Interview, October 2004

Interview with Elfriede Jelinek after the announcement of the 2004 Nobel Prize in Literature, October 7, 2004. Reporter was Anders Lindqvist, SVT, the Swedish public service broadcaster. Translated from Swedish/German.

The phone is constantly ringing in the middle class area in Vienna where Elfriede Jelinek lives, but there is no invasion of journalists. Jelinek does not like showing herself and is left alone. But she was astonished when she received the phone call about the Prize.

– At 12:30 I got a call from the Secretary of the Swedish Academy. He personally informed me about the decision in German. It felt like having a black hole in my head – and it still does.

Elfriede Jelinek is an amiable but frail person who lives in seclusion. She has more or less withdrawn from public appearances and will not be coming to Stockholm to personally accept the Prize.

– I would gladly do it but I am suffering from social phobia. I cannot manage being in a crowd of people. I cannot stand public attention, I just can’t. Of course, if I may I might write something instead.

She had a difficult childhood, both her parents were ill, and for sometime now she has been critical of Austrian society.

– The government has once again made the right socially acceptable. That was when I finally parted ways with Austria. I forbade them to perform my plays in the state theaters, and I took all of them back because it does not give anything.

She is no longer a Marxist but definitely describes herself as a left-wing feminist.

– I do not fight against men, but against the system that is sexist. The system that judges the worth of women, the system that judges a woman’s worth through her youthful body and looks and not for what she does. Men are defined through what they do, women through their looks.

She is both a dramatist and prose writer, but above all a writer who experiments and breaks borders.

– My plays are made up of long monologues, which is similar to prose working with the language. If I have to describe my literature, then it can be likened to a musical or compositional work with the language. The problem is that it is difficult to translate. In that sense, I am a provincial writer …

Copyright © Sveriges Television AB, 2004

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