WOMEN AS LOVERS by Elfriede Jelinek


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 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 everythingmarriage, 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.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1995
ISBN: 1-85242-237-8
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Serpent’s Tail
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1995


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