Prizewinning “grandes dames” of Austrian literature and the next generation 

Elfriede Jelinek (picture by G. Huengsberg via Wikimedia Commons)

Earlier this month the Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah won the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature. Elfriede Jelinek, whose 75th birthday it is this week, also won the Nobel Prize back in 2004, the first of only two Austrians to win it (her fellow Austrian, Peter Handke, subsequently won the award in 2019). The Swedish Academy citation referred to her “musical flow of voices and counter-voices”, perhaps a consequence of her highly musical childhood.

Jelinek, a reclusive figure, started out writing poetry before shifting to novels but is now best known as a playwright. As a former communist, known for her radical feminism and her criticism of the legacy of Austria’s fascist past, she has divided opinion in her home country over the years but has nevertheless been honoured with many important awards. The UL has copies of her major plays and novels, including some translations into English. We also have good holdings of books about her and her works, including several international conference proceedings. Two recent works to highlight are the 2013 Jelinek-Handbuch (747:4.c.201.12) and from 2014 Elfriede Jelinek: Werk und Rezeption (747:4.c.201.21), both by Pia Janke, director of the Elfriede Jelinek Research centre at Vienna University. Continue reading