Arnon Grunberg
Words Without Borders

Interviewing Elfriede Jelinek

This spring, I visited Nobel Prize winner Elfriede Jelinek to interview her for Dutch television. The first question I asked Elfriede Jelinek in her house in a suburban part of Vienna, where she lived many years with her mother, was, "Do you regret that your mother couldn't witness your receiving the Nobel Prize?" "Oh no," she answered without any hesitation. "I'm glad that terrible woman is dead."
With many other authors, you might think that this was an attempt to come across as interesting or ironic, but with Jelinek, you have to believe her.
Her best novel by far is The Piano Teacher (Die Klavierspielerin), about a destructive and abusive mother-daughter relationship. After this novel, her work slightly deteriorated. But the sentences she writes remain powerful and often disturbing. Sometimes there are just too many of them.
Jelinek nowadays is more interested in clothes than in literature. For her, fashion is a way of becoming invisible. "Because then people will look more at your clothes than at you."



Interviewing Elfriede JelinekLeukerbad International Literary Festival