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  • Zur Ästhetik von Aktualität und Serialität in den Addenda-Stücken Elfriede Jelineks zu Die Kontrakte des Kaufmanns, Über Tiere, Kein Licht, Die Schutzbefohlenen by Bärbel Lücke
  • William H. Carter
Bärbel Lücke, Zur Ästhetik von Aktualität und Serialität in den Addenda-Stücken Elfriede Jelineks zu Die Kontrakte des Kaufmanns, Über Tiere, Kein Licht, Die Schutzbefohlenen. Vienna: Praesens Verlag, 2017. 345 pp.

The four texts named in the title of this study provide some coordinates within the vast landscape of Jelinek's corpus. Die Kontrakte des Kaufmanns: Eine Wirtschaftskomödie (2009) critically engages Austrian and international banking scandals leading up to the global financial crisis. Über Tiere (2009), based on telephone transcripts, provides an inside view of a Viennese prostitution ring and its transactions. In Kein Licht (2011), Jelinek shifts to the nuclear disaster unleashed by natural catastrophe in Fukushima. Finally, Die [End Page 104] Schutzbefohlenen (2013) draws on the plight of refugees in Vienna to critique European policies of asylum and addresses the question of human rights. Economic matters, as Bärbel Lücke points out, are central to each. While Jelinek addresses banking and finance in Kaufmann and the "Schattenwirtschaft" in Über Tiere, Kein Licht takes on corporations and Die Schutzbefohlenen "d[ie] verdeckten neoliberalen Wirtschaftskriege" (10). These texts have something else in common. Beginning with Die Kontrakte des Kaufmanns, they all have supplemental texts, which can be performed individually, in part or in whole, depending upon the circumstances. The seriality of these pieces is intertwined with their actuality and, more specifically, their economic subject matter. Lücke quotes Jelinek regarding this constellation: "Irgendwie bilden meine Wirtschaftsstücke [ . . . ] ein verwinkeltes Gebäude, an dem immer weiter gebaut wird. [ . . . ] So sind meine Stücke oder Stück-Teile über Wirtschaft eine immer weiter fortlaufende Verschriftung der Wirtschaft" (9). Zur Ästhetik von Aktualität und Serialität follows Jelinek's "Verschriftung der Wirtschaft" as it unfolds in the four primary texts and the fourteen additional texts, which constitute a unique and challenging genre for reader and critic alike.

The first eight chapters, following the introduction, are dedicated to Die Kontrakte des Kaufmanns and its subsequent texts. Geographically, Jelinek starts in Austria. By the third and fourth installments, she addresses the situation in Greece during 2014 and 2015. The final addition focuses on England prior to the so-called "Brexit" vote. While these texts mark significant shifts in recent economic and financial history, Lücke argues that Jelinek's "Verschriftung der Wirtschaft" maintains relevance through its form: "Sie will die abstrakte Ökonomie performativ erleben lassen, und zwar im zeitlosen Jetzt des Lese-oder Bühnenereignisses" (107). Lücke transitions to Über Tiere and its related texts (Chapters 10 and 11) with a Lacanian analysis of Jelinek's Die Kinder der Toten and Roberto Bolaño's novel 2666 that concentrates on their apocalyptic elements and the role of violence, particularly against women. Über Tiere, like Kaufmann, is based on actual events; however, "die Jelinek'schen Theatertexte [sind] alles andere als ein tagesaktueller Kommentar zum politischen Geschehen." (167). Her writing defies easy distinction between the past, the present, and the future: "das Aktuelle [ist] zugleich das Vergangene und das Vergangene das Aktuelle (und Zukünftige)" (167). This characteristic of Jelinek's work expresses itself throughout the texts analyzed here.

Catastrophic events return in Kein Licht and its related texts (Chapters [End Page 105] 12–14). Lücke emphasizes Jelinek's imaginative use of language to question who speaks for the dead following the clash of nature and technology in the era of financial capitalism. The employment of "Sicherheit" in this text both recalls the financial jargon of Kaufmann and throws into relief the lack of (nuclear) security following a natural disaster (189–90). Lücke also notes the centrality of bodily reactions in Kein Licht, human responses that contrast sharply with dehumanized global financial markets (196, 198). The topic of guilt brings Lücke's reading of Kein Licht and its corresponding texts to a fitting conclusion: "bei Jelinek [wird] die Schuld [ . . . ] sarkastisch bagatellisiert, banalisiert, ridikülisiert; denn in den anonymen Etagen der Konzerne und den staatlichen Institutionen ist sie (beinahe) abgeschafft...


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