oh vienna. you won’t feel the same about the city again. the piano teacher stabs all the senses, a disparate flinging of words unified by the protagonist erika kohut’s austerity and the author jelinek’s control. to gingerly peer out at jelinek’s vienna through peeled fingers is to chafe your hands as well.
with barely a hint of gentleness, the triangular becomes the linear as the imagined and actual interactions between erika, her mother and erika’s student walter klemmer fail to resist the banality of infected self-awareness. though the main source of misery is patently the inflamed relationship between mother and daughter, much more in the novel than in michael haneke’s 2001 film does the relationship between erika and klemmer attain its horrific and destructive character from the sense that they are both diseased, not just erika – two blind bulls thrusting their crenellated horns at one another.
the volatility of the interplay between the kohuts and klemmer eventually explodes in a painful, technicolour rumination on sequestration and etiolated delusion. though the novel thrusts individual acts of violence upon the reader, most terrible is erika’s fate; she is not wholly self-destructive but is able to sustain her cursed context. an anti-triumphal masterpiece, the piano teacher‘s every word is lacerating.