About Animals (Über Tiere)
by Elfriede Jelinek
In her play 'Über Tiere' ('About Animals'), Austrian Nobel Prize-winner Elfriede Jelinek tackles themes such as sexuality, dependence, power, possession and availability in her typically explicit fashion.
'About Animals' is a work consisting of two halves which appear to be mutually dependent. The first part begins with an aging woman’s monologue on sex, which is as masochistic as it is merciless: "Lovemaking is a specific kind of dependency, my strange Sir." The play ties in with Jelinek’s previous experiments with the language of desire, which include the novel 'Lust' and the dramatic monologue 'Begierde und Fahrerlaubnis' ('Desire and Driver’s Permits').
In the second part "pure love/sex" is replaced by "purchased love/sex". This sexual dependency is articulated in a criminal fashion: Sellers, dealers and well-heeled make comments about women as if they were talking "about animals" at a livestock market. Elfriede Jelinek obtained a copy of the taped police protocol documenting the activities of an upscale Viennese call-girl ring involved in the illegal trade in women and girls – mainly from Eastern Europe. She then condensed this authentic material, complete with the bizarre code words used in the business, into a powerfully intense, literary work.
May 20, 2007