Monday, February 19, 2007

A Small Death Trilogy

A Small Death Trilogy
by Elfride Jelinek

Few weeks ago I was listening one contact radio show where the question for the audience was What were your biggest disillusions in the past 2006? and one girl said:”One of my biggest disillusions was that I thought its easy (possible) to understand “A Small Death Trilogy”!”
That was hilarious answer and I was laughing so hard. She was so sweet indeed!
... uhm ... and I’m afraid so right!

Horribly strange and tough play ... well after all we ARE speaking about Mrs. Jelinek and whoever has read anything written by her knows what that means.

"A Small Death Trilogy" is a drama about death of art, theatre and culture. It is a phantasmagoric-poetic picture of civilization where there is no more place for humanistic determinations. In it, contradictory ideas about individual, pretty and ugly, good and evil, love and hatred, libido and aggression, victim and crime are divided and then reunited in the final picture of death.

Elfride Jelinek derived titles of this trilogy from Schubert songs "Queen of Fairies", "Death and the Girl" and "Traveler".

First part is addressing of one famous actress (dead actress of course) of famous Burg Theatre; she speaks about her artistic career, focusing on problems of glory and power. She is self-loving woman who depends on her image in public and in the end we can see the essence of glory that puts masks that will be unavoidable destroyed by death. ”No one shall be forgotten”
In the second part (“Death and the Girl”) we can see a hunter, Snow White and the seven Dwarfs, and one of the main themes is relation between beauty and truth, matter and spirit, surface and essence, ephemerality and eternity, death and life. Hunter (death?) is extremely cold and with explicit distance he’s making very convincing feeling of existential frisson toward idea of the end of physical life. It’s a story of narcissism, claustrophobia, about emptiness of the idea “to have” upon the abyss of the idea “to be”.
Third part is a speech of Traveler with accent on the problems of nonafiliation, transitoriness and loneliness, where the idea of ‘road’ has been crystallized as the main, basic metaphor of life (” When they erasing man, first they taking his road” - I like that very much!)

After the play on one festival recently audience was quite confused and the leading actress shared her own experience about this play, about that “theatrical something”. When she started to work on this play she was equally confused; the cast was ‘into’ the text two months before going on the stage. She even said to director “I’m not sure am I interested to work in such a play that will be understandable only to the few intellectuals or the ones who’ll pretend that they’ve understood it” but after many weeks of work she was ‘infected’. On the question “What we just saw?” she said “This is philosophic discussion about life, death, power, and not only on intellectual field but emotional as well. This is not text for drama, it’s not realistic play. One my friend, very famous film director said to me that he’s not sure if he understands the play but he loves it!”

I don’t know, maybe it’s the same case with me. I really liked the play but describe what is all about is a million dollar question!



bookish lore said...

Funny that you mention her. I was reading an article and she struck me as utterly puzzling. I had heard of her but never actually read anything by her (didn’t even know she had won a Nobel Prize). I’ve just found The Piano Teacher at my library (have you read it?) and I think I’ll give it a try someday.

karen! said...

Yes, Jelinek is quite difficult to read and understand. I recently reviewed Greed and I have to say that I wasn't crazy about it.

Milan-zzz said...

Yes she is extremely confusing and tough to read (Thank you for the link!). I haven’t read The Piano Teacher (I watched movie with Isabelle Huppert which I really love).
I’ve read two of her stories few years ago in one literary magazine about female authors and it was really huh. I guess just yours with Greed
Translators are avoiding her in general precisely because she is sometime (if not always) so morbid and her work is very dark in that mental sense. I don’t know. I loved movie but really I wouldn’t dare to read her in some language other than my mother tongue.