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Wonderful, Wonderful Times

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  1,057 ratings  ·  107 reviews
“Isto é brutalidade contra uma pessoa indefesa, e, por isso, desnecessária, diz Sophie, e puxa pelos cabelos do homem, que jazia no chão em desalinho, com tanta força que lhos arranca. O desnecessário é precisamente o melhor, diz Rainer, que ainda quer lutar. Foi assim que combinámos.”

Viena, final dos anos 50. Um homem está a dar um passeio num parque. Ele vai ser
Paperback, 253 pages
Published June 1st 1990 by Serpent's Tail (first published 1980)
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M. Sarki
Dec 13, 2013 rated it really liked it

It is not surprising that Elfriede Jelinek religiously maintains her exact same tone throughout this fine and caustic work. Covered by molasses would be a fair analogy to the feeling I get as she expresses her cynicism, irony, and sarcasm in her clever use of dialogue and action. She is extremely facetious in all her chronological accountings. Even if most of her words somehow avoid a physical eruption in my body they still live as a drip inside my head.
Oct 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cult-fiction
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
Mar 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Sahil Sood
Oct 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Wonderful, Wonderful Times
“In reality I am revolted by my desires. But the desires are stronger than I am.”

Music annihilates distinction: The indistinct chords promise the fine-tune of harmony, of melody, of strings, flutes, clarinets, and voices working in perfect order; while the distinct chords, forever straining under the musician’s adept fingers, revolt against the oppressive order; their harsh, inconsonant sounds in the milieu of musical grandiosity, struggle to remain stiff and alone, but
Nate D
Jun 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 80s, read-in-2014, austria
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.
Dec 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
“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 ...more
Feb 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Christian Engler
Sep 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Sep 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"You can overlook a cripple deliberately, but not that tie."
Nov 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2008, nobel
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
Mar 10, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  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. ...more
Apr 07, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010-read
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 ...more
Aug 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
I don't know, Elfriede. I'm a big fan of your twisted Austrian sadistravaganzas, but this one just seemed kind of puerile and angsty. Could have been written by a particularly precocious little goth girl with a hypocritical contempt for the bourgeoisie. I will say, reading you and Thomas Bernhard and watching the movies of Michael Haneke and Ulrich Seidl has forever tainted my understanding of your country; I was in Vienna recently, and as I considered all of the staid, impeccably dressed ...more
Ciaran Monaghan
Oct 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Austria in the post-war period has closed the door on the past and has not had any sort of reckoning with its history. No one is happy; Nazis have lost their former 'glory' and respect, their former enemies did not see the Nazis punished and the young people have no future.

The main characters are a group of teens who are set to leave high school and are starting to contemplate their future, or lack of it. They are anarchists and nihilists who think the whole world needs to be torn down, or at
Sascia If She Were Literate
My entire class was extremely perturbed by the ending and I was the one person who advocated sympathy for the characters because i felt a connection to their angst. I think all 17 of them now think I'm a complete psychopath. Take that as you will.
Shane Jones
Dec 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Another of my favorite books read in 2017. Jelinek creates so much fuzz and distortion in her style, it's always so wobbly and jagged, slipping up, raw, weird, then so direct, and I love it. The opening chapter I've read 10-12 times.
David Streever
Aug 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
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
Curtis Ackie
Jul 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
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.
Jun 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Finally done with this book - reading this, especially the middle sections of this book was a slog. I've written down a bunch of annotations, which I will later type up. I may subsequently do a slightly more extensive review later by adding a few more notes.

But for now, some scattered thoughts: I think I've been a relatively forebearing reader, a lot of unusual stylistic choices here (for instance, there are no quotation marks around the dialogue/speech of the characters. Which is fine, and I've
Sean Meriwether
Apr 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Violence does not appear out of nowhere. It seeps into society from various toxic sources, like chemicals leeching into the water table, poisoning everything equally.

The Viennese family at the center of Jelinek’s challenging novel, the Witkowskis, are a product of World War II. At the head of this dysfunctional foursome is Otto, a former Nazi who lost his leg and his purpose in the war. He vents out his frustration on his wife, so frequently abused and berated that their children are numb to
Leonard Klossner
Dec 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Elfriede Jelinek is twisted. This is why she's been a high if not top priority when I skim bookstore shelves for familiar authors. This is not as jarring as The Piano Teacher (barring this book's finale), but it was wonderful nonetheless.

From the blurb: "...the decaying corpse that is Austria, where everyone has a closet in which to hide their Nazi histories, their sexual perversions, and their hatred of the foreigner. ...Jelinek the present is corrupted by the crimes of the past."

Nov 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I discovered this book about two years ago, when I was looking up each and every list I could find online regarding ‘disturbing books.’ Some choices were laughable (like Katzenbach’s The Analyst or The Bible, to name a few). But many others I ended up buying. Some I loved, some were ‘meh’ and others were ‘WHOAAA, THIS IS REALLY DISTURBING.’

Wonderful, Wonderful Times falls in the last category.

Even the ending! Had it been any other book, I’d have thought it forced and out of nowhere, like it was
Jerry Pogan
May 08, 2017 rated it liked it
I've avoided reading Elfriede Jelinek because of her reputation for writing about sexuality and erotica but decided to give it a try with Wonderful Wonderful Times because it looked as if this was different. She writes in short terse sentences that gives a sense of unease to her stories. All of the characters in this book are unpleasant and unlikeable but she successfully portrayed the harshness of post war Austria.
Sophie best girl ~

The prose in this one was a rather fresh experience, but it didn't struck me all that much after reading into it further. The characters were drawn in a very pessimistic way, the whole book is, as a matter of fact, but their progression is worth following as it touches various points of stereotypes and their origin and it explores paths those stereotypes can follow.
And let's not talk about that naughty stuff.
Kenneth Michael
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is my first Jelinek read. She introduced a new literary style which is, for me, useful and new in its own right. It is as if I am listening to metal music while reading. She describes characters honestly without bothering about the reading. She writes and writes and let words flow freely like a song. You can only realize right after you close the book that you have been influenced by a great writer. Worth the read.Hoping to read more of Jelinek.
Athena Chelmi
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read it as a student over 15 years ago. I remember having this inner numb, it was incendiary and disturbing, but relieving at the same time. All the those norms and so called ethics dissolved. If you are into existentialism, this is a must.
Kate Throp
Jun 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Tough read but some pretty fabulous passages
Bogdan Minuț
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Not a book for everyone. It will leave you traumatized. Hande with care.
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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."
“He lies like a book. And he reads a lot of books.” 50 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.” 15 likes
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