Nestbeschmutzer

Man is so abysmally stupid that he continually attacks his saviors in the most loudmouthed and utterly unthinking manner, encouraged of course by the politicians and the politically controlled press.

This quotation from Concrete is actually referencing how modern medication is so often reviled when it in most instances heals and prolongs life. But it can certainly apply metaphorically to the inexplicable tendency of the population to support people and ideas which are actually against their best interests.

Locally in Austria Thomas Bernhard was called a Nestbeschmutzer: one who be-fowls his own nest or, in a different version, one who shits where he sleeps. Internationally, Thomas Bernhard is considered one of the most significant writers since WWII.

Thomas Bernhard spent most of his life under the cloud of tuberculosis and was always acutely aware that his life was fragile. I wonder what he would have said about the anti-vaxxers or the Fascist regime currently destroying America?

If you haven’t read Bernhard, please add him to your short-term reading list. I believe all of his titles have been translated from the German and are readily available.

The following is taken from the Wikipedia bibliography:

Novels

  • Frost (1963), translated by Michael Hofmann (2006)
  • Gargoyles (Verstörung, 1967), translated by Richard and Clara Winston (1970)
  • The Lime Works (Das Kalkwerk, 1970), translated by Sophie Wilkins (1973)
  • Correction (Korrektur, 1975), translated by Sophie Wilkins (1979)
  • Yes (Ja, 1978), translated by Ewald Osers (1991)
  • The Cheap-Eaters (Die Billigesser, 1980), translated by Ewald Osers (1990)
  • Concrete (Beton, 1982), translated by David McLintock (1984)
  • Wittgenstein’s Nephew (Wittgensteins Neffe, 1982), translated by David McLintock (1988)
  • The Loser (Der Untergeher, 1983), translated by Jack Dawson (1991)
  • Woodcutters (Holzfällen: Eine Erregung, 1984), translated by Ewald Osers (1985) and as Woodcutters, by David McLintock (1988)
  • Old Masters: A Comedy (Alte Meister. Komödie, 1985), translated by Ewald Osers (1989)
  • Extinction (Auslöschung, 1986), translated by David McLintock (1995)
  • On the Mountain (In der Höhe, written 1959, published 1989), translated by Russell Stockman (1991)

Novellas

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From Concrete
  • Amras (1964)
  • Playing Watten (Watten, 1964)
  • Walking (Gehen, 1971)
  • Collected as Three Novellas (2003), translated by Peter Jansen and Kenneth J. Northcott

Plays

  • The Force of Habit (1974)
  • Immanuel Kant (1978); a comedy, no known translation to English, first performed on 15 April 1978, directed by Claus Peymann at the Staatstheater Stuttgart.
  • The President and Eve of Retirement (1982): Originally published as Der Präsident (1975) and Vor dem Ruhestand. Eine Komödie von deutscher Seele (1979), translated by Gitta Honegger.
  • Destination (1981), originally titled Am Ziel.
  • Histrionics: Three Plays (1990): Collects A Party for Boris (Ein Fest für Boris, 1968), Ritter, Dene, Voss (1984) and Histrionics (Der Theatermacher, 1984), translated by Peter Jansen and Kenneth Northcott.[13]
  • Heldenplatz (1988)
  • Over All the Mountain Tops (2004): Originally published as Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh (1981), translated by Michael Mitchell.
  • The World-fixer (2005)

It’s All Kitsch

Thomas Bernhard’s excellent novel, Old Masters, is a streaming narrative that often goes several levels (narratives) deep. Bernhard, despite ignoring breaks for chapters or paragraphs or dialogue does provide attribution in the midst of the narrative: the pattern is often like “I’m telling you that He said that She said that her Mother told her that her Father said, etc. Maybe not that complex since there are few main characters in the novel: the music critic (musicologist) that visits the art gallery every other day and sits before a famous painting to do his best thinking,  a museum guard who watches over the critic more than the museum itself, and a young author (philosopher) who is also the apparent narrator.

Continue reading “It’s All Kitsch”

How To Read

“The punishment matches the guilt: to be deprived of all appetite for life, to be brought to the highest degree of weariness of life” — Kierkegaard

Thomas Bernhard is one of the truly great writers of the last century. In his novel, Alte Meister (Old Masters), one of his central characters is an musicologist who comes to the art museum every other day, sits in the same place, and contemplates the same painting for three hours. Here are this character’s (Reger) comments on reading. Don’t think my HTML crashed: Berhard is one of those writers who feel extra white-space, including paragraph breaks, does not contribute significantly to the import of the text … so he leaves them out).

Continue reading “How To Read”