October, 2016

Glossen – Britta Kallin on ‘Rechnitz’ by Elfriede Jelinek

http://blogs.dickingson.edu/glossen/archive/most-recent-issue-glossen-332011/britta-kalling-glossen-33/

This article was originally posted in November 2011 but only recently rediscovered by Caroline Schmitz.

It concerns Elfriede Jelinek’s play, Rechnitz. I had already been credited with the part our book, The Thyssen Art Macabre (in German: Die Thyssen-Dynastie. Die Wahrheit hinter dem Mythos), had played in the creation of her play but continued to be referred to by German-speaking academics, journalists and historians as a ‘sex and crime journalist’, ‘publicist’ and ‘sensationalist’. It was thus both refreshing and appreciated that Professor Kallin not only quoted my writing verbatim but displayed appropriate respect by referring to me as a ‘historian’! I was also impressed by the unadorned accuracy of her preamble account of the Rechnitz massacre and by her conclusions; my favourite being:

Rechnitz rightfully reminds audiences in Germany and Austria of sins that have not been forgiven because no one acknowledged the guilt in the first place of committing the murders, no one has been held responsible for the crimes, and no one has asked for repentance for the deadly shooting that killed close to two hundred jews, a mass murder committed seemingly as pure amusement for some of Margit Batthyany’s cruel party guests.’

On a somewhat lighter side, at the time Elfriede’s play was first performed I teased her by suggesting that for those who lacked her language skills and imagination, a similar style of writing could be achieved by running a conventionally written work backwards and forwards through Google Translate. I was somewhat amused therefore in reading Kallin’s superb explanation of the content and writing technique of the play, that Jelinek had indeed included a computer translation of T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Hollow Men’.

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