What Happened after Nora Left Her Husband
by Elfriede Jelinek and translated by Tinch Minter
Directed by Cristina Cugliandro
November 3 & 4 at 8pm
(Centaur Theatre, C1)
Tickets are $20, $15 for students/seniors, artists or
Pay-What-You-Decide at the door
“Before I could become human I needed to leave my husband”-Nora
“Elfriede Jelinek comes out with criticism of the dominating form of civilization, the patriarchal one, where the only standard is reaching success and profit at any expense. However, the major message of the play has general humane and not only feminist character. This play by Jelinek, Nobel Prize Winner, could be interpreted as a forecast of an imminent catastrophe: war is the only thing awaiting a society living under the law of unlimited enhancement of profits. And women are no less guilty than men, if they agree to play under their rules. Jelinek quite openly raises the question about the woman’s place in the society. However, her feminism is not at all that straightforward as it might look. Her brutal irony eliminates men, but it does not spare women too. This also happened to Nora whose image she had borrowed from Henrik Ibsen’s play.” -Darya Ullrikhova
How does she revision?
The play What Happened after Nora Left Her Husband; or Pillars of Society by the Austrian author Elfriede Jelinek, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, could be perceived as a sequel or a paraphrase of two plays by Ibsen – A Doll’s House and The Pillars of Society. A Doll’s House traces the awakening of Nora from her previously unexamined domestic life with her husband Torvald Helmer. In A Doll’s House, Nora is secretly and desperately attempting to pay back a loan from a man named Krogstad. She forged her father’s signature to obtain the loan which was used to fund a respite trip to Italy to heal her husband who was ill at the time. Upon their return from Italy, Nora grows particularly concerned with money and the consequences of and perils of capitalistic society. Throughout the play, she grows significantly more disillusioned with the lack of respect and independence in her marriage along with the near pathological obsession with profit and progress. Following a disheartening conversation with her husband Torvald, Nora decides that she needs to go out into the world on her own. Asserting that she now needs to “bring herself up,” she slams the door to her “doll’s house” leaving her husband and children behind her. Ibsen’s The Pillars of Society tells the story of Karsten Bernick, a wealthy businessman and owner of a shipyard in a small Norwegian port. Most of his success had been based on unscrupulous business dealings but he is highly respected by his duped fellow citizens as a man of impeccable morals. While in the middle of his most ambitious business venture to date, a secret is unearthed and he is made to face himself, his past and his conscience. In The Pillars of Society, Ibsen is putting forward the fact that society has the potential to be rotten to the core and that patching up or reforming one sore spot merely drives social poison deeper into broken systems. The Pillars of Society is about the inevitable descent into chaos and corruption that will ensue if unless the spirit of truth and freedom are able to revolutionize the world. What Happened after Nora Left Her Husband follows Nora Helmer after she leaves her husband as seen through a theatrical kaleidoscope of male projections/phantasms of women in the role of a wife, mother, labourer, artist, lover, concubine, dominatrix and business woman. This is a fictional account of how Nora’s story could have continued and it is set in the 1930s following an economic crisis and preceding the second world war. Jelinek writes this play with a provocative and relentless criticism of the pervasive institutions of capitalism, patriarchy and marriage. The play looks at The Pillars of Society’s commentary on the inevitability of corruption by exploiting characters’ unyielding obsession with profit, status and commodification.
Austrian novelist and playwright noted for her controversial works on gender relations, female sexuality, and popular culture. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2004.
Jelinek received her education in Vienna, where the combination of her academic studies with a rigorous program of musical training at the Vienna Conservatory contributed in part to her emotional breakdown at age 17. It was during her recovery that Jelinek turned to writing as a form of self-expression and introspection. After attending the University of Vienna, she made her literary debut with a collection of poems, Lisas Schatten (1967; “Lisa’s Shadow”), and followed with her first published novel, Wir sind Lockvögel Baby! (1970; “We’re Decoys, Baby!”). Using language and the structural interplay of class consciousness as a means to explore the social and cultural parameters of dependency and authority, she earned critical recognition for Michael: Ein Jugendbuch für die Infantilgeselleschaft (1972; “Michael: A Young Person’s Guide to Infantile Society”).
As a feminist, Jelinek often wrote about gender oppression and female sexuality. In the satiric Die Liebhaberinnen (1975; Women as Lovers, 1994), she described the entrapment and victimization of women within a dehumanizing and patriarchal society. Her semiautobiographical novel Die Klavierspielerin (1983; The Piano Teacher, 1988) addressed issues of sexual repression; it was adapted for the screen in 2001. In her writings, Jelinek rejected the conventions of traditional literary technique in favour of linguistic and thematic experimentation.
Jelinek’s significant novels include the satiric Die Ausgesperrten (1980; Wonderful, Wonderful Times, 1990), Lust (1989; Lust, 1992), and Gier (2000; Greed, 2006). Her most notable plays include Was geschah, nachdem Nora ihren Mann verlassen hatte oder Stützen der Gesellschaften (1980; What Happened After Nora Left Her Husband; or, Pillars of Society, 1994), which she wrote as a sequel to Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House; Clara S.: musikalische Tragödie (1984; Clara S., 1997); and Bambiland (2003).
Director Cristina Cugliandro on
What Happened After Nora Left her
As I sat reading on Fairmount street, a group of guys, enjoying a bachelor party escapade, approached. One of them carried a blow up doll on his shoulders that was covered in vulgar scribbles. As they neared I became more uncomfortable. A scene that perhaps even five years ago I wouldn’t have thought twice about was now affecting me enormously. This parading and objectifying of the female body was repulsive.
So I am thinking… We’re not there yet, friends.
I am constantly questioning the moral climate of our day. Yet, like all things, there are always two sides to each coin. Capitalism and industrialization brought opportunities and inventions that enriched our lives in many ways. What worries me is how quickly we have been programmed to dismiss the destruction, sadness and loss that have followed in the dark and ever expanding wake of these modern ideologies.
Theatre serves to provoke. As a theatre practitioner I strive to tell stories I believe are important. If a deep thought or feeling is born, unleashed, or revisited, the work has fulfilled its purpose.
According to Elfriede Jelinek herself, everything she writes is “a paradigm of the division of power in society”. Her task is to show how economics, sexuality, discrimination and racism
are all intertwined with each other.
Elfriede Jelinek: Provocation as the Breath of Life
by Sture Packalén
What Happened after Nora left her Husband by Jelinek shook me. She is controversial, perhaps because she is an intelligent and angry feminist, perhaps because she seems dangerous to some, or perhaps because she shares her views of the world with us by unabashedly pointing out the myths and power structures that have kept humanity spellbound to this day.
Think what stimulus it will give to our whole community!
Think of the great tracks of forest it will render accessible!
Think of the mines it will enable us to work!
Think of the river with its waterfalls one above the other,
and the factories we could build to utilize their power!
A whole wealth of new industries will spring into being!
Bernick from The Pillars of Society
By Henrik Ibsen
What Happened after Nora left her Husband, published exactly 100 years after A Doll’s House premiered, discusses issues we now realize have not changed but merely expanded into a wider, subtler, more complex web of exploitation. Jelinek uses archetypes to show how effortlessly capitalism has enslaved our souls and eroded our humanity. She reminds us that our socialist ideologies and progressive vocabularies can be easily manipulated to dangerous ends.