I only wear baggy pants and flat shoes – Q&A with Elfriede Jelinek

We would have liked to interview Elfriede Jelinek in person, but she avoids going out in public, especially to performances of her works. She answered our questions by e-mail.

TT-Blog: Both of your contributions to this year’s Theatertreffen are commissioned works. How does one get around the dangers of these kind of assignments? (Editor’s Note: The Street. The City. The Attack was created for the 100th birthday of the Münchner Kammerspiele, Prolog? for the anniversary edition of the Stückemarkt festival for new drama.)
Elfriede Jelinek: In the end, by always doing what one wants to do. Or is it wanting what one does? Prolog isn’t a commissioned work.

TT-Blog: What role does Munich play in The Street. The City. The Attack? Do you think that the piece can also work in another city, specifically at the Theatertreffen in Berlin?
EJ: The piece does play, in a fundamental sense, in and with Munich. That’s what it was written for.

TT-Blog: You’ve confessed to being a fashion lover. Is it even possible to take a critical perspective on the circus of the fashion world? If so, how does one deal with the danger of the superficial as a critical-analytical woman?
EJ: I’m not critical of fashion as such, it’s just an aesthetic phenomenon that interests me. Fashion isn’t any more superficial than some of its criticism. Besides that, I’m most interested by superficial phenomena when it comes to writing. I feel like a surfaces expert.

TT-Blog: Where and in what do you feel most comfortable at the moment?
EJ: I only wear baggy pants and flat shoes. I’m most comfortable in my house and garden in Vienna.

TT-Blog: How is writing for the theater different than writing a novel? How does the exchange between you and the director work?
EJ: I always write texts, just texts. Some are narrative, others are designed to be spoken. Some are designated for individual reception, others for collective. That is the only way in which they differ. I always hoped that the theater texts would be received in the same way as my prose. Unfortunately I didn’t succeed. Since I’m done with the text after I’ve written it, the director and his people have to make the piece out of it first. I deliver a text to them and then I get a real theater piece in return, not just a presentation of the text.