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The Piano Teacher

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  8,901 ratings  ·  839 reviews
The Piano Teacher, the most famous novel of Elfriede Jelinek, who was awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize in Literature, is a shocking, searing, aching portrait of a woman bound between a repressive society and her darkest desires.
Erika Kohut is a piano teacher at the prestigious and formal Vienna Conservatory, who still lives with her domineering and possessive mother. Her life
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Hardcover, 288 pages
Published November 30th 2004 by Grove Press (first published 1983)
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Average rating 3.52  · 
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 ·  8,901 ratings  ·  839 reviews


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Paul Bryant
Dec 30, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, mentalillness
A bit like the moment in The Gold Rush where Charlie Chaplin opens his cabin door and the howling gale blasts him across the room and he spends the next five minutes trying to shut the door again so many raging roaring ideas came hurtling out of these pages that I struggled to close the book at all. Actually, thats not the right image! Too healthy! It was more like one of those exhibitions of biological curiosities you got in some old teaching hospitals, somewhat frowned upon now, I imagine. ...more
Traveller
Are our children ever our property? Is it ever justifiable for one human being to take possession of another human's will and freedom; is it okay to retain another human being for our own personal use, like you would do with a motor vehicle or a cup or a comb? Even when that human being belongs to another nation, or is our own child?

There is currently a world-wide ban against making slaves of persons belonging to other nationalities, though there is not yet consensus about making 'slaves' of
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Steven Godin
I vowed after wasting my time somehow managing to get through her utterly detestable novel Greed, that I would never read Elfriede Jelinek again, avoiding her books like one would avoid the Bubonic plague. But I ran into a problem lately, that being Actress Isabelle Huppert, of whom I'm a massive fan, and one of the few films of hers I've yet to see is Michael Haneke's 2001 film adaptation of Jelinek's novel. After contemplating as to whether or not I read the book, I decided that I would, out ...more
Aubrey
Show, not tell. The eternal plaint of literature. Do not tell us of the parade; bleed our ears to the beat of cacophony. Do not list out the throes of death; pierce our lungs and tie them up behind our backs. Do not speak of emotions with a single word; grip our hearts and plunge them into the carefully calibrated abyss.

Well, alright. Let me give that a try.

People say, oh, the joys of music! People sigh, oh, the mystic devotion of motherhood! People scream, oh, the sacrilegious desensitization
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Dolors
Sep 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Masochistic music lovers
Recommended to Dolors by: Aubrey&Brian&Declan&Ema&Knig&Trav
Shelves: read-in-2013
I am convinced the most unfortunate people are those who would make an art of love. It sours other effort. Of all artists, they are certainly the most wretched. Norman Mailer

Erika Kohut, the piano teacher, is an instrument of nature aiming solely for artistic cleanliness. She is an outstanding interpreter but wont ever be able to perform. Her soul has been sucked dry and her mind has been poisoned by a sadistic upbringing, damaging permanently the neuronal connection that unites music and
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Lisa
I rarely think of Elfriede Jelinek anymore.

She used to be my favourite pet hate for a couple of years after she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Somehow I was reconciled with her in the year 2016. After all, she is an intelligent, talented woman who can write unbearably painful, yet eloquent and sophisticated prose. I don't like her writing, but she undoubtedly is a skilled and interesting author. She may deserve a Nobel Prize in Literature for that. So, peace made!

Today I reviewed my
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Mary
Sep 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Erika, the piano teacher, has issues. Shes in her late 30s, an age we are repeatedly told is quite old, and she sleeps in the matrimonial bed with her domineering mother: hands outside the covers, lest those fingers go wandering. The book opens with Erika pulling a handful of hair out of her mothers head, and it only gets better-worse from there. To say much more would risk taking away the gasps a reader is entitled to when reading this.

The synopsis of The Piano Teacher didnt really prepare me
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Josh
Dec 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
I cut myself with razors and bleed out, I consume it back, which is me, part of me, it is mine.
Sitting down in a pasture full of slimy eels, crushing them as they discharge their squeamish bits all over me.
Letting the gelatinous barrage of honey overwhelm me, while ants gnaw at my skin.
Breaking glass and running my fingers over it, crushing it in my bare hands, letting it stick out from every pore it manages to puncture.
This orifice of mine is not just mine, but someone else's; it can't tell me
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Manybooks
In many ways, Elfriede Jelinek's Die Klavierspielerin is amazing. Visceral, explosive, descriptive in a horrifying, yet also curiously enticing manner, the novel presents a massively cracked and crumbling, distorted mirror of society (not just Austrian society, but society in general) and how stranglingly vigorous and seemingly impossible to fray and sever the patriarchal structures and fibres of power and might are and continue to be (and how they consume and infiltrate everything and ...more
Declan
Nov 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'The Piano Teacher' is like a piece of chamber music; a dissonant, serial composition with cold, confused Erika on piano, Mother on violin (always fiddling away even, or especially, when uncalled for by the score) and, supplying the lower notes, Walter Klemmer on cello (a little arrogant regarding his abilities and too keen to wave his bow about).

The music is without melody or harmony, but it is a stunning piece of virtuoso writing. The sounds are jarring, violent, cacophonous. Much of the
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Brian
Sep 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Brian by: Aubrey
The opposite sex always wants the exact opposite.

Jelinek writes in perfect compact sentences; streamlining and buffing those collection of words between periods to contain only what is needed, nothing more.

She knows that her mother's embrace will completely devour and digest her, yet she is magically drawn to it.

She packs those sentences full with minor motifs, brilliant characterization, startling imagery and sends them hurtling through the narrative. But there's a jack-knifed 18-wheeler of a
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Isidora
Jan 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
I have made my way through this painful and upsetting novel.
Ever since Elfriede Jelinek won Nobel Prize in 2004, but didnt come to Stockholm to pick it up, I have believed that she was not for me. Elfriede was classified as pretentious, difficult, a woman, yes, but hermetic and hyper intellectual, or so I got it from the reviews.
How wrong I was. Her writing is very alive, yet to the darkest side. If there is a place called domestic hell - for mothers and daughters only, the protagonist, piano
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Nate D
May 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: austria, 80s, read-in-2016
Excorciating psychological study of the utter failure of interpersonal connection. Austria would appear to have issues that can only be worked through via brutal works of art, and in many ways Jelinek is harsher than anything approached by Bernhard. In some ways Jelinek writes in an anti-style, just piling declarative sentences at the reader until they're forced to accept their content. But then she switches course and descends into convoluted structures of metaphor so mixed as to almost lose ...more
Ema
Jul 21, 2012 rated it liked it
Elfriede Jelinek's novel is a painful, brutal experience. I cannot say that I enjoyed this incursion in the grotesque, tenebrous entrails of the human psyche. I came back to reality saddened and disgusted, having tasted the extent of destruction which overbearing parents can have on their children's lives. And yet, the novel is well written, with surprising moments of lyricism; I cannot deny its value, despite the depressing story it contains.

There is almost no sign of beauty, goodness or hope
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Marc
This is a tough one to rate and review. From a literary-technical point of view this book is phenomenal: a thoroughly constructed (though relatively conventionally told) story, hilarious episodes, a remarkable musical timbre (with episodes in a staccato- or andante-rythm) and lots of ingenious metaphors. The detached way of storytelling (very Canetti-like) underlines the strong sarcastic tendency.

Thematically this novel seems more like a psychological study of an extremely deviated personality
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Lee
Oct 10, 2018 rated it liked it
This reads a bit like a shrill reboot of an old underground fable and also like overcooked Angela Carter. As Meike suggests, it's a little too eager to pre-empt all speculation about what might be motivating either of the protagonists. It's as though the author is a little bit worried that we might be overwhelmed without her careful guidance, and as though she is actually quite tame, and presumptive of our being likewise.

DNF about 25%. I don't know what else to add to the issues already
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Neal Adolph
Can I keep this short and sweet? Maybe. Let's see.

Elfriede Jelinek is, perhaps, one of the most controversial of the Nobel Prize Winners from the 21st Century. I think that drew me to her. This one literary message board that I am a member of has a constant hate-on for her contribution to letters and her prize. I think that drew me to her.

I can see, after reading this book, why she won the prize. She dabbles in really complex relationships, and here we see several. Erika Kohut, the protagonist,
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Tim
Mar 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People who like literature
This is one of my favorite books. I can't even describe how amazed I was when I finished this book. Jelinek moves the reader from character to character, rarely telling us who we inhabit, yet unlike so many other books that abuse this device, it works. Commentary is mixed in with thoughts. Lurid sex scenes, violence, depression, despair, social commentary. It's all there, everything you need for a good weekend. Just add scotch.
Even the ending doesn't disappoint, which I was so sure, up until I
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Michael
060111 later addition: so now i have read on her work, have read another 3 of her novels, and so there is the horrifying possibility that i have just completely misinterpreted her work! her characterization of the piano teacher is avowedly autobiographical, erika's masochism is indictment of patriarchal power structures, erika is not attempting to manipulate the destructive forces that surround her, erika is not escaping through art- this is perhaps only ironic that schubert is her favorite- ...more
Timothy
Nov 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is the novel that introduced 2004 Nobel Laureate Elfriede Jelinek to the English-speaking world. The Piano Teacher is biting social criticism. Parental relationships, public parks, morning commutes, and (especially) sexual relations take on an unsavory character. Perhaps most notably, this is a deeply feminist work. The Piano Teacher comments on the gendered nature of social power. By my take, there is a trapped sense to Erika Kohut, the piano teacher of the title an entrapment that is ...more
Meike
Apr 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-read, austria
This book gives you a severe feeling of claustrophobia and is clearly not for the faint of heart: A female piano teacher who is pushing 40 still lives with her controlling mother who is treating her like a mixture between a young child and a husband (e.g., there`s a curfew and she is sleeping in her mother`s bed). All her life, the piano teacher was pushed by her mother to become a famous concert pianist, which she didn`t achieve, but she internalized the strict discipline of piano practice and ...more
Allison Floyd
Mar 18, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Those contemplating suicide, who need a little extra push.
This book was, to borrow someone else's phrasing, punishingly unendurable. But in the best possible way. The writing is like a luscious chocolate dessert sprinkled with sparkling shards of glass. The ladies (and gent) in this tome all strike me as the type who would grind up glass and serve it in your dessert. This is the land of the lovelorn and lacerated, folks. And Lazarus is nowhere in sight. Hey, if redemption isn't possible, at least there's always alliteration. Anyway, the real issue here ...more
William
Jun 21, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel from the 2004 Nobel Prize winner reminded me, in its first half, of the works of A.M. Homes and John Cheever. The second half of this work on sex, violence, power, maternity, and identity, was like nothing Ive read. This novel could be about many things, but its approach in presenting a detached view of sex and power turns ultimately into the very physical combination of both of these things. There is more to be said about how identities fluxuate depending on who holds control, and ...more
Cheryl
Sep 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, nobels
I read this as I also explored, in separate texts, how pain is depicted in literature. Norridge, in Perceiving Pain, explores writers memorializing pain as a way of lament, a way of bearing witness to the suffering of past and present. While this book is certainly different, setting and all, it was interesting to read it with that context in mind, particularly when 'lament' literature is a kind I'm drawn to. Simply put, this novel focuses on pain; the kind of pain that forces a character to dark ...more
Nathan
You think because he doesn't love you that you are worthless. You think that because he doesn't want you anymore that he is right -- that his judgement and opinion of you are correct. If he throws you out, then you are garbage. You think he belongs to you because you want to belong to him. Don't. It's a bad word, 'belong.' Especially when you put it with somebody you love. Love shouldn't be like that"- Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon


*This review probably contains spoilers*

I've heard many people
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K.D. Absolutely
Jan 29, 2010 rated it did not like it
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
Shelves: 1001-core, nobel
A smut. A pornographic material pretending to be, or as seen by many, as a work of art. I just don't get the fact that this was written by the 2004 Nobel Prize for Literature winner, Elfriede Jelinek (Austrian playwright and novelist) and its movie adaptation (that I saw and did not like as well) won the 2001 Cannes Film Festival. Sorry, I just don't get it.

This was one of the book that I brought with me during my 2-day stay (March 4 & 5, 2010) in the hospital for my knee operation. I was
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Laura
What could happen between a piano teacher and one of her students? Nothing that you've guessed, I can assure you.

In addition, the main character must face her mother's constraints to her own way of life.
Czarny Pies
Jul 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Those prepared for nauseating reading in a good cause.
II am giving the "Piano Teacher" three stars: two for its literary merits plus one more for a very interesting contribution to the debate on "date" rape which was in its very early stages at the time when this book was published and which has now come to occupy a very large place in our society.

As literature, the "Piano Teacher" is profoundly flawed in that it mixes three different genres. It begins as a delightful tale in the tradition of the "Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" . The protagonist, Erika
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Traveller
Three and a half stars

One of the questions that arose for me while reading this novel, was: Are our children ever our property? Is it ever justifiable for one human being to take possession of another human's will and freedom? Is it okay to retain another human being for our own personal use, like you would do with a motor vehicle or a cup or a comb? Even when that human being is our own child?

There is currently a world-wide ban against making slaves of persons belonging to other
...more
Yuki
Ultimately the struggle between man and woman, between young and old, between mentor and mentee, between two distorted human beings. The novel exceeded my expectations in terms of its complexity in portraying human emotions, yet I was disappointed. After all, how many times have we seen female victims in literature?

Essentially a masterful work, although an abundance of victimized heroines can turn monotonous after a month or so.
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Elfriede Jelinek is an Austrian playwright and novelist, best known for her novel, The Piano Teacher.

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."

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