Kris McCracken's Reviews > Les amantes

Les amantes by Elfriede Jelinek
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Dec 07, 11

Read from November 14 to 15, 2011

In the novel, Jelinek – an Austrian novelist who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2004 (a seemingly controversial choice) – employs an ‘interesting’ style. She avoids capitalisation entirely (including proper nouns). Each sentence is given a paragraph break, regardless of length. Sentences are, for the most part, short.

Complementing (compounding?) the experimental nature of the novel is the fact that the courses of the lives of two women are told against each other. One chapter we are with Bbrigette who hates Hheinz but loves the idea of marrying him because he represents her best chance at material wealth and ‘the good life’; and the next chapter we are with Ppaula, who follows her heart and dreams rather than conforming to society’s conception of that very same ‘good life’.

As an exercise in creatively eviscerating the place of ‘woman’ in society through a Marxist/ feminist lens, it is a great success. Class and gender are effectively explored and critiqued through the narrative. As an exercise of skilful writing and storytelling, I’m less convinced. While I’d not go so far as denounce Jelinek as a fraud or of completely lacking in talent, I didn’t enjoy the act of reading as I usually do. It felt like a chore, and that’s rarely a recommendation.
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