Posts Tagged ‘The Hollow Men’

Glossen – Britta Kallin on ‘Rechnitz’ by Elfriede Jelinek

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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Nobel Prize Winning Austrian Playwright Elfriede Jelinek’s Thyssen Book Hearsay Accusation Sparks British Author David R. L. Litchfield’s Literary Revenge Attack And Style Exposure

There is nothing new about plagiarism, and I must admit to being rather proud when I realised how much of my book on the Thyssens Elfriede Jelinek had used in her play ‘Rechnitz (The Exterminating Angel)’, crediting it in the published version of her play. But I also appreciated the irony in the fact that she had acknowledged her use of T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Hollow Men’, for Eliot was a master of literary borrowing.

However, when Jelinek subsequently accused me in Professor Walter Manoschek’s Book ‘Der Fall Rechnitz’ of basing ‘The Thyssen Art Macabre’ on ‘hearsay’, I thought a little light-hearted revenge might be in order, now that I have discovered the secret of her writing style:

First you need to write a play. Any play. Then you feed it through a computer translator into any other language. Then reverse the process back into the original language – and heyho! and voila! – you have instant Jelinek. Try it!


Literarischer Diebstahl ist nichts neues und ich muss gestehen, dass ich ziemlich stolz war, als mir klar wurde, wieviel von meinem Buch über die Thyssens Elfriede Jelinek in ihrem Stück ‘Rechnitz (Der Würgeengel)’ verwendet hatte; sie erwähnt es in den Danksagungen der gedruckten Version. Ich war mir allerdings auch bewusst, wie ironisch die Bestätigung ihrer Verwendung von T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Hollow Men’ ist, denn Eliot war ein grosser Meister des Plagiats.

Als Jelinek mir jedoch im Nachhinein in Professor Walter Manoschek’s Buch ‘Der Fall Rechnitz’ vorwarf, mein Buch (deutsche Ausgabe: ‘Die Thyssen-Dynastie. Die Wahrheit hinter dem Mythos’) sei ein ‘meist auf Hörensagen beruhendes Buch’, dachte ich mir, es wäre nunmehr an der Zeit für ein bisschen scherzhafte Rache, zumal ich das Geheimnis ihres Schreibstils entdeckt hatte:

Zunächst müssen Sie ein Stück schreiben. Irgendein Stück. Dann schicken Sie es durch das Uebersetzungsprogramm auf Ihrem Computer in irgendeine andere Sprache. Danach schicken Sie es wieder zurück in die Originalsprache – und presto! und sodele! – schon haben Sie Instant-Jelinek. Probieren Sie’s mal!

Time can be so cruel

'Plagiarise, Plagiarise, Let no one else's work evade your eyes' (Tom Lehrer)

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