“Contempt” by Elfriede Jelinek, as translated by Michael Hoffman
my puppet-strings are the
sweet decaying lamps I flutter around.
Two of my besties from Spalding University will meet me in Budapest later this month. We’ll be traveling on to Vienna for a mini trip before we meet up with the rest of our program in Prague. In celebration of our upcoming trip—and out MFA graduation in Berlin, I decided to read an Austrian poet this morning. #lateantiquitystudiesbudapest2014 #threemfagradsonthetraintowien
Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2004, Jelinek is a controversial writer, mainly due to her political activism, strong feminist stance, & affiliation with the Communist Party—all of which are important to her work. As Jelinek suffers from agoraphobia, she did not attend the Nobel Prize award ceremony but instead sent this video.
I’m not sure yet what I think about this poem. My take away from this morning’s reading is this:
your stupid silence I will just
toss up in the air.
For me, these words are powerful. I think they suggest that we should have contempt for those who refuse to speak out against injustice and oppression. Im reminded of the importance of “voice” and standing up when the situation demands it. Not always easy.
I do wonder if I would be able to do so in a situation where my speaking out could lead to imprisonment,torture, or worse. I’m afraid I would not. Instead, I will try harder to chip away at any infractions of intolerance and discrimination that I encounter.
I never understood age discrimination until I got older—and, believe me, it is rampant. I refuse to allow age to define me and I speak up whenever I can.
“Contempt,”however, does make me curious to read more of Jelinek’s work. Here’s the full poem.