Thursday, May 29, 2008

Essay on Jelinek

The latest issue of LRB has an excellent essay on Elfriede Jelinek (pretty rare because she generally attracts lot of venom) which also takes a critical look at the recent speculations about Austrian national character in the the light of the cellar incident, most recently in the TLS. She has it seems also written an essay on the subject or may be she just recycled something she had already written in one of her books.

There is also a damning comment about the quality of translation:

Jelinek herself took years to translate Gravity’s Rainbow and it would take a comparable labour of love to translate Gier adequately. As it is, doubtless under tight economic constraints, the publishers have paid for a hit-and-miss, standard, ‘by the page’ translation and the result is a disaster. It’s hard to imagine that Jelinek’s reputation in the English-speaking world will ever recover. It would have been better to have left the novel untranslated.

Reviewers of Greed have met it at best with polite puzzlement, at worst with disdain. Philip Hensher said it was ‘atrocious’. And he was right – Greed is unreadable. But it is not the same book as Gier. What has also been atrocious has been the failure of anyone reviewing it to go back and read the German. One of the favourite ways hostile reviewers have of belittling Jelinek is to call her parochial. But the real parochialism is ours.

Also, I found this intriguing:

While Jelinek has won just about every prize that is open to a writer writing in German, her reception by the defenders of the rights of the ordinary reader has often been venomously negative

Rights of the ordinary reader? I wonder what they are! Is it the right to be entertained?

No comments: