While the new tutor has until now remained silent during our lunchtime walk, which to me has already become a habit, today from the start he had a need to talk to me.This is the first line from Thomas Bernhard's story Two Tutors as it appears in Martin Chalmer's translation in the imminent volume Prose. The extra good news is that we can read it in full right now at Little Star, a new magazine of poetry and prose.
Two Tutors is from 1967, early in Bernhard's career, yet in this beginning we can also see the end. As with the sublime first sentence of his valedictory novel Extinction, a pattern is broken, a new direction taken right from the start. In this story, the narrator repeats the necessity later in the story when describing how, on the regular walk, one of the tutors reaches a point and always goes to the right. "It is up to me," the narrator says, "one day to turn left". Franz-Josef Murau does it himself in Extinction when, out of exuberance after a good day, he takes a different route home and, once there, receives some news that will change his life. It's also present at the beginning, middle and end of Bernhard's autobiography Gathering Evidence: first in that famous childhood bicycle ride, then his determination to work in a grocery store rather than go to grammar school ("I found the other people by going in the opposite direction") and, finally, as a teenager dying of TB, when he refused further treatment, walked out of the clinic and never went back. Perhaps there is more to be said.