julián C
This book is brutal and full of amazing, violent bits. It's an original style excercise and a precise characterization, rather than a plot-driven story. Thus, the novel is repetitive and could have been shorter, or more interesting. In the last chapters there are ups and downs in terms of plot and timing: a lot of events that happen too suddenly or too fast take place. The idea is worth to write down, but this hysterical piece in particular seems to be a bit amateurish in some parts. Too many co ...more
Farhan Khalid
"Art is always a struggle for desired results."

"I have my fingers on the pulse of the age."

"Adolescence and ideals go hand in hand."

"That’s fate. It’s an individual thing."

"In this new era, what sets you free is knowledge, not work."

"We’re just reading about how this existence of ours is valueless."

"The rules of art do not exist, because what makes art art is the fact that it obeys no rules at all."

"Anarchism is sufficient reward if it is practiced for yourself alone. Then (and only then) it has
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Robin
Na lezing van "Die Ausgesperrten" (1980) van Elfriede Jelinek vraag je je af of er geen sticker opgeplakt zou moeten worden: "Niet geschikt voor te gevoelige lezers". Het begint al op de eerste bladzijde met het in elkaar slaan van een man door de vier jeugdige hoofdpersonen: "Es gehört besonders viel Mut dazu, einem Menschen, der einem von vorn ansieht [...] das Gesicht zu zerkratzen, bzw. es auf seine Augäpfel abzusehn."

De hoofdpersonen: Rainer Maria Witkowski en zijn tweelingzus Anna, Sophie
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Missy
The pace and subjectmatter is nauseating; as if reading with espresso pumped into my veins while grabbing ahold of anything to protect myself from having to put up with such unreal, bored, ugly and unfeeling characters... or caricatures, actually. And yet the writing is unique, poetic and there are some original themes and side-stories: generational disconnect, desperation and making of something twisted out of the muck of wartorn environs and survivors with an ugly, shaming and horrifying memor ...more
S.B.
I'm convinced Jelinek must be a weirdo (I mean, she wrote The Piano Teacher, too). All Austrians seem really weird, their country doesn't make any sense. But anyway, she wrote this book in what seems like a rush, in cuts and jumps. There are passages I had to read over and over again to seal in my brain. I really liked this after having read about 2/3 of it, before that I was reading blindly without paying attention (bad habit). It's mainly about four kids, half of whom love the other half of th ...more
Peter Panic
I don't know what to say about this book. This has so many layers of ridiculous that I'm still stumped by it. The blandest thing I could say about this book is that it's centered around misfit students in post war Vienna who deal with rising anger of the times and parents who are unable to cope and deal with their children's hopes and fears in a post Nazi life. But really it's not about that at all. Heck I don't know what to say except that they are the most self centered bunch of characters I h ...more
Marisa Fernandes
Um retrato da violência. Da violência latente que permaneceu na sociedade austríaca do pós II Guerra Mundial com a tentativa de adaptação dos outrora nacional-socialistas (aqui representado directamente por um ex-oficial das SS com uma perna amputada)a uma nova vida, desaparecida a guerra e chegada a paz, num país neutral desde 1955. Da violência latente que se manifesta de forma gratuita no seio de uma família (do pai para a mãe) e dessa família para a sociedade (a partir dos dois filhos, habit ...more
Namrirru
Another great book by her. I think it succeeds more than the Piano Teacher because the humor breaks up the tension rather than adds to it. In effect, it has more texture. It's still bitter throughout, but it doesn't weigh you down.

Characters! Lots of vivid, complex, evolving characters! And I love the directions in which she approaches them. They make a big impression.

I like how you don't know where it's going or if it's really going to go anywhere. Stuff happens, life propels forward, you can
...more
Bridget
I average one Jelinek book every 4 years. This is for two reasons:
1- Only a few of her books have been translated into English and I don't want to tear through them and have nothing left to read of hers and
2- it's basically impossible to tear through them. They are long, sometimes painful documents and each one weighs upon you when you finish. That said, I love reading them. Her narrative voice is ridiculously strong and unlike almost anything I've read before. I chalk this up to her directly an
...more
Paul
Written by Nobel prize winning Austrian novelist Elfriede Jelink this tells the story of a group of dis-illusioned youths in 1950s Vienna. It doesn't paint a pretty picture of a country successfully having dealt with the traumas of its past. They look to the nihilism of Camus for inspiration, an escape from their reality. The class distinctions are interesting within the group, with their opportunities apparently already determined. Kept thinking of A Clockwork Orange when reading it.
Michael sinkofcabbages
the nobel prize?!? really?!?
ok im not saying she dosnt really deserve it (im not one of those nobel bashers as in "NO-ONE is worthy"). But everything i admire about jelinek was done first by ingeborg bachmann. even the whole cultural austrian thing. i really am not trying to make a shallow argument, but i cant be the first one to notice this similarity. i mean jelinek even does radio plays and commentaries (just like bachmann). i dont know maybe i love bachmann too much.
Michal
This is a powerful, captivating book, but its many obscene and pornographic passages are completely unsuitable for the majority of audience. Had I known how disgusted I would feel after reading the book, would I never have read it.

I feel it is a great error of the Nobel prize commitee that this kind of literature got the sort of attention and publicity that opened it for the little expecting public. As if there were no better _beautiful_ books to read.
Minishiva
Yes it was brutal and shocking, a lot of the scenes with the brothers made me really uncomfortable.And yet I was bored through most of the story.
I'm wondering if there was a point to this book other than to present disgusting scene after disgusting scene just for the sake of it.If that was the point well then I guess it did just that.I'm usually into this kind of books where the characters are despicable, but I need something more.
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jelinek vs. bachmann 1 12 Jun 04, 2009 09:11PM  
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Elfriede Jelinek (German: [ɛlˈfʀiːdə ˈjɛlinɛk]; born 20 October 1946) is an Austrian playwright and novelist. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2004 for her "musical flow of voices and counter-voices in novels and plays that, with extraordinary linguistic zeal, reveal the absurdity of society's clichés and their subjugating power."

(from Wikipedia)
More about Elfriede Jelinek...
The Piano Teacher Les amantes Lust Greed Die Kinder der Toten

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“He lies like a book. And he reads a lot of books.” 30 likes
“Anna despises two classes of people: first, those who own their own homes and have cars and families, and second, everybody else. Constantly she is on the verge of exploding. With rage. A pool of pure red. The pool is filled with speechlessness that talks away at her nonstop.” 11 likes
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