Women as LoversPaperback Masks
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- Publisher: Serpent's Tail
- Format: Paperback | 256 pages
- Dimensions: 130mm x 191mm x 18mm | 136g
- Publication date: 1 July 1995
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 1852422378
- ISBN 13: 9781852422370
- Sales rank: 192,270
The setting is an idyllic Alpine village where a woman's underwear factory nestles in the woods. Two factory workers, Brigitte and Paula, dream and talk about finding happiness, a comfortable home and a good man. They realize that their quest will be as hard as work at the factory. Brigitte subordinates her feelings and goes for Heinz, a young, plump, up-and-coming businessman. With Paula, feelings and dreams become confused. She gets pregnant by Erich, the forestry worker. He's handsome, so they marry. Brigitte gets it right. Paula gets it wrong. Using the conventions and language of romantic fiction, Elfriede Jelinek has written a moving tragedy whose power lies in its refusal to take at face value its characters' dreams and aspirations.
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Elfriede Jelinek was born in Austria in 1946 and grew up in Vienna where she attended the famous Music Conservatory. The leading Austrian writer of her generation, she has been awarded the Heinrich Boll Prize for her contribution to German literature. The film by Michael Haneke of The Piano Teacher won the three main prizes at Cannes in 2001. In 2004, Elfriede Jelinek was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
The lives of two young women desperate to improve their lots are contrasted in a short, sharp, shockingly frank assessment of sexual politics and modern life: a story (first published in 1975 in Germany) by prize-winning Austrian writer Jelinek (Lust, etc.). Town girl Brigitte has her eye on the electrician Heinz, believing him to be her ticket out of drudgery as a piece-rate seamstress in an undergarment factory. Village girl Paula dreams initially of dressmaking as her way out but changes her tune when she sets eyes on dark, handsome woodcutter Erich. Both women set out to charm and claim their men, Brigitte with a bright tint in her hair and a steady diet of sex, Paula with rich food and drink and one quick roll in the hay. Heinz, however, intent on his future as a tradesman, proves reluctant to be more than Brigitte's stud, and she also feels competition from Susi, his more educated, wealthier, prettier acquaintance. Meanwhile, Erich, thought dull-witted by all but Paula, proves man enough to impregnate her the first time, but has more interest in motors and mopeds than marriage. The aging parents of both men also resist, since they don't want to share their future breadwinners with women they deem inferior. Eventually, though, both matches are made, when Brigitte finally gets pregnant, too, and Paula's asthmatic father suddenly dies. Unfortunately, by now both women have come to hate their mates. Still, Brigitte has the home and shop she always wanted, while Paula, becoming a prostitute, begins to earn money that Erich can't drink away, until she's discovered and loses everything - marriage, family, and hope. The banal horrors of everyday life, and the layers of love and dreams, are dissected with savage indifference: a chilling but truthful vision of women's precarious position in a society still dominated by money and men. (Kirkus Reviews)
Back cover copy
The setting is an idyllic Alpine village where a women's underwear factory nestles in the woods. Two factory workers, Brigitte and Paula, dream and talk about finding happiness, a comfortable home and a good man. They realise that their quest will be as hard as work at the factory. Brigitte subordinates her feelings and goes for Heinz, a young, plump, up-and-coming businessman. With Paula, feelings and dreams become confused. She gets pregnant by Erich, the forestry worker. He's handsome, so they marry. Brigitte gets it right. Paula gets it wrong.