Lenora Todaro on Elfriede Jelinek’s Greed
by Elfriede Jelinek
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The unnamed narrator of Elfriede Jelinek’s latest novel, Greed, speaks in one voice from multiple minds: She veers from town gossip and amateur sleuth to the royal “we writers”; she then enters the private longings of various Miss Lonelyhearts and the interior monologues of the brutish country policeman who seduces them to gain their property. Like her Austrian forebear Thomas Bernhard, Jelinek has a penchant for loners’ rants and a disgust for her country’s politics. Her premise—that greed corrupts— is classic. Her execution, with its nihilistic digressions, contorted sentences, and “narrative debris,” is maddening.
Kurt Janisch, the policeman, stops women for minor traffic violations, preys on them, and “conquers” them, offering sexual satisfaction in return for their houses. More childlike than manly in
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