The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek
Elfriede Jelinek won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2004
Five words from the blurb: Vienna, emotional, self-destruction, intensity, porn
The Piano Teacher is an unrelenting, intense tale of one woman’s self-destruction.
Erika is a piano teacher who lives with her controlling mother. She begins an affair with one of her young students, but he cannot save her from her destructive cycle of self-harm.
I initially loved the gripping, emotionally charged narrative, but I quickly found I needed space to breathe, wishing there were some breaks from the darkness. I then began to find the narrative style, with its capitalised pronouns, irritating:
As the book progressed it became increasingly dark and sexually explicit. I found the scenes of her self-harm uncomfortable to read and her trips to watch pornographic shows held little interest.
I skimmed over several sections and then decided to give up entirely. This book has a grippingly original narrative voice, but it was too harsh for me.
Recommended to those with a strong stomach.
The Tin Drum by Günter Grass
Günter Grass won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999
Five words from the blurb: Germany, Nazis, dwarf, scathing, horrors
The Tin Drum is one of those classics that had intimidated me for far too long. Inspired by German Literature month I decided to set my fears aside and give this imposing chunkster a try. Unfortunately, in this case, the intimidation was justified and I failed to finish this complex, multi-layered masterpiece.
The Tin Drum is narrated by Oskar, a dwarf with learning difficulties who calms himself by beating his toy drum. I’d love to be able to tell you what happens, but I’m afraid I can’t:
a) because very little happens
b) I didn’t get that far into the book
The writing was impressive and I loved Oskar’s character, but the book had very little narrative drive. It skipped from one scene to the next and I struggled to see the connection between them.
I crawled at a snail’s pace through the first 100 pages, becomingly increasingly bored. After another difficult 20 pages I decided to abandon it. I’m sure that this book is a masterpiece and everything makes sense in the end, but I don’t think I’m in the right stage of life to appreciate it. I think I’ll give it another try in twenty years.
Have you tried reading either of these books?