This book not only bites with razor-sharp teeth, you could cut yourself on its edges while picking it up. The language is brutal and uncovers brutality in even the most innocuous, everyday events — just to ride on the bus is to be assaulted and to assault in return. Erika Kohut is the titular piano teacher, a woman so warped by the smothering violence of her relationship with her mother, and the patriarchal repression of Austrian society, that no corner of her person, inside or outside, is untouched. She acts out socially and sexually, seeking to control, to brutalize. The language of the narrator extends the violence done to Erika, always undercutting, constantly distancing, contemptuous and cruel. There's never anyone to root for in this book. Perpetrator and victim are interchangeable in essentials, they've all been shaped by the same hand. Only circumstance separates them. Despite the dehumanization of the characters, Jelinek made me feel tremendous pity for Erika. An instinct towards love still impels her, but it can only be thwarted in the world Jelinek has created. Not recommended for those with delicate sensibilities or weak stomachs.
For a double dose, watch the movie version, directed by Michael Haneke. Any of his oeuvre would go well with this, if you can take it.