Sunday, June 01, 2008

‘Im Verlassenen’

The completeness with which Elisabeth Fritzl was abandoned and the thoroughness of her interment are hard to comprehend. For 24 years, she was buried alive. There were no bars to her cell, as Jelinek reminds us, no bars through which to glimpse another life...The extreme cruelty of Elisabeth’s situation involved an almost unimaginable enclosure, not just of space but of time. Physical confinement – airless and without daylight – was compounded by temporal uncertainty, by not knowing when, if ever, she was to be released. Time becomes oppressive when we are unable to see where it is leading. Even the trivial experience of waiting for someone who is late can make us anxious that we’ve been left to rot in unstructured time. At such moments we get a sense of the limitless fear of the baby who cannot imagine the return of its absent mother. Elisabeth Fritzl was abandoned by her mother to a father who had become an ogre, and found herself waiting for ever; falling – like the ‘suffering mortals’ of Hölderlin’s ‘Hyperions Schicksalslied’ – ‘jahrlang ins Ungewisse hinab’ (‘for years into the vague abyss’).
-- from a review by Nicholas Spice of Greed by Elfriede Jelinek.

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