Elfriede Jelinek

Elfriede Jelinek (2016), (c) Karin Rocholl
© Karin Rocholl

Elfriede Jelinek was born at Mürzzuschlag/Styria on October 20, 1946 and grew up in Vienna. When she was only four she started learning ballet and French, and in the years that followed received a comprehensive musical training. In 1960 she began to study piano and composition at the Vienna Conservatoire. After completing High School in 1964 she moved on to Vienna University and took courses in Theatre and Art History. In 1967 she broke off her studies and began to write. Poems and prose appeared in anthologies and literary magazines before her first book, "wir sind lockvögel baby" ("we're bait baby") was published in 1970. Elfriede Jelinek is one of the most important contemporary writers in German. Her first play, "Was geschah, nachdem Nora ihren Mann verlassen hatte oder Stützen der Gesellschaften" ("What Happened after Nora left Her Husband or Pillars of Societies") was premiered in 1979 and has been followed by other texts for the theatre.
In 2004 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. She has also received numerous other awards and honours, including the Georg Büchner Prize, the Mülheim Dramatist Award (2002, 2004, 2009, 2011) and the Else Lasker-Schüler Prize for her dramatic œuvre. Her works have been premiered in a variety of interpretations by directors such as Jossi Wieler, Johan Simons, Frank Castorf, Christoph Schlingensief and especially Nicolas Stemann.

Prizes and Awards:

  • 1973 Austrian State Scholarship for Literature
  • 1978 Bad Gandersheim Roswitha Commemorative Medal
  • 1979 Federal German Ministry of the Interior's Screenplay Prize
  • 1986 Cologne's Heinrich Böll Prize
  • 1994 Bochum's Peter Weiss Prize
  • 1994 Aachen's Walter Hasenclever Literary Prize
  • 1995 Bremen's Literary Prize
  • 1998 Georg Büchner Prize
  • 2002 Berlin Theatre Prize
  • 2002 Düsseldorf's Heinrich Heine Prize
  • 2002 Mülheim Dramatists Prize for "Macht nichts" (i.e., "No problem")
  • Else Lasker Schüler Prize 2003 for her overall contribution to the theatre
  • 2004 Lessing Prize for Criticism
  • Nobel Prize for Literature 2004
  • 2004 Mülheim Dramatists Prize for "Das Werk" (i.e., "The Works")
  • 2009 Mülheim Dramatists prize for "Rechnitz (The exterminating Angel)"
  • 2011 Mülheim Dramatists prize for "Winter's Journey"

    Theatre Library - Translations

    Translated plays by Elfriede Jelinek in the Theatre Library


    Die Schutzbefohlenen (i.e. The Suppliants)

    In January 2013, 60 asylum seekers occupied a Viennese church to draw attention to their plight. Most of them were threatened with death if deported to their native lands. Many were then deported from Austria in the following summer. A few weeks later, hundreds of asylum seekers from Africa drowned off the coast of Lampedusa trying to reach Europe.More ...

    Winterreise (Winter Journey)

    Franz Schubert composed his Winter Journey in 1827, a year before his premature death. Elfriede Jelinek, who started learning the piano when she was five years old and later studied various instruments, has been haunted by this song cycle since her childhood. More ...

    The Merchant’s Contracts

    ‘With The Merchant’s Contracts, Jelinek immerses herself in the world of uncontrolled financial flows. Starting from a number of the business scandals that have been reported in Austria over the last few years, Jelinek, an uncompromising investigator, shows us the frenzied speculation in which bankers and managers engage. More ...

    Rechnitz (The Exterminating Angel)

    ‘Someone at a party picks up a gun late at night and murders nearly 200 people on a whim. Is it possible to imagine something of this kind actually happening? Hardly, except as a vision of horror. More ...

    Ulrike Maria Stuart

    Two queens battle for discursive power. Elfriede Jelinek's play reunites Schiller's Mary Stuart and Elizabeth I again as Ulrike Meinhof and Gudrun Ensslin. Still united only in their antagonism, the one doubting (Ulrike/Mary), the other unbendingly convinced of the necessity of her own actions (Gudrun/Elizabeth), they bring to life once more the history of the RAF, which found its bloody highpoint almost 30 years ago, in 1977, during the German Autumn. More ...

    Das Werk (i.e., "The Works")

    This play, the last part of Jelinek's Alps trilogy, is concerned with the human mania for technological progress, symbolized to the ultimate degree by the history of the storage power station at Kaprun. More ...

    List of works – Selection

    • Das schweigende Mädchen (i.e. The Silent Girl)
      Premiere 2014, Munich Kammerspiele
    • Strahlende Verfolger (i.e. Radiant Followers)
      Premiere 2014, Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg
    • Die Schutzbefohlenen (i.e. The Suppliants)
      Premiere 2014, Theatre of the World, Mannheim National Theatre
    • Aber sicher ! (i.e. "For Sure !")
      Premiere 2013, Theater Bremen
    • Die Straße. Die Stadt. Der Überfall (i.e. "The Street. The City. The Assault")
      Premiere 2012, Munich Kammerspiele
    • Schatten. Eurydike sagt (i.e. "Shadows. Eurydike says")
      Premiere 2012, Philharmonie Essen
      2013, Burgtheater (Akademietheater), Vienna
    • FaustIn and out. Secondary drama to "Urfaust" by Johann Wolfgang Goethe
      Premiere 2012, Schauspielhaus Zürich (Pfauen)
    • Kein Licht (No Light)
      Premiere 2011, Schauspiel Köln
    • Winterreise (i.e. "Winter's Journey")
      Premiere 2011, Kammerspiele Munich
    • Das Werk/Im Bus/Ein Sturm (i.e. "The Works/In the Bus/A Fall")
      Premiere 2010, Schauspiel Köln, Cologne
    • Die Kontrakte des Kaufmanns (The Merchant's Contracts)
      Premiere Schauspiel Cologne, 2009
    • Rechnitz (The Exterminating Angel)
      Premiere: 28 November 2008, Munich Kammerspiele
    • Ulrike Maria Stuart
      Premiere Thalia Theater Hamburg, 2006
    • Irm und Margit A part of "Attabambi Pornoland" Premiered at the Zürich Schauspielhaus, 2004
    • Bambiland
      Premiered at the Burgtheater, Vienna, 2003
    • Das Werk ("The Works")
      Premiered at the Vienna Burgtheater (Akademietheater), 2003
    • Prinzessinnendramen: Der Tod und das Mädchen I-III und IV-V ("Dramas of Princesses: Death and the Maiden I-III and IV-V")
      Parts I-III premiered at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg, 2002 Parts IV-V premiered at the Deutsches Theater, Berlin, 2002
    • In den Alpen ("In the Alps") Premiered at the Munich Kammerspiele in conjunction with the Zürich Schauspielhaus, 2002
    • MACHT NICHTS - Eine Kleine Trilogie des Todes ("NO PROBLEM - A Little Trilogy of Death")
      Premiered at the Zürich Schauspielhaus, 2001
    • Der Tod und das Mädchen II ("Death and the Maiden II")
      Premiered at EXPOL 2000 in Hanover in conjunction with the Saarbrücken Staatstheater and ZKM Karlsruhe, 2000
    • Das Schweigen ("Silence")
      Premiered at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg, 2000
    • Das Lebewohl (Les Adieux)
      Premiered at the Berliner Ensemble, 2000
    • er nicht als er (zu, mit Robert Walser) ("him not himself - about/with Robert Walser")
      Premiered at the Salzburg Festival in conjunction with the Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg, 1998
    • Ein Sportstück ("A Sport Play")
      Premiered at the Burgtheater, Vienna
    • "Stecken, Stab und Stangl. Eine Handarbeit" ("Rod, Staff, and Crook - Handmade") Premiered at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg, 1996
    • Rastätte oder Sie machens alle. Eine Komödie ("Service Area or They're All Doing It. A Comedy")
      Premiered at the Burgtheater, Vienna, 1994)
    • Totenauberg
      Premiered at the Vienna Burgtheater (Akademietheater), 1992
    • Wolken. Heim ("Clouds. Home")
      Premiered at Bonn, 1988)
    • Präsident Abendwind. Ein Dramolett, sehr frei nach Johann Nestroy" ("President Abendwind. A dramolet, very freely after Johann Nestroy")
      Premiered at the Tyrol Landestheater, Innsbruck, 1992
    • Krankheit oder Moderne Frauen. Wie ein Stück ("Illness or Modern Women. Like a Play")
      Premiered at Bonn, 1987
    • Begierde und Fahrererlaubnis (eine Pornographie) ("Desire and Permission To Drive - Pornography")
      Premiered at the Styrian Autumn, Graz, 1986
    • Burgtheater. Posse mit Gesang (Burgtheater. Farce with Songs)
      Premiered at Bonn, 1985
    • Clara S, musikalische Tragödie ("Clara S, a Musical Tragedy)
      Premiered at Bonn, 1982
    • Was geschah, nachdem Nora ihren Mann verlassen hatte oder Stützen der Gesellschaften ("What Happened after Nora left her Husband or Pillars of Societies")
      Premiered by Vereinigte Bühnen/Styrian Autumn, 1979