“A destructive, horrible guy”
Now that I have returned from Portugal, where at the invitation of the Goethe Institute I delivered some lectures on my own work at the Universities of Lisbon and Coimbra and had some discussions with some students, it is beyond my personal power and more precisely the power of my brain, a brain that is ever mindful of the accountability of Austrians living abroad, to withhold from our chancellor and the broader [Austrian] public that portion of my traveling experiences involving the Austrian embassy and in particular the Austrian ambassador to Lisbon, Weinberger, and I am quite simply duty-bound to share with you the following facts and circumstances:
At the end of my first lecture, the director of the German Goethe Institute in Lisbon, the distinguished and quite justifiably world-famous translator of Latin-American and hence Portuguese and Spanish literature Curt Meyer-Clason, was invited along with me to a supper-party at the house of an Austrian family living in Lisbon, a supper-party that the Austrian ambassador was also supposed to attend. Shortly before my lecture Mayr-Clason suddenly shared with me the news that Weinberger the Austrian ambassador would not fulfill his function as a guest at this party if I, and in this matter the ambassador had quite clearly been heard to say, “if this destructive, horrible guy,” was going to be present, and it was very politely suggested to me, probably for fear that the ambassador might [resort to more] coercive [methods], that because the hosts were an Austrian family living in Lisbon I would do better not to appear at this supper-party, and so as a matter of course I did not appear at that supper-party.
At this moment it dawned on me within the precincts of the university that the German Goethe Institute’s and the German embassy in Lisbon’s solicitude to inform the Austrian embassy of my residence in Lisbon and of my lectures in Lisbon through a number very polite printed and unprinted invitations and leaflets had been exploited quite definitely by the Austria embassy and unmistakably by the Austrian ambassador towards the end of ridding themselves of my personal presence by brusquely rebuffing me, by bringing me in contempt within the Austrian colony in Lisbon and throughout Portugal and snubbing me; meanwhile, the Austrian ambassador had publicly let it be known that I was “a destructive, horrible guy,” even though I have never met the Austrian ambassador to Lisbon and even though I am certain this ambassador has to this day not read a single line written by me. Weinberger the ambassador has also spoken of me in terms akin to “this destructive, horrible guy” in communications to the representatives of the German Goethe Institute and of the German embassy, and hence to my hosts, who had been under the impression that the Austrian embassy in Lisbon was in some fashion interested in Thomas Bernhard, communications that at the very least must be described as indiscretions.
The day after my exclusion from the aforementioned supper-party and after the Austrian ambassador had made full and abundant use of the opportunity to bring me in contempt among the Austrians and Germans in Lisbon, I was invited by the German ambassador Caspari to a panel discussion at his private residence outside Lisbon with Cunhal, Soares, and the former king [of Italy] Umberto; hence [I received this invitation] at the very moment at which, by the most remarkable coincidence imaginable, suddenly and not unwittily in the eyes of Meyer-Clason who had been apprised of it, the Austrian ambassador in the course of bringing my personal presence into contempt had for his own purposes consistently and unremittingly replaced my actual name Bernhard with the admittedly not unattractive name Bernfeld.
Translation unauthorized but Copyright ©2013 by Douglas Robertson
Source: Der Wahrheit auf der Spur. Reden, Leserbriefe, Interviews, Feuilletons. Herausgegeben von Wolfram Bayer, Raimund Fellingerund und Martin Huber [Stalking the Truth. Speeches, Open Letters, Interviews, Newspaper Articles. Edited by Wolfram Bayer et al.](
Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2011).