Friday, March 07, 2014

A Translation of a Letter from Thomas Bernhard to the President of the German Academy for Language and Literature

To the president of the
German Academy
for Language and Literature [1]

Crete, 11.22.1979

Dear most honored Mr. President,

In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung I have read that the former president of the Federal Republic of Germany, Mr. Scheel, has been elected to your academy, and I ask myself what business such an undistinguished and obscure politician has being in an academy for language and literature.  I must assume that in the near future [other] such undistinguished and obscure politicians will be elected to your academy, for some reason or other.  I picture Mr. Franz Josef Strauss, Mr. Helmut Schmidt, and Mr. Karl Carstens as being next in line.  With such a prospect in view, I find it impossible (after nearly ten years!) to remain a so-called corresponding member of the German Academy for Language and Literature for a single day longer, and from this moment forward I shall cease to regard myself as such.

Yours, with best wishes,
Thomas Bernhard

[1] Editors’ note: first published (in abridged form) in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, November 26, 1979.  Under the headline Exit BernhardOpen Letter to the Academy for Language and Literature the newspaper announced:  “At the autumn conference of the German Academy for Language and Literature the academy chose as new members not only Raymond Aron and Sir Karl Popper but also Walter Scheel, the former president of the German Federal Republic, which prompted the author Thomas Bernhard to resign his membership.  In an open letter, Bernhard explains his action as follows:”


Translation unauthorized but Copyright ©2014 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). 

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