Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Not the Piano Teacher: Elfriede Jelinek’s “The Sports Chorus”

Lilian Friedberg completed a PhD on the translation of Ingeborg Bachmann’s work in 2004. She has translated three novels and one play by Elfriede Jelinek; one of them, The Wall (2005), was commissioned by the author.

Lina Fisher, PhD dissertation, “Gender and Style in The Translation of Ingeborg Bachmann’s ‘Todesarten’ Texts”, University if East Anglia, November 2014

Wow. That’s a feather I’d like to stick in my cap–if it were true. As I’m sure  Martin Chalmers (Women as Lovers),  Joachim Neugroschel (The Piano Teacher), or Michael Hulse (Lust) can attest, translating even one novel by Elfriede Jelinek is a monumental task—no matter who commissioned it!

I have only translated two plays by the 2004 Nobel Laureate for Literature: Bambiland and Sportchor/The Sports Chorus, neither of which was commissioned by the author. The version of Bambiland that appears on Elfriede Jelinek’s website clearly states that the work was commissioned by the Goethe Institute in Munich. Bambiland later (2009) appeared in Yale’s Theater journal (39.3), after the editor reached out to me asking permission  to publish it. My version of The Sports Chorus was commissioned and published by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow, Poland in 2012.

A couple excerpts from other plays (“Rosamunde,” “The Wall”) appear in my translation on Jelinek’s website, but I have never translated any of her novels. The author of the dissertation has fabricated from whole cloth a “background” about me.

Who is taking the word of PhD candidates at face value without so much as verifying the skeletal accuracy of assertions those students are making about the writers and translators of the works they are studying?

While I don’t appreciate my background being distorted (and diluted) in this manner, it’s a great opportunity to showcase the two works of Elfriede Jelinek that I have  translated and published. In the interest of setting the record straight…what follows is a “modern-day mimeograph” version of the translation of Jelinek’s Sportchor, in my translation “The Sports Chorus” as it appeared  in  the  museum catalogue for an exhibition on sport in art at the Museum of  Contemporary Art in Krakow 2012. 


That’s all folks, for now. A rather primitive way to render this work accessible–that is, for me to come out of the shadows and present this little-known translation of Jelinek’s Sportchor.

The play is available for purchase here.

Translator’s Background:

Lillian Banks holds a PhD in German from the University of Illinois and an MA from the University of Chicago. She is a writer, translator and scholar whose translations of Ingeborg Bachmann, Elfriede Jelinek, Ermine Sevgi Özdamar, Boris Lurie, Henryk Broder, Jürgen Kaumkötter, and others have appeared in Denver QuarterlyChicago ReviewTheater Magazine (Yale), Austrian Cultural Forum (New York), Words Without Borders, University of Illinois Press, University of California Press, Ariadne, Green Integer, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Kraków (MOCAK) and elsewhere.

Banks is returning to the field after a hiatus brought on by stage IV lung cancer. She is an enrolled member of the Mackinac Bands of Ojibwe. Her original writing has appeared in American Indian QuarterlyAboutPlaceNew German CritiqueGerman QuarterlyMonatshefte and elsewhere. 

*Publications prior to 2011 appeared under Banks’ maiden name, Lilian M. Friedberg

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