ELFRIEDE JELINEK Biography - Writers


Biography » writers » elfriede jelinek


Name: Elfriede Jelinek                                                                       
Born: 20 October 1946 Murzzuschlag, Styria, Austria                                         
Elfriede Jelinek (born 20 October 1946) is an                                               
Austrian feminist playwright and novelist. 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 cliches and their subjugating power."                                             
Jelinek was born in Murzzuschlag, Styria. Her father, a chemist of Jewish-Czech             
origin ("Jelinek" means "little deer" in Czech) managed to avoid persecution                 
during the Second World War by working in strategically important industrial                 
production. However, several dozen family members became victims of the                     
Holocaust. Her mother, with whom she shared the household even as an adult, and             
with whom she had a difficult relationship, was from a formerly prosperous                   
Vienna family. As a child, Elfriede suffered from what she considered an over-restrictive   
education in a Roman Catholic convent school in Vienna. Her mother planned a                 
career as a musical Wunderkind for Elfriede. From an early age, she was                     
instructed in piano, organ, guitar, violin, viola and recorder. Later, she went             
on to study at the Vienna Conservatory, where she graduated with an organist                 
diploma. Jelinek also studied art history and drama at the University of Vienna.             
However, she had to discontinue her studies due to an anxiety disorder that                 
prevented her from following courses. Critics have noted that Jelinek's                     
biography is often reflected in her opus.                                                   
Jelinek started writing poetry at a young age. She made her literary debut with             
the collection Lisas Schatten in 1967.                                                       
In the early 1970s, Jelinek married Gottfried Hungsberg.                                     
Prior to winning the Nobel Prize, her work was largely unknown outside the                   
German-speaking world and was said to resemble that of acclaimed Austrian                   
playwright Thomas Bernhard, with its pathology of destruction and its                       
concomitant comedic abrogation. In fact, despite the author's own                           
differentiation from Austria, Jelinek's writing is deeply rooted in the                     
tradition of Austrian literature, showing the influence of Austrian writers such             
as Ingeborg Bachmann and Robert Musil.                                                       
Jelinek's political positions (in particular her feminist stance and her party               
affiliations) are of vital importance to any assessment of her work. They are               
also a part of the reason for the vitriolic controversy surrounding Jelinek and             
her work.