If you have read Elfriede Jelinek’s most famous novel, The Piano Teacher, you’ll know what to expect from Greed. First of all, pathological characters, rendered with glassy fury: traditional Austrian self-hatred, like that of Kraus, Canetti and Bernhard, but – I know it’s hard to imagine – even more hateful. Second, something you don’t find even in them: a great deal of violent, sado-masochistic, four-letter sex. In sum, a horrifying vision of human nature (‘friends, that is, greedy beasts’) and nature itself (‘fundamentally evil’), in which human beings are objects, and objects are human – days stretch their limbs, valleys grin, handkerchiefs ‘are quite stiff from everything they’ve had to swallow in their lives’.
Get the flavour? (Sorry, the rub-it-in style is catching.) Disgusting, despairing, but undeniably intriguing, and not just because of the porn. That last quote is a clue: Jelinek’s pages pullulate with weird but wonderful lines that only she could have written.
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