Saturday, October 24, 2009

Thomas Bernhard's Prose

In May 2010, the first translation of Thomas Bernhard's early stories is due from Seagull Books, distributed by the University of Chicago Press. The website provides the following information: "First published in German in 1967, these stories were written at the same time as Bernhard’s early novels Frost, Gargoyles, and The Lime Works, and they display the same obsessions, restlessness, and disarming mastery of language. Martin Chalmer’s outstanding translation, which renders the work in English for the first time, captures the essential personality of the work. The narrators of these stories lack the strength to do anything but listen and then write, the reader in turn becoming a captive listener, deciphering the traps laid by memory—and the mere words, the neverending words with which we try to pin it down. Words that are always close to driving the narrator crazy, but yet, as Bernhard writes 'not completely crazy.' "

Next May was looking Bernhard-Good already as Penguin Classics is reissuing his great late novel Old Masters. And, to keep to the theme of new books from genuinely great Austrian authors never to win the Nobel Prize, in February FSG is publishing Peter Handke's Don Juan: His Own Version in Krishna Winston's translation: "a book about storytelling and its ability to burst the ordinary boundaries of time and space." Do you think they is going for the Audrey Naffeneggernogger market?

UPDATE: Thanks to Gwilym Williams who provides news of the exhibition Thomas Bernhard and the theatre opening next month in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna where, of course, Old Masters is set. The exhibition features:
Numerous documents from the estate of Thomas Bernhard, as well as composition drawings and stage photographs, help to illustrate one of the most exceptional careers in the history of Austrian literature and theatre – one that alternated between spectacular triumphs and headline-grabbing scandals.


  1. This is wonderful news. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy. And also a translation of Old Masters on the way. I really need that. So roll on May!
    ps - My precious Suhrkamp copy of Alte Meister is signed "Wien 11.12.08 für Gwilym Williams" by Bernahrd's brother Peter Fabian so I have to be a bit careful with it.

    should bring you to page/s of info re forthcoming Bernhard Exhibition commencing on 5th November. I hope the White Bearded Man painting featured in Bernhard's novel Alte Meister is back at the khm. He's been away a long time. More than a year I think.

  3. Just for accuracy's sake: The Bernhard exhibition will be held in the Theatermuseum, which is a KHM affiliate but actually in another building a few blocks away.

  4. "Like something coming out of an anus, and then it gets squashed in between book covers."

    Read it, and realise just how well the very introduction to the thing demonstrates Berhard's point, or gives the reason for his bored disgust:

    "In a major interview given a few years before his death, the irascible Austrian author Thomas Bernhard talks about the musicality of language, the eroticism of old men, the corruption of German writers, the twistedness of mankind, the similarities between Christianity and Nazism, the incurability of stupidity and what it means to be branded "Thomas Bernhard" for life."

    Well, this is obviously the typical crap you find. I've read that sentence - that syntax - literally billions of times before. Who hasn't? And don't be fooled by "talks about" either. It's nonsense: replace it with "mentions". Or "mentions briefly"!

    God, you do feel that whole literary culture thing is entirely a sham, sometmes.

    (Apologies if it's been posted on here before.)

  5. Oops, I only see now that it's "from the archives", and 2006. Still, this is wisdom:

    "Life consists of one long succession of nonsense, a little bit of sense, but mostly nonsense."

  6. Yes, it's a well-known interview but it's always a pleasure to re-read. There are more at if you didn't know already.

  7. Have now posted some first impressions of the Bernard Exhibition at the KHM, which opened yesterday, on my blog.

  8. Time was pressing. Now expanded the post on PiR.



Please email me at steve dot mitchelmore at gmail dot com.

Blog Archive

Contact steve dot mitchelmore at Powered by Blogger.