Elfriede Jelinek

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Elfriede Jelinek in 2004

Elfriede Jelinek (German pronunciation: [ɛlˈfʀiːdə ˈjɛlinɛk]; born October 20, 1946) is an Austrian 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 clichés and their subjugating power."



Translated by Joachim Neugroschel

  • For the first thing a proprietor learns, and painfully at that, is: Trust is fine, but control is better.
    • P 5
  • Sometimes, of course, art creates the suffering in the first place.
    • P 23
  • Every child instinctively heads toward dirt and filth unless you pull it back.
    • P 24
  • The artist is lonesome and admits his solitude.
    • P 24
  • Of course, art turns many people away for there has to be a limit. The limits between the gifted and the ungifted.
    • P 27
  • There are no holidays for art; and that’s just fine with the artist.
    • P 29
  • Better to wear worn shoes than to polish the boots of shop owner.
    • P 30
  • Forewarned is forearmed.
    • P 32
  • Just keep following my tears, and the brook will take you in.
    • p 44
  • I have a feeling that you despise your body and that you only value art, you only value your argent needs, but eating and sleeping aren’t enough. You believe that your appearance is your enemy, and the only friend you have is music. Why look just in the mirror, look at your reflection, you’ll never find a better friend that yourself.
    • P 65
  • After all, people with a herd instinct hold mediocrity in high esteem. They praise it as having great value. They believe they are strong because they are the majority. The middling level has no terrors, no anxieties. They huddle together, indulging in the illusion of warmth. If you’re alone with nothing, and certainly not yourself. And how content they are with that state of affairs!
    • P 66
  • First the masters died, now their music is dying, because people only want to listen to pop, rock, and punk.
    • P 69
  • Der Sensible muß verbrennen, dieser zarte Nachtfalter.
    • A sensitive person gets burned, like a delicate moth.
    • P 71
  • Pain itself is merely a consequence of the desire for pleasure, the desire t destroy, to annihilate; in its supreme form, pain is a variety of pleasure.
    • P 107
  • The criteria of art are the imponderable, the immeasurable.
    • P 118
  • Art and order, the relative that refuse to relate.
    • P 124
  • Beethoven’s sonatas, whether show so much variety that one has to ask oneself the fundamental question of what the much vilified word ‘sonata means. Perhaps Beethoven applied the word to entities that are not even sonatas in the strict sense of the term. One has to perceive new law in the highly dramatic musical form. Often in the sonata, feeling eludes form. In Beethoven, that is not the case, for here the two go hand in hand; feeling makes form aware of a hole in the ground and vice versa.
    • P 151
  • When discussing Bach’s six Brandenburg concertos, the artistically aware person usually states, among other things, that when these masterpieces were composed, the stars were dancing in heavens. God and his dwelling place are always involved whenever these people talk about Bach.
    • P159
  • Don’t start anything you can’t finish.

Translation by Michael Hulse. London: Serpent's Tail

  • For the eyes are the mirror of the soul and ought to remain unscathed if at all possible. Otherwise people will suppose the soul is done for.
    • p 7
  • In this new era, what sets you free is knowledge, not work.
    • p 33,34
  • In the case of a writer like Musil writing is often a graceful act,like a silvery fish leaping.
    • p 37
  • The world would be a lot better off if it paid more attention to its philosophers and artists than to its own tiny egotistic spirit, which lacks an overview. People should place their belief in Beethoven and Socrates.
    • p 40
  • The rules of art do not exist, because what makes art art is the fact that it obeys no rules at all.
    • p 44
  • Nothing is natural, yet everything is as it is by nature.
    • p 48
  • We are monsters, even if we disguise ourselves as ordinary people. We are the children of ordinary people but we are not content with that. Inwardly we are consumed with wickedness, outwardly we are grammar school pupils.
  • Rainer [protagonist in the novel], who is reading The Outsider by Camus, says he would like to put the hostility of the world behind him. Once your hope for something better is taken from you, then at last you have the present all in your hand. Then you yourself are reality. Others are extras. When Rainer contemplated san evening he says that evening is melancholy ceasefire where all life has come to and end.
    • 53
  • Stifter tells us that people are not free, that they are slaves to the laws of Nature. So you have to commit violent deeds (if you don’t have anyone to do other kinds of deeds with), actions that ordinary people would call crimes but which we define as the norm, though of course it is our norm and no that of the rest.
    • 55
  • The most powerful urge known to Man is the urge to be free of manual labour. Any means that accomplishes that end is fine. Some people erroneously imagine that they have a birthright to non-manual work.
    • 60
  • In the old days people had no time to harm the environment because they were busy doing harm to themselves, in the War, for instance.
    • 60
  • Intellectuals will still go on emphasizing free will even when they’ve got nothing left to eat.
    • 62
  • Work is not a constraint.Man's activity provides his true fulfilment. True fulfilment however,can only be achieved if one man is not another man's slave.
    • 73
  • weak are defeated by the strong in the world of Nature. A reed by the north wind, for instance. And silence by the forest.
    • 109
  • Every man would like to possess all the women in the world, but a woman only wants the man she loves and to whom she is faithful.
    • 113
  • Time stands still for man and woman alike, it is a good moment, because Time usually makes everything worse, poor people grow old, rich people can buy a little time but they can'hold it up for good, it always catches up with them. In the last analysis, Time is democratic.
    • 123
  • The poet is a king in his realm. His is empire of imagination, in which there are unlimited mansions.
    • P 179
  • Murder and assault are not lunacy; they are the logical conclusions if you live a life without an assured financial foundation.
    • P 189
  • Money is unimportant, but it is reassuring to have it.
    • P 203
  • There is no such thing as the universal ‘Man’ never has been, never will be, there is the worker and there is the one who exploits the worker and those who abet him.
    • P 219
  • There are photographs under the pistol, showing his mother genitals. These genitals make no perceptible impression on him, though it was through them that he first entered the world.
    • 248
  • Death the Laveller annihilates all distinctions.
    • 250

Women As Lovers (1994)


translation of Die Liebhaberinnen by Martin Chalmers. London: Serpent's Tail, 1994,

  • nothing comes of nothing after all.
    • p 1
  • often these women marry or they are ruined some other way.
    • p 2
  • sewing in itself is already in the women's blood.
    • p 3
  • if someone has a fate, then it's a man, if someone gets a fate, then it's a woman.
    • p 3
  • Happiness happens by chance, and is not a law or the logical consequences of actions.
    • P 8
  • I don’t know if it’s enough for a whole life, a man wants to enjoy many women, a man is different.
    • P 26
  • One suffers work, even if one enjoys doing it.
    • P 34
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