By a Dead Lake

Joel Agee in the New York Times Book Review:

Agee450When Elfriede Jelinek was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2004, the response of the international press and literary world was wildly mixed. Many commentators were surprised and puzzled (“who?”); others expressed shock and outrage; a few gave their enthusiastic endorsement. One member of the Swedish Academy resigned in protest. The predominant tone was one of cautious approval.

Much of the controversy had to do with Jelinek’s politics. She had been a member of the Austrian Communist Party from 1974 to 1991, was a fierce critic of her country’s middle class and the American war in Iraq, and espoused an extreme form of feminism based on the conviction that, under male hegemony, heterosexual relations are inherently violent and that women are scripted for self-extinction.

In the English-speaking countries, Jelinek’s work is still relatively unknown, even though four of her novels have long been available in translation, all of them issued by a small British publisher, Serpent’s Tail Press. Now Seven Stories is coming out with “Greed,” Jelinek’s 10th and most recent novel. The German edition was published in 2000, so it formed part of the oeuvre for which its author was honored by the Swedish Academy.

More here.