Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Translation of Thomas Bernhard's Correspondence with His Publisher, Siegfried Unseld. Part IX: 1971.

Letter No. 143

[Address: Ohlsdorf]

Frankfurt am Main
January 6, 1971

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

I shall be sending you the schedule for Insel and Suhrkamp Publications for the first half of 1971.  I hope you get a good impression of our upcoming work at the firm.

For me both of your books, Midland in Stilfs and Atzbach, are important.  You know that the Bibliothek Suhrkamp seems to me to be the best forum for your works.  |In the edition s.| we have given you the position of the jubilee volume number of 500.  In this please once again observe how hard we here at the house are are exerting ourselves on behalf of your works.1.

In the last few days of the year I had several conversations with the Hamburger Schauspielhaus.  They are of course probably orientated towards development there.  I have managed to get the new administration to accept A Party for Boris again.  It all depends on the dispositions of the actors now.2

On December 25 I had a talk with Harry Buckwitz.  This is the situation for A Party for Boris: Ms. Bothe gave him a definitive option.  Admittedly it is an option that may be construed as having been devised for the regular schedule and not for the night schedule.  Unfortunately it is no longer possible for me to take the play away from him and give it to the Theater am Hechtplatz, this for two reasons.  First of all, he has already announced his production of A Party for Boris, and it would not be a good thing if it were to be performed somewhere else now that a production at the Zürcher Schauspielhaus has been announced.  But now for the second reason: Agnes Fink, an ideal actress, is already studying the role and preparing for the performance!  I really don’t think we could ask for a better actress in Zurich.  Because of her I simply had to make a definitive commitment to Buckwitz.3   I did however manage to get him to agree that if the performance on the night schedule was a success he would secure further performances on the regular schedule.  Besides I know, and not only from him but also from my friends in Zurich, that the nighttime performances at the Zürcher Schauspielhaus are quite popular with young people.  These performances are always totally sold out.  Naturally the ticket prices are very cheap, but on the other hand there is also always a turnout of about a thousand people.  Buckwitz is very eager to invite you to give a reading.  Are you amenable to this?  Please do drop me a line.
I am delighted, Mr. Bernhard, that at the very start of this New Year we already
have another opportunity for a productive partnership.  Productivity is and remains the most important thing.
with sincere regards,
Siegfried Unseld
P.S. Dr. Rach has now joined the theatrical publications division.  He is getting the hang of being in charge of the division; the whole thing looks very hopeful.  Ms. Bothe didn’t want to work with Dr. Rath, and so she quit on 12.31.1970.  But the work is proceeding at its usual pace, and administratively everything is staying on an even keel.  We are in constant communication with Hamburg by telephone.            

  1. Midland in Stilfs was published in March 1971 as Volume 272 of the Bibliothek Suhrkamp.  From a letter  from Burgel Geisler to Bernhard dated January 21, 1971, one may gather that on the same day he was sen t the paginated rough copy of the novels and a request to make his corrections as quickly as possible.

Atzbach was slated to be published in October 1971 as the 500th or jubilee volume of edition suhrkamp, but no book bearing this title was ever realized (see Note No. 1 to Letter No. 215).  The name “Atzbach” appears in several of the bundles of papers in Bernhard’s estate.  (Atzbach is a place in the Upper-Austrian district of Vöcklabruck, not far from Ottnang-Wolfsegg.)  In addition to the typescript of the preliminary synopsis (supplemented by handwritten notes, e.g., “When my work on Handel...etc. Beginning of Atzbach,” NLTB, SL 2.9/2) the Thomas Bernhard Archive contains inter alia an untitled, extensive, five-page typescript that seems to match up with the synopsis, in that it includes a succession of prescriptions.  Its setting is Atzbach, which is evidently supposed to be a prison.  Additionally, in an 88-page bundle there survives a 20-page “Atzbach-complex” that constitutes a preliminary draft of Gehen [Walking].  But Bernhard neither incorporated this narrative thread, in which inter alia the letters of a certain Professor Justin in Kaptstadt were to play an important role, into the final version of Gehen, nor fashioned it into a separate Atzbach novella.  The name does however surface one more time in Bernhard’s later work, in Der Theatermacher [Histrionics or The Scene-Maker], which originally was to be set in Atzbach, from which the name of the definitive setting, Utzbach, was derived.

  1. In 1971 there were no further performances of A Party for Boris in Hamburg.

  1. The Swiss premiere of A Party for Boris was initially scheduled for June of 1971, but owing to the illness of Agnes Fink, who had been cast to play Johanna, it did not take place until November 28, 1971 at the Night Studio of the Zürcher Schauspielhaus.  See also Letter No. 178.

  1. At a matinee on the day of the Swiss premiere of A Party for Boris, November 28, 1971, Thomas Bernhard read the two novellas “Zwei Erzieher” [“Two Tutors”] and “Attaché an der französischen Botschaft” [“Attaché at the French Embassy”] from Prosa.

Letter No. 144

Frankfurt am Main
January 14, 1971

Dear Mr. Bernhard,

I hear you are giving a reading at the beginning of February in Stuttgart.  Would it not be possible for us to meet?  Please do send me a specific date.1

And also tell me where you are going to be on February 9.  It would naturally be especially lovely if we could get together on that day.

Allow me, for the sake of putting you into a bright and sunny mood, to inform you that we have now printed a second run of the Bibliothek Suhrkamp edition of Verstörung.
We were circumspect and printed only 2,000 copies; in other words, the 4th and 5th thsd., but we can of course print another run at any time.  In this series we must see that we don’t make any slips during the reprinting.  But I am naturally very glad that in the Bibliothek Suhrkamp the book has picked up some new readers.

with sincere regards,
Siegfried Unseld

P.S. I am having five specimen copies sent to you in a separate post.   

  1. Here Unseld is possibly referring to an inquiry of Horst Albert Glaser, the Professor of New German Philology at the University of Stuttgart, who in a letter of January 7, 1970 invited Bernhard to give a reading as part of a seminar.   

Letter No. 145

[Handwritten on the stationery of the Hotel Krone, Winterthur]1


Dear Dr. Unseld,

I am en route to Brussels & expect to be in Frankfurt on
2.12 (a Friday)
in order to clarify all questions, to solve all problems, in concert with you.

For the 9th, please hop on a plane & alight in Brussels--this would please me no end--you are after all not wanting in adventurousness.

One’s 40th birthday marks the beginning of the satyr play.  Today I shall be stopping by the theater in Zurich.

The year has begun with superlative intensity--in Belgium I shall be getting back to work on Atzbach.  

We must talk things over!  Please write to me immediately at:

Th. B.

Please also send me a paginated rough copy of MIDLAND2 to the same address express.

Yours sincerely,
Thomas Bernhard

P.S. I don’t know anything about a “reading” in Stuttgart & I shan’t be reading there.

  1. Bernhard was on a reading tour, as part of which he read from The Lime Works at a meeting of the Winterthur Literary Society.

  1. Below this sentence there is a note in Burgl Geisler’s handwriting: “Done 1.26.71 / Ge.”  In a letter dated January 26, 1971 Burgl Geisler informed Bernhard that a paginated rough copy of Midland had been sent to him by express mail.  In this letter she also notified him that she was sending him a specimen copy of the second printing of On Thomas Bernhard.

Letter No. 146

[Address: ℅ Uexküll, Brussels]

Frankfurt am Main
February 5, 1971

Dear Mr. Bernhard,

So my wife and I will be coming on February 9.  We will be arriving in Brussels fairly late in the morning.  Would it be possible for us to meet at around 1:00 p.m., at our hotel, ALBERT I, Place Rogier?  In the event that you desire some other rendezvous point, please just let us know through the hotel’s management.

with warm regards,
Siegfried Unseld
in absentia
(Karin Derpa, Secretary)

Letter No. 147

Frankfurt am Main
February 23, 1971

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

My time in Brussels was highly ingratiating, and I almost wish certain people had fortieth birthdays more often.  I hope you also feel good about it in hindsight, meaning, I hope, that you are at work on your new texts.  Today I would like for a start to give you a rough, undetailed overview of all the financial options that are incontestably available to you should they be needed.1

Here and just now we have simply consolidated all the Insel and Suhrkamp Bernhard accounts and set up two new accounts:

Account A “Old Works” (Amras, Frost, Verstörung, Boris, Watten, Prose,
Ungenach).  We had made our unorthodox agreement about these on 11.22.1969.  This account will be closed on 8.31.1972.  Today it looks as though we will be able to offset the ca. DM 32,000 debt with ca. DM 22,000 in honoraria, so that the debit balance will now stand at only ca. DM 11,000.  You have until 8.31.1972 to pay off this balance.  

Account B Here is where “Future Works” (The Lime Works, Midland in Stilfs,
Atzbach, and others) figure.  Here we had stipulated 24 monthly installments of DM 800.  By 8.31 these installments will amount to a sum of DM 19,280.

On the credit side of this account are the following sums:
The Lime Works reckoning for 1970
ca. DM 9,000
Midland and Stilfs and Atzbach
through 8.31.1971 roughly DM 7,000
Ancillary rights to Midland in Stilfs
and Atzbach through 8.31.1971 DM 2,000
Lime Works through 8.31.1971 DM 2,000
so that in total this amounts to a sum of ca. DM 20,000, so that on 8.31.1971 Account B will also balance out.

Additionally there is the new loan of DM 15,000.  I gave you the check for it in Brussels.  We will initially treat this sum as a loan, as as said you wished to do in Brussels; I would propose we treat it is as such through 8.31.1972.  At that point (or at some opportune earlier point, as the case may be) we will of course be able to enter into a new agreement.

So all told we can be quite optimistic about the financial picture.

Midland in Stilfs will be coming out at the beginning of March.  We are now waiting on the manuscript of Atzbach.  We are talking with the German Paperback Book Company and Rowohlt about licensing Frost.

I have spoken with my colleagues in the drama division.  We--they and I--would be highly pleased if we could have the text of the play well before the end of the summer.

So much for today.  

wishing you all the best and with sincere regards,
[Siegfried Unseld]

  1. In Travel Journal for Cologne-Dusseldorf-Brussels-Aachen for February 8-10, 1971, Unseld wrote:

“He was cheerful and relaxed on his fortieth birthday.  He was delighted at my visit and at the salutations I paid him as well as with the gift [two silver candlestands that Unseld had bought earlier that day at Stuart’s, the Brussels antique shop].  An opportunity for extensive conversations.

We can count on receiving the manuscript of Atzbach as scheduled.

Then in the fall of this y[ea]r we will be receiving the text of the second play.  He has already practically finished it, but he would like to let it sit for a while and then make another transcription of it in the summer.

In parallel to this we will begin work on the next novel, which ‘will be even more intensive than Lime Works.’  After the play and the novel will come another shorter work for the edition or for the Bibliothek.  He thinks of these works as ‘rest stations’ between the major works.

In a couple of years he will embark on his magnum opus, a long prose work that he plans to spend several years writing.  The question will then of course be whether his already-extant works have made it materially possible for him to do this.

Incidentally, he has our material agreements very much in mind and also takes them very seriously.  We intend to treat the new sum of money we have issued him as a loan.  

Bernhard’s friends in Brussels are officials associated with the Brussels Commission.  One of them, Dr. Franz Froschmaier, is the deputy of the German commissioner.  When I arrived in Brussels, the European authorities were deliberating the next step to be taken towards the monetary and economic unification of Europe.”

Letter No. 148

[Handwritten; picture postcard: “Il Canale e la Chiesa Sant’ Antonio Triest--The Canal and Church of Sant’ Antonio, Trieste”]


Via Trieste to Belgrade1--good luck in June with JOICE.2
You can have a bath!
Thomas Bernhard

  1. In February and March 1971, in the context of the “Literary Year 1971” organized by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education and Art in collaboration with the Austrian Cultural Institute in Rome and the Austrian Reading Room in Zagreb, Bernhard went on a reading tour that took him through Gorizia, Trieste, Zagreb, Novi Sad, Belgrade, Rome, Bolzano, and Merano.

  1. Unseld was scheduled to participate in a Joyce conference in Trieste on Bloomsday, June 16, 1971, but he canceled on the grounds that his workload would not permit him to attend.  

Letter No. 149  

[Handwritten; picture postcard: “GOMAGOI--Strada Stelvio--Gr. Ortles/Ortler District--Stilfserjochstraße”]


“News from GOMAGOI”
on the Ortler.  I am looking forward to the book1; from 3.19 I shall be back in Ohlsdorf.
Thomas Bernhard

  1. “On the Ortler.  News from Gomagoi” is the title of the concluding story of Midland in Stilfs.

Letter No. 150

[Address: (Ohlsdorf)]

Frankfurt am Main
March 18, 1971

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

Midland in Stilfs has already been printed and bound; over the next few days the copies will be sent to the bookdealers.  I am very happy about this book.  I am sure it will figure among my favorite items in the Bibliothek Suhrkamp for a long time.

Do you wish to have all fifty of your complimentary copies?  We have printed a run of 5,000 copies.  The retail price is DM 5.80; your honorarium is 7.5%.  Thirty complimentary copies are already on their way to you in separate posts.        

Do you like the cover and the dust-jacket?
with sincere regards,
Siegfried Unseld

Letter No. 151


Dear Dr. Unseld,

Both inside and out Midland turned out to be a very fine book at which I rejoiced enormously for days on end after my return.

By now I have embarked on the final version of Atzbach, which I shall hand in in May.

This prose text is occasioning me both enormous mental strain and enormous enjoyment.

My situation is The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner; I have given this title to my present existence.

I [will] have finish[ed] up with the “dramatic spectacle” this summer. 1a

Regarding Boris, I would like some precise and detailed information from the drama division.

Here in very recent days, during my absence, a project that requires the utmost circumspection, a film adaptation of one of my books, has been made, shot, finished.  It is a film based on a prose sketch that I entitled “The Italian,” which is from the Timberline; the main character, the Italian, is an actual Italian, Mr. Jovine from Rome, a man with a magnificent profile who has to speak several sentences from Hegel in the film.1

I was away for two whole months and there were some superlatively lovely and superlatively pointless moments between Waterloo and Gomagoi, between Brussels and Belgrade, between Novi Sad and Rome, all of them incendiary material for my writing-desk.

Now I no longer have any intention of going away for even brief periods and my contempt for readings is unsurpassable.

There is nothing more disgusting and senseless than giving readings, but of course I have only given a couple of readings; the most recent one indeed and all told I gave with the greatest reluctance and for only twenty minutes, which the people found literally striking.

And now I won’t give any further readings anywhere, not even in Zurich, not anywhere ever again.

The ever-so-elegantly hallmarked candlesticks from Stuart’s shop in Brussels have found a suitable setting.  When will you come to have a look at these remarkable showpieces?

Yours sincerely,
Thomas Bernhard

P.S. We should have a go at having another mussel group some time!
     1a.  Brackets mine.  The sentence looks like one in the present perfect (or simple past) tense, but Unseld's  reply that he is pleased that Bernhard will be finishing the play seems to require treating the tense as some sort of elliptical future perfect. (DR)

  1. Ferry Radax, with whom Bernhard became acquainted during the shooting of Three Days, filmed an adaptation of the novella-fragment Der Italiener (See Note No. 1 to Letter No. 115).

Letter No. 152

[Address: (Ohlsdorf)]

Frankfurt am Main
April 6, 1971

Dear Mr. Bernhard,

I was delighted with your letter of March 31, 1971.  Midland figures among my favorite books, and “News from Gomagoi” is certainly a very fine story.  I received your postcards, and I am keeping them in a special place.  Thank you very much.

I am pleased to hear that we will be receiving the final version of Atzbach in May and that you will be finishing up with the play this summer.  We will quite definitely see each other before then; we will of course meet in June somehow or other, either in Trieste or in Ohlsdorf.  I have an ardent wish to see the two candlesticks at your house sometime soon.

Party for Boris: the Zurich performance will take place in May.  The conversations with the Burgtheater in Vienna are continuing, and now a stage in Graz has also come forward, but there is still nothing definitive.1  I will keep in touch and for now just once again send you my warm thanks for your letter and my
sincere regards and best wishes  
[Siegfried Unseld]

  1. On the Zurich performance of Boris, see Letter No. 178; the Austrian premiere of A Party for Boris took place on October 20, 1971 under the direction of Axel Corti in the context of the Styrian Fall Festival in Graz.  While thinking through the wording of his letter Unseld jotted “May in Zurich/Graz + Vienna, Burgtheater” in pencil on the verso of the page.  

Letter No. 153

[Address: Ohlsdorf; telegram]

Frankfurt am Main
June 1, 1971

requesting phone call wednesday morning
regards siegfried unseld

Letter No. 154

[Handwritten; post card]

Dear Dr. Unseld,

On Friday I have a three-hour layover at Rhine-Main Airport before I continue by plane to Cologne--if we could have DINNER together (arrival time: 5:50 p.m.) please wire me at Ohlsdorf--I am very much looking forward to seeing you1

Thomas Bernhard

  1. The postcard bears an express mail label.

Letter No. 155

[Address: Ohlsdorf; telegram-memorandum]

Frankfurt am Main
June 8, 1971

Friday 6:30 p.m. Halle Airport-Hotel, greatly looking forward to it.1
Sincerely--Siegfried Unseld

  1. On the telegram-memorandum Burgel Geisler wrote “12.45,” apparently the time of transmission.

Letter No. 156

[Address: Ohlsdorf; by express mail]

Frankfurt am Main
June 18, 1971

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

The house here is really happy about our decision, our decision regarding the paperback books.1  But the production department is complaining about the timetable.  Would it be completely impossible for you to submit the manuscript to us any earlier than the deadline we so generously agreed to (June 30)?  I am requesting this merely because we must write some copy for the announcement and we certainly can’t do that if we haven’t got anything to read.  

And one more request: is there a picture of you walking extant?  That would be especially ingratiating.

Thus but briefly for today; more to come very soon.

Sincere regards,
Siegfried Unseld    

  1. During their meeting on June 11, 1971, Bernhard evidently upbraided Unseld for not having included anything by him in the firm’s new paperback series, suhrkamp taschenbücher, which was to be launched in October 1971.  The list of the first 40 titles of the paperback series had been made public in Frankfurt on June 7, 1971; the media—including the June 7 issue of Der Spiegel—reported on the announcement at great length.  Bernhard and Unseld agreed to issue Walking as Volume 5 of the suhrkamp taschenbüher.  The book that had been announced in the preview as Volume 5, Jürgen Becker’s Eine Zeit ohne Wörter [An Age without Words] was then designated Volume 20.

Letter No. 157

Dear Dr. Unseld,

I am going to need at least two more weeks before I hand in the manuscript; hopefully you harbor no doubts about the precision of my method of working; and so the production department will have to wait until the delivery of the final version of the manuscript on circa July 6/7; but so much time has passed by now that the impossible has become possible, as in the case of practically everything, as we know and as should make us strong and proud at the same time.

Our dinner at the airport at Frankfurt with its Lake Constance whitefish and jumbo jet suction cups is something we should repeat in a different locale and with different entertainment in the not-too-distant future.

The film has turned out splendidly and I am quite happy about it.  In October, the owner of the publishing rights to The Italian in Salzburg will be bringing out a picture book with a ton of photographs from the film shoot and also the script and the original novella, “The Italian,” etcetera; this book (if you had been at all inclined to publish anything of its kind) would have appeared under the Suhrkamp imprint, had I not in ’68 gone on a jaunt to Salzburg with the three novellas in hand in consequence of the laxity of our mutual obligations in those days.1

I am now on the side of a mountain and not in Ohlsdorf because concentration is important to me and the postman gets on my nerves; the mail delivery brings to my house nothing but the most laughable, infuriating items; piles of inanely printed paper that give the impression that their intended reader can only be an idiot.  Can you answer one question for me: why do publishers print with the greatest speed everything written by the youngest of writers in the briefest span of time with the least amount of effort and the smallest amount of genius in the most imbecilic manner?            
Very sincerely yours, your dogsbody,
Thomas Bernhard

  1. In 1969 the Salzburg-based firm Residenz Publications published An der Baumgrenze [At the Timberline], a collection comprising the title novella and the two novellas “Der Kulterer” and “Der Italiener.”  In 1971, Wolfgang Schaffler’s firm [i.e., Residenz again (DR, rolling eyes in exasperation)] published Der Italiener, which in addition to the early novella-fragment [i.e., “Der Italiener” itself (DR)] contained the film scenario of the same name, the monologue “Three Days” and production stills from the shooting of Der Italiener the film.  For details on the development of this material that was to be so important to Bernhard (in the writing of Extinction) and on the publication history, see Volume 11, pp. 356ff. of Bernhard’s Works.    

Letter No. 158

Frankfurt am Main
June 24, 1971
Dear Mr. Bernhard,
Thank you very much for your letter of June 22.  As long as we firmly commit ourselves to a deadline of June 6/7, everything will move along smoothly.  After this new deadline we can still regain our balance, but please don’t leave me in the lurch.  I have already had many difficulties owing to changes of plan, but naturally the most important thing is for us to receive a reliable text; I am already very much looking forward to that.

We shall reprise our get-together soon.  Please: don’t leave me in the lurch!

wishing you all the best and with sincere regards,
Siegfried Unseld  
P.S. I have actually already got a firm appointment for June 29 and on account of it shall be in your neck of the woods.  Should anything change on your end, on the afternoon of June 29 I shall be reachable
℅ Hildegard Unseld, Dr. Hausdorf’s Clinic, 8183 Rottach Egern, Oberachweg 8, Telephone 08022 / 6314.  I can visit you on the 30th.

Letter No. 159

Dear Dr. Unseld,

Equally huge mental portions of exhaustion and joy attend my completion of the manuscript promised to you.

As I possess only this original and am committing it to the post, please make a photocopy and send it to me without delay.

Over the summer I shall be preoccupied with work for the theater.

As it is evident, has once again become evident, that there are a great many unanswered questions about our relationship, and, for example, the date of Suhrkamp Publications’ last payment to me is on my doorstep (August), it is necessary for us to see each other.

If for any reason you find it impossible or even merely painful to issue Walking in your new series of books--as I notice that you have already got a fixed numeration in place including for Number 3, such that it looks as though everything is quite definitive--then please publish Walking in the fall in one of your two other series.1

No one can be hurt so long as I couldn’t care less about rocking the boat.     

with many sincere regards to you, Busch, and the others
Thomas Bernhard

  1. According to the preview distributed at the June 4, 1971 press conference, Volume 3 of the suhrkamp taschenbücher was to be Peter Handke’s screenplay Chronik der laufenden Ereignisse. [Chronicle of Ongoing Occurrences].

  1. In the left margin of the letter appears the following note in Unseld’s handwriting: “Letter of 2.23.71
Account B ‘future works’
3 7 21
In this note Unseld refers to Bernhard and Unseld’s October 1969 agreement (see Note No. 1 to Letter No. 86), which among other things budgeted monthly
DM 800 payments from the firm, as well as to Letter No. 147, dated February 23, 1971.  The arithmetical calculations pertain to the quotation for Bernhard’s honorarium for Walking; see Letter No. 161.”

Letter No. 160

Frankfurt am Main
July 13, 1971

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

Warm thanks for your letter of July 7.  The manuscript has arrived safe and sound!  Unfortunately it got here only yesterday, Monday, and not over the weekend.  I am now having the manuscript photocopied and I shall send you a copy back to you in a separate post.  I expect to get round to reading it at some point today, and then I shall report to you on my impression of it.  Walking is firmly scheduled to be one of the first 10 volumes of the new suhrkamp taschenbücher series, which will be on display at the bookstores on October 1.  The modifications to the schedule are going forward without a hitch because Jürgen Becker has not managed to finish work on his manuscript in time.  That is all for now.
with sincere regards,
Siegfried Unseld
P.S.: I recently asked you once again if there existed a photo in which you were seen walking.  It would be very nice.  And if there is such a photo extant, please send it to us.

Letter No. 161
Frankfurt am Main
July 15, 1971
Dear Thomas Bernhard,
Walking is a work of the first rank.  It is quintessential Bernhard.  Indeed, it is the most radical, the most unflinching, the most consistent work by you to date.  From beginning to end it fascinates.  I really could not stop reading it and by the second read-through I was braced for certain reflections.  I congratulate you on this text.  To be sure, it will offend a great many people, but over the long run it will make Bernhard more famous.
It is entirely in keeping with the eruptive cast of this text that a handful of passing slip-ups, most of them being mere typographical errors, have escaped your attention.  These slip-ups we have silently corrected.  It was more difficult to decide when to capitalize certain adjectives.  Something Vulgar, something Brazen, something tremendously Dismal—all these obviously had to be capitalized, because otherwise they would have been unintelligible.
On Page 3, the sense of lines 11-12 is confused; the sentence now reads:
“…because on Monday as on Wednesday he walks much slower, on Monday much faster.”
You should give some thought to this as you are making your corrections.
On Page 3, you write: “…that time and again we descend into a deeper depression than we already are.”
By this you obviously must mean “…than the one we are already immersed in.”
Will you keep this in mind for your corrections?
There are several places in your text where words are missing—for example, a reflexive pronoun 12 lines from the top on Page 18: “…that…the extraordinary mind would kill.”
This is obviously supposed to be “…kill itself.”
I don’t quite comprehend the functions of the speech prefixes on Page 30—“Oehler to Scherrer”—and Page 56—“Oehler says:.”  What I mean is that it seems to me that such a relentlessly rigorous text could easily forgo such constructions.

During the proofreading you should also give some more thought to the parallel superlatives.  It is part of the characteristic style of this work to overshoot its target; for me this tendency is exemplified by the parallel superlatives.  I am having a lot of difficulty coming to terms with these; for me there is such a thing as a “total” manner, but no such thing as a “most total” one; for me there is such a thing as “complete” inactivity, but no such thing as “most complete” inactivity; and so I have a really hard time when in a certain passage talk turns to “the most epoch-making ideas.”  Epoch-making does not lend itself to being intensified in that way; you could say “the most epochal ideas” instead, but the intensification of the verb “to make” is grammatically incoherent in this context.

As with the manuscript of The Lime Works, I am annoyed to the point of squeamishness by the underlined passages, which you obviously wish to be set in italics.  We have already discussed this in connection with the manuscript of The Lime Works, and you were amenable to our reducing it.  The language of your text, your rigorousness, your--if I may express myself thus--gloriousness, and hence the propulsive force of your language, is so majestic and strong, that you don’t need to add anything to it!  Indeed, such adventitious typographical features actually bespeak stylistic impoverishment.  What I am trying to say is that you should give a very considered second thought to this as you are making your corrections.1

But now I turn to my sole significant objection: in relation to the context of your text I completely understand what you say about the senselessness of the making of children.  To see that act in that light is not only well within your rights; it is also rigorous and persuasive.  But I have a grave objection to a certain corollary of this: so, when Oehler says (I am well aware that this isn’t the author or the narrative “I” but merely the so- called “fictional character” Oehler speaking) that parliament would merely be doing its duty if it passed a law against the mindless making of children (here I am still totally with you).   But, he says, this law should also establish a severe penalty for the mindless making of children (even here one could keep tagging along).  Then comes this sentence: “By a severe penalty to be established and administered one renownedly denotes the death penalty.”
Now this is a point of view to which I personally am quite fundamentally opposed.  I think it was a good thing that the death penalty was abolished for exactly one reason: I do not wish to see any State, under the auspices of either the left or the right, exercise the function of an executioner.  The State may for my own good take possession of all my other rights, but in my opinion the determination of whether a human being is to live or die should no longer lie in the hands of any State.    Regardless of the circumstances.  Yesterday on television I saw images of the executions by firing squad in Morocco.2  I could not but me mindful of the sorts of consequences the establishment of this penalty of yours can have.  I would very much like you to think over this passage once again with utter consistency.  Leave the text as it is up to the phrase “severe penalty,” but please strike the clause that follows it.  In my view it is the only passage in the text in which it abdicates its otherwise significant moral and philosophical high ground.
Will you consider doing that?  And please don’t get angry with me because you think that I am going to insist on your doing it.  Beyond this point, it is you who will have to be convinced, you who will have to decide this question, not me.  I am being true to that unwritten law here at the house, the law that states that the author has the last word.  But I am electing to fight it out with you up to that last word.
The manuscript was typeset immediately after I finished reading it.  For time reasons we cannot prepare any galley proofs, though we can print a rough paginated copy of the text right away.  The rough copy is supposed to be sent to us on July 30.  That means you will certainly receive it on Monday or Tuesday, August 2/3, 1971.  Where will you be then?  Should the copy go to Ohlsdorf or to Vienna?  Please be mindful that we must time this very precisely, and I would also like to ask you if it is at all possible to send your corrections back to us within three or four days, because otherwise our schedule will get completely snarled, and because the book is of course part of a group that includes 10 other volumes, we cannot consider even the tiniest postponement of the release date.  But I believe that in this text there is nothing more that needs to be changed.  But please do let me know where you will be.
I would very much like to see you soon, not only to argue with you but also to walk with you.  That will certainly be possible one of these days.  Tomorrow I must go to see Ingeborg Bachmann on “official” business.  A house at the seaside, Villa Calamandrei, Ronchi / Prov. Di Massa, has been placed at her sole disposal for the month of July.  She reported that this house had quite a large number of bedrooms.  A visit from you would certainly be welcome.  I shall probably be there through July 22, and I must fly back on Friday morning at the latest.  I don’t know what excursions you are planning.3
After that I shall be in seclusion with Uwe Johnson on account of his next volume of Anniversaries, and then with Martin Walser.  In the second half of August I shall once again have more free time.
Apropos of our material agreements: please take a look at my letter of February 23, 1971.  In that letter there is a discussion of Account B, the one for “Future Works.”  The monthly DM 800 payments that we agreed on there will end on August 31, 1971.  If you are amenable to this, we can extend this agreement through to August 31, 1972 (of course we can always come to some other arrangement viva voce).  Walking will be appearing in the suhrkamp taschenbücher series; retail price DM 3.--, honorarium 7%, print run 15,000 copies; so altogether that will yield an honorarium of DM 3,150.--, meaning that practically four further monthly installments will be covered by it.
Once again, my dear Mr. Bernhard, I extend to you my congratulations on Walking.  Let us keep walking thus.
with sincere regards,
Siegfried Unseld
  1. See Letters Nos. 116 and 117; here once again Bernhard kept the italicizations in place.

  1. On July 10, 1971, military officers under the leadership of Mohammed Medbouh and Colonel M’hamed Ababou attempted to stage a coup against the Moroccan ruler, King Hassan II.  On July 13 the shooting range at Temara (south of Rabat) was the site of a mass execution.  Those responsible for the attempted coup were tied to posts and executed by firing squad.  Hassan attended the execution in the company of Jordan’s ruler, King Hussein, who had flown in especially for the occasion.

  1. Between July 16 and 23, 1971, Unseld met with Ingeborg Bachmann in Ronchi; on July 24 and 25 Uwe Johnson was in Frankfurt; between July 29 and August 5, Unseld was in southern Germany and visited Martin Walser in Nußdorf on Lake Constance.

Letter No. 162
Dear Dr. Unseld,
I await the arrival of the paginated rough copy of Walking in Ohlsdorf, where I shall be staying all summer.1
I am also going to abolish the death penalty in Walking because the maximum penalty meant in it is a much bigger one.2  Your letter has put me into a very agreeable mood that as near as I can tell is going to last for several more days; throughout this interval I shall be busily walking and thinking or thinking and walking.
But then we unconditionally must see each other.
Thomas Bernhard
  1. On August 4, Thomas Beckermann sent Bernhard the rough paginated copy of Walking and included with it a request to send back his corrections in time for the firm to receive them by August 11, as the first ten titles of the suhrkamp taschenbücher series were to be issued at the end of September.

  1. As published, the revised sentence reads, “Parliament and parliaments would merely be doing their duty if they passed and enforced laws against the mindless making of children and if they instituted and administered the maximum penalty—and every parliament has its own maximum penalty, says Oehler—for mindless child-making” (Bernhard, Works, Vol. 12, p. 153).

Letter No. 163
[Address: Ohlsdorf]
Frankfurt am Main
July 26, 1971
Dear Thomas Bernhard,
Very sincere thanks for your letter of July 21.  The letter has shifted me back into an agreeable, i.e., productive, mood.  I am sure we shall see each other soon.  I am up to my eyeballs in the preparation of texts for the second half of the year.
More to come shortly.
with sincere and all best wishes to you,
Siegfried Unseld

Letter No. 164
Dear Dr. Unseld,
It is the middle of August and I am waiting for you here.1
Yours sincerely,
Thomas Bernhard

  1. The letter bears the following note in Unseld’s handwriting: “Thurs[day] 9.2.”  

Letter No. 165
[Address: Ohlsdorf]
Frankfurt am Main
August 23, 1971
Dear Thomas Bernhard,
What would it be like if the prophet came to the mountain?  My proposal: come to Frankfurt on Thursday, September 2, at the firm’s expense.  I would be delighted.
Siegfried Unseld

Letter No. 166
August 30, 1971
arriving wednesday twelve noon rhinemain requesting hotel room for wednesday night
=sincerely bernhard1
  1. The telegram bears a note in Burgel Zeeh’s handwriting--“LH [Lufthansa] 253 [Bernhard’s flight number] from Vienna”; perhaps because somebody was planning to pick Bernhard up at the airport.

Letter No. 167
Frankfurt am Main
September 8, 1971
Dear Mr. Bernhard,
I am sending you No. 6 of our Theater Service.  So, pride of place is given to The Ignoramus and the Madman.1  I hope you can send me this play soon.  I am very much looking forward to reading it.
Our conferences were not without severity, but clarity oftentimes requires severity, and at least in compensation we have smoothed out the contractual lie of the land for the next two years.  I hope you, too, see it in this light.2
I am yours
with sincere regards,
Siegfried Unseld     
1. At the firm a press copy of the Suhrkamp Theater Service’s announcement about the play has survived.  A draught of the announcement, one probably based on information supplied by Bernhard, was typed on Unseld’s typewriter: “Thomas Bernhard has completed a new play.  This new drama is entitled The Ignoramus and the Madman.  The play is divided into two parts (Part I: ‘At the Opera’; Part II: ‘At the Three Hussars’); its three principal characters are a diva, the “queen of the night,” an industrialist, and a psychiatrist.  The premiere, featuring a stellar cast under the direction of Claus Peymann, will take place at the 1972 Salzburg Festival.  A detailed announcement about the play will appear in the next Theater Service.  The text of the play will be available in book form in the middle of November.”
2. In his Chronicle Unseld documented Bernhard’s visit to Frankfurt on September 1 and 2, a visit centered on conversations that were difficult for both parties.  In the entry for September 1, he wrote: “Thomas Bernhard in Frankfurt.  The conversation began at a serious low point.  I showed Bernhard the story from that day’s SDZ [Süddeutsche Zeitung, September 1, 1971] in which he had announced the premiere of his next play The Ignoramus and the Madman (incorrectly entitled The Intriguer and the Madman in the news story) at the 1972 Salzburg Festival.  I told Bernhard that I was not happy about it; I said that we had had a clear gentleman’s agreement; that all the rights belonged to Suhrkamp; that only Suhrkamp could award or withhold them, and that if he was to negotiate he was to do so only in partnership with Suhrkamp Publications.  The conversation plunged to an alarming low because I refused to give in; finally he backed down and assured us that we could draw up the contract and that we would receive our share of the publication rights and revenues.

Next a series of questions were addressed: publication contracts for newer works, his renewed desire for a loan of DM 20,000, his demand for an abrogation of all contracts in the event of my death.  

We went to the firm, where there were conversations with Dr. Rach, Ritzerfeld, Roser, the readers Busch and Beckermann.  Afterwards Bernhard signed five contracts; with these signatures, the contractual situation has been smoothed out through the middle of 1972.

In the evening he was tired and worn out and returned to his hotel at an early hour.
Thanks to this meeting, the firm’s hold on the rights to Bernhard’s works has been secured in perpetuity.  We must also make him feel that here at the firm he has a home; then this unusual author will remain productive for the foreseeable future.”

The five contracts referred to by Unseld were the one for The Ignoramus and the Madman, two loan contracts (one for the DM 15,000 interest-free loan granted in Brussels on Bernhard’s fortieth birthday [see Letter No. 147], as well as another for a second interest-free loan of DM 20,000), a contract for monthly remittances to the author (the arrangement of October 1969 [see Letter No. 91], which stipulated monthly remittances of DM 800, was maintained through August 1973), and a “contractual addendum” that acknowledged the possibility, under certain conditions, of abrogating all contracts in the event of Unseld’s exclusion from the administration of the firm.  In the Chronicle entry for September 2, Unseld continued his account of the visit:

“By agreement Thomas Bernhard came to the firm once again on September 2.  He told me that he had to talk to me about one of the points of the contract for The Ignoramus and the Madman, that he had not brought the contract with him but that I surely had the original here.  I had Fräulein Ritzerfeld fetch it, and he tore the copy out of my hands and struck out §5 [This paragraph read: “The author has offered the first performance of the play to the Salzburg Festival.  In its performance contract with the theater the firm will make adjustments to the artistic and financial conditions that the author has stipulated.  The firm will receive the share of the honorarium due to it according to the terms of this contract.”] This act shocked me, and for the first time I became animated and put my foot down and told him that I would be very happy to speak with him, but that the unilateral deletion of a paragraph from a contract was an impossibility and that if he wanted this then all our agreements would be invalidated.  It was definitely a low point.  But he backed down; as the striking-out mark had been made with a ballpoint pen and was therefore unerasable, we agreed that it did not count.  Later we wrote out the entire page anew and signed once again.  He was quite shaken up on account of these contractual matters.  

In the morning I found Bernhard’s At the Timberline. Novellas at the stv production office.  I asked him to write a dedication in it.  He wrote, ‘for S.U. sincerely in a difficult hour.  Thomas B.’”

Letter No. 168
Dear Dr. Unseld,
My memories of my visit to Frankfurt last week are not especially fond ones, and I have no desire ever to reprise such a visit under the circumstances in which I met with you in Frankfurt.
As for the contract for my play that I have entered into with the theatrical publications division, and I am referring only to this contract, it was surely quite clear to you that I had signed something that, upon mature deliberation, I wished I had not signed, and that you, in a manner that was dramatically still evident to both of us, had prevented me from subsequently altering the contract as I had wished to do, and hence from exercising a well-known legal right: by this same token, any legal entity anywhere in the world can rescind such a contract within twenty-four hours.  
Immediately upon returning from Frankfurt, I wrote you a rather long letter, but I did not send it, because I thought it better to say nothing further and to let things develop on their own.1  But now I am hearing from Salzburg that the firm (Who? The firm’s theatrical publications division?) has described me as a “confused artist” and that the firm is “obviously” entering into a contract with the festival and so forth.
I don’t care to dwell on “confused” or on “artist” or on “confused artist,” or above all on “obviously,” all of them expressions that are at the very least undiplomatic and most certainly not trust-inspiring; but it certainly appears as though the negotiations between Frankfurt and Salzburg have become contaminated by something I all-too wisely dreaded: a kind of interpretative spin on my relationship with the firm that I find abhorrent.  Once again, this is how things should stand on the Salzburg end, in precise terms: the firm is to set up a contract with due and exclusive regard for what I have personally promised in connection with Salzburg; naturally this includes everything pertaining to the honorarium, which for the four or five performances in Salzburg totals thirty thousand marks that are to be remitted to me in full directly from Salzburg.
As for the videotaping of the play for television: I hear that a correspondence about this is already being carried on between Cologne and Vienna and Frankfurt; the firm is boisterously negotiating the contract, but I have a word for the theatrical publications division: please don’t sell me short.        
From the Salzburg performances onwards I have contractually obligated myself to the theatrical publications division, and I obligated myself to it quite consciously; all of that is acceptable according to the established rules.
The videotaping is to cover the complete repayment of my loan.
I shall withhold the play as long as is necessary and thereby protect it from the intrigues and gossipy chit-chat and histrionic vulgarity of the theater people.
For me Frankfurt is certainly no fruitful plain; it is a void and a vacuum.
Now here is what I did not say in Frankfurt: that I must ask to be sent carbon copies of all of the theatrical publications division’s correspondence pertaining to my play and hence directly to me personally, so that I can be sure I am in the loop.
It simply will not do for me of all people to be left in the dark about events directly impinging on me (the München Kammerspiele, for example) merely because the firm has failed to apprise me of them.  That is an absurdity that I refuse to allow or permit myself.    
If you should ever again enjoy the possibility of talking calmly and at length with me, as you once used to take pleasure in doing, of taking a walk with me in the background of the (to me) unbearable hecticness and of the basically gigantic dilettantish hive of meaningless activity that today’s Germany represents for me, I shall naturally be delighted.  The future is going to be difficult.
Yours sincerely,
Thomas Bernhard

  1. This unsent letter, dated September 3, 1971 from Ohlsdorf, has survived in Bernhard’s papers (NTLB, B 623 / 1 / 2; there also exists an undated rough draft of the letter):

“Dear Dr. Unseld,

Now that I am back home, I think that it would have better if I had not accepted your invitation to come to Frankfurt; my memory of the visit now weighs so heavily on the relationship between your firm and me that I must say that thanks to the impressions that I got during the meeting and that are growing clear to me only now that I have escaped the scene of it, this relationship has become a much gloomier one.

It feels as if I had voluntarily stepped into a brutal machine that has done to me what machines do to human beings; machines have no understanding of the individuality and the form and fashion of a human being like me because they, these machines, as I have experienced them, are specially constructed sensibility-pulverizing ignorers.

You ought not to suppose that the horribleness of my experience in Frankfurt has left town along with me, and that it is possible to extinguish what it is desirable to extinguish, far above all that moment in which under the influence of some ghastly demonic possession, I dared to permit a revision of the final paragraph of that  contract that I signed and that now has such an ominous appearance in my eyes, the contract pertaining to the new play.  Legally one has the right to withdraw from any kind of contract within twenty-four hours of signature, all the more so in that it would have been morally etcetera obvious for you at least to hear me out, all the more so in that on that morning (in contrast to the day before) I was well-rested and ready to consider all explanations with all my senses unfatigued.  But by behaving the way you did you destroyed nearly everything in the blink of an eye.  And pressured me into accepting a role that I am not going to play.

But I won’t go on any further about this affair and the contracts are the way they are and they will stay the way they are.  Let what comes of this come of it.

But what is to be done about Salzburg must still be determined; that is my affair, which must not be disturbed by the tiniest action on the part of the firm; this is my arrangement, and it arises from my own experiences.  I couldn’t care less about what happens above and beyond Salzburg; I am never fussy about my cast- off productions, about what we may safely call my fictional and textual children.

Regarding finances: I don’t think you are actually risking anything financially or in any other significant way.  The quality through which I experience my own work in all its self-containedness and with the complete onus of its phenomena-- which is much more severe than today’s dimwitted mass society with its would-be all-encompassing and all-integrating sociological and philosophical and pseudo-political hypocrisy imagines it to be--is its utterly ruthless weightiness, and the amount of effort I exert is undoubtedly unsurpassable.
There is no point in holding one’s peace when one has got something to explain.  The next step, which must be understood as a step forward, is going to be  absolutely difficult.

Yours with sincere regards,
Thomas Bernhard”

Letter No. 169
Frankfurt am Main
September 15, 1970

Dear Mr. Bernhard,

I thank you for your letter of September 10.  I am sorry that your memories of your visit to Frankfurt are not especially fond ones--and I must rub some salt in them.
Please bear in mind that any relationship is by its nature two-sided and must be nurtured by both sides; otherwise it ceases to exist.  That morning at the firm I really did not want to agree to anything further in writing, but since you put pen to paper I had to do so as well for required form’s sake—and for the sake of future history.  It is simply not possible for you to make unilateral changes to contracts.  We have entered into a contractual union, and this contractual union betokens not only rights but also obligations.  Please bear in mind that I was once again prepared to give you a comparatively large loan; the fact that I must make sure that the firm receives its contractually allotted share is self-evident.  I cannot disregard the economic foundation of the firm.  Moreover, I absolutely refuse to do so.  It is my job to keep the ship on a steady course.  This is what allows us to do our job of producing books.

Vis-à-vis Salzburg we shall proceed as we are contractually required to do.  A contract was sent to the Salzburg Festival on Monday; like every contract it stipulates that payment is to be remitted to the firm’s accounts.

Our contract also stipulates exactly how these moneys are to be apportioned with you.  But because you have after all already agreed to the amount of this sum, let me propose to you our remittance of it to you, minus our publisher’s share, immediately upon our receipt of payment.  I am sure that this is what you have in mind.

You write that the DM 20,000 loan that we agreed to on September 1, 1971 is to be completely paid off by the honorarium from the videotaping for television.  Our loan contract of September 1, 1971 contains the following passage:
The repayment of this loan shall be effected by means of the author’s share of performance royalties and television and radio broadcasting revenues from the play The Ignoramus and the Madman.
So in this contract we have unambiguously established the terms of the complete repayment of the loan.  Nevertheless, in the light of the peculiarity of the situation and in order to show you that I am not being unreasonably intransigent, I am prepared to accept your proposal, meaning that we shall pay off the loan using revenues from the videotaping for television and draw upon subsequent performance royalties if for any reason the videotaping should fall through, although the latter is of course unacceptable.  

I would very much like for us to arrive at a clear understanding about this and for you to appreciate my benevolence in dealing fairly and sensibly with this matter, which I obviously know poses an acute problem for you.

I immediately spoke with Dr. Rach about those remarks you heard coming out of Salzburg.  We can but quite firmly deny them.  Dr. Rach had a brief telephone conversation with Professor Haeusserman, and in the course of this conversation--I can can give you my word of honor on this--no such vocables were ever uttered from Suhrkamp’s end of the line.  You should be able to figure out for yourself who actually came up with them.

I asked Dr. Rach to keep you very precisely informed and also to send you the desired carbon copies of the letters dealing with your plays.  I attach great importance to your receiving precise information.

I also cannot refrain from once again reacting to your remark about Frankfurt and about the “gigantic dilettantish hive of meaningless activity that today’s Germany represents for me.”  I respect your impression; but to the extent that your accusation is directed at the work carried on by the firm, I can only reject it.  Every publishing house has its own style, and ours has proved to be neither ineffectual nor unsuccessful.  And at the very least we have succeeded in securing the reputation of your writings.  Allow me to remind you of how of hard we had to work so that you could, for example, enjoy the great public distinction of being a Georg Büchner Prize-winner.  To be sure, you received the prize on the basis of the significance and strength of your writings, but nobody can fail to see that we played a part in the development of those qualities.  And allow me to draw your attention to two episodes from our Frankfurt discussion:  you had two wishes that were of particular importance to you; the first one was to have your play published in the Bibliothek Suhrkamp; you know that there is no better publication vehicle for this play in the entire German-speaking world than this Bibliothek series.  I granted you your wish; obviously it corresponded exactly to my own.  But should it not make us feel something at least approaching satisfaction?  And the second one: you requested an extra contract covering the event of my exclusion from the administration of the firm.  Here too I granted you your wish, and as you know I did so without attaching any counterstipulations to it.  That was yet another act expressive of trust, and I am very much of the opinion, my dear Mr. Bernhard, that we should now get back to that period of mutually trustful collaboration.  The future may be difficult; this future is just like any other one.  But the future of our relationship depends not on the numinous power of fate but rather on the two of us alone.

I believe we should let a little time pass until we have both gotten over the disagreeably exigent part of our discussions.  After that I would make it a genuine priority to visit you in Ohlsdorf and to talk, to walk, to drink, to swim, to eat, to talk with you.                      

Siegfried Unseld     

Letter No. 170

Frankfurt am Main
September 21, 1971

Dear Mr. Bernhard,

I am holding the first copy of Walking in my hands.  It has really turned out looking very nice.  I am glad we came to an agreement about this book during our conversation at the airport; I am genuinely happy to have been able to include it in the first 10 titles of the new series, which is obviously very important for the firm.

We printed a run of 15,000 copies; the retail price is DM 3; the honorarium 7%, hence DM .21 per copy.  You may receive up to 75 complimentary copies; we shall be sending you 20 complimentary copies at the same time as this letter.  The others are available to you on demand.

with sincere regards,
Siegfried Unseld

Letter No. 171
Frankfurt am Main
October 4, 1971

Dear Mr. Bernhard,

In the light of recent events: when will you be sending me the manuscript of The Ignoramus and the Madman?  My receipt of it is important for a twofold reason--for one thing I would naturally very much like to acquaint myself with it--and for another the theaters are now preparing their programs and cast lists for 1972.  Messrs. Lietzau and Wendt recently declared to me that they must have the text soon for casting purposes.  This same question obviously also applies to the other theaters.  Are you really not yet able to part with this text?  I very much hope you are and very strongly urge you to do so.    

How do you like Walking in the livery of the Taschenbücher?  The series is finding a good echo.

with friendly regards,
Siegfried Unseld         

Letter No. 172

[Address: Ohlsdorf]

Frankfurt am Main
October 26, 1971

Dear Mr. Bernhard,

I have heard nothing further from you and don’t know how I should interpret this.

We are preparing a few Viennese activities; at 8 p.m. on November 8 I shall be giving a lecture entitled “Hermann Hesse Today” at the Austrian Society for Literature.  At
11:00 a.m. the next day at the Beethoven Hall at the Palais Palffy at 6 Josefplatz, the firm will be giving a press conference followed by a reception.  If it would be possible for you to come to Vienna I would be delighted if you could attend.  I am naturally thinking not so much of my lecture as of the firm’s November 9 press conference; it would make a big difference to me if some of the firm’s authors were also present there.  But please do let me hear something from you.

Siegfried Unseld   

Letter No. 173
Dear Dr. Unseld,
I got along excellently well with Mr. Rach and it is clear to me that we are dealing with a man of real worth; those were two profitably spent days.
The understanding I have come to with Rach--the understanding that we are to keep the play more or less under wraps until the Salzburg performance--is a seminal one.1
My confidence is at its peak when I am thinking about a maximum exertion of effort.
I am not in Vienna; I cancelled my reading and I am staying in Ohlsdorf; I look upon a forthcoming visit from you as an occasion of great importance, and naturally also as an occasion for great joy; and so perhaps certain obstacles that we have lately placed in our path to such a visit may now be cleared away.
I very much hope that you will soon take a side trip to Ohlsdorf.
Rach will of course tell you all about what has been discussed with him.
To all external appearances, Walking has turned out marvelously, but it is bristling with textual errors; for example, in one place the text reads “never” instead of “ever” or vice-versa etcetera.
As you can see, there is always a subject worth meeting in person about.
I am also thinking about the red wine.2
Yours sincerely,
Thomas Bernhard
P.S. I have once again deviated from the |your| “friendly regards” formula.
P.P.S. Tomorrow off to Salzburg with Peymann.
  1. Rudolf Rach visited Bernhard at Ohlsdorf on October 30, 1971.  He announced his forthcoming arrival in a telegram that reads as follows: “On account of intensive season-scheduling conversations we unconditionally need manuscript of The Ignoramus and the Madman.  Am coming to Ohlsdorf on Saturday morning to fetch it.”  On November 4, a few days after his return to Frankfurt, he wrote to Bernhard, “Was your visit in Salzburg successful?  Did they grant Peymann the honorarium he desired?  And have we come closer to clarifying the casting issue? [...] I am still wavering over whether to broach my idea of an alternative ending.  Perhaps I should broach it.  It seems to me that the ending ought to be fuzzier.  As it now stands it unequivocally indicates an intention to go on.  On a hysterical whim the diva earlier resolved not to go and now she has changed her mind and is going to go.  Could her decision about this not be affected by her environment?  Perhaps for example via a word from the doctor that indicates that this decision is not exclusively hers to make.  In any case I would prefer a more open-ended or even a--so to speak--fuzzier ending.  It seems to me as if here the prefabricated plot device is  more forceful than the actual intention of the play.  In a letter of November 17, 1971, Bernhard replied “[...]  the minor modification to the ending is quite effective, and you provided the immediate impetus to reexamine the denouement of the scene right after your departure.  From Salzburg I hear that Peymann has ‘communicated his preliminary proposals.’  About the man himself I have heard nothing; I don’t even have his address; perhaps you could jot it down for me [...] I was given to understand as early as the beginning of fall that I had the money [the honorarium for the performance of the The Ignoramus and the Madman] at my disposal, but I don’t want to strap on my authorial revolver just yet.  On the other hand I really do need the money; here it’s flying out the window.  From the 27th through December 1 I shall be in Zurich and will give Buckwitz the play to read [see Note 1. to Letter No. 178].  Please tell Unseld that dismal weather is of enormous advantage to prose writing; perhaps I shall be finished with the book sooner than planned.  Your visit is repeatable; you know that.”  Bernhard changed the ending.  In a draft of the play (NLTB W14 / I, BL 78) the queen asks Winter the waiter if he has sent the telegrams canceling all her engagements.  Winter replies, “Naturally not [sic], madam,” to which the queen replies, “It’s good / that you didn't send the telegrams / that puts my mind at ease / I am content [...].”  Here the Doctor has the very last word: “Exhaustion / nothing but exhaustion.”  In the final version (Bernhard, Works, Vol. 13, p. 328) the queen of the night asks Winter, “Did you send the telegrams / the telegrams to Stockholm / and Copenhagen,” to which Winter replies, “Naturally, madam.”  Then the Doctor says, “It’s good / that you sent the telegrams / that puts my mind at ease / I am content / I am quite content.”  The queen has the concluding lines: “Exhaustion / nothing but exhaustion” (See also Bernhard, Works, Vol. 15, p.. 467 ff.)

  1. In the upper-right corner of the letter is a comment in Unseld’s handwriting, “verb[ally] fix[ed],” which obviously refers to the scheduling of a rendezvous.

Letter No. 174

[Address: Ohlsdorf; telegram-memorandum]

Frankfurt am Main
November 2, 1971

Requesting phone call regarding meeting November 10--Regards Unseld
Suhrkamp Publications

Letter No. 175
[Address: Ohlsdorf]

Frankfurt am Main
November 11, 1971

Dear Mr. Bernhard,

As you can see, I am once again sitting at my desk.  Despite a few obstacles I still managed to be in Frankfurt by about 10 p.m.; Willy Fleckhaus was waiting for me; we were able to have our conversation.  I am very happy about the Salzburg encounter.  Every detail of what was discussed will be deliberated and implemented.  I have already spoken with Rach; we are now having your play photocopied; you will be getting it back at the beginning of next week.

And then the two German Storytellers volumes will follow.1

But now to the most important thing: your play strikes me as a success.  Naturally it needs to be filled out by a theatrical performance, but it is more than a musical score; a harsh, austere, severe dramatic torso that onstage will undoubtedly release that mean  between delectation and horror, despair and felicity.  My congratulations.   

Siegfried Unseld

  1. In 1971 Insel Publications both reissued the 1912 collection German Storytellers (selected and introduced by Hugo von Hofmannsthal) and published German Storytellers: Volume 2 (selected and introduced by Marie Luise Kaschnitz).

  1. In his Travel Journal: Vienna-Salzburg, November 7-10, 1971, Unseld wrote:
“This was pretty much my most arduous trip ever [...]
Train ride to Salzburg [November 10] for a conversation with Thomas Bernhard.

This was a very amicable conversation.  He gave me the text of his new play to take with me and thereby definitively committed it into the hands of the firm.
The date of the Salzburg Festival premiere of his play The Ignoramus and the Madman is now fixed: July 29, 1972.  Peymann will be in charge of the production; the principal roles must still be cast.

He has given a manuscript of this play to Mr. Wendt, who on his end plans to speak with Lietzau and with Nagel.  Wendt will also write about the play in the almanac of the Salzburg Festival.

Austrian television would like to videotape the Salzburg Festival production of the play.  But Bernhard has explicitly said that this has to be coordinated with us.  We must consider this with a very thoughtful eye to Austrian and German performances.  Bernhard is expecting us to be very “tough” in setting our conditions.

There is also a film adaptation of Frost in the offing.  Director: Ferry Radax.  This week discussions are supposed to wrap up in Vienna.  Austrian television plans to make the film in collaboration with WDR.  Bernhard has pointed out that the film rights belong to us; he is asking for DM 20,000.  We still have to agree on the firm’s share.  I told Bernhard that I would judge this figure of DM 20,000 to be rather too small.

For the second time already he is finding fault with the biographical note on him in the edition as well as in the Taschenbuch series: the mention of the Anton Wildgans Prize ‘drives him crazy.’  His preference is to have the note consist of nothing but his date of birth, an indication of his residence in Ohlsdorf, and a list of his works.  

He is very happy with the cover of Walking; he said it pleased him inordinately, but that a great many typographical errors had crept in.  I asked him to correct them and promised that we would get rid of the errors in the second printing.

He also told me that the proofs had been reviewed by two different copy-editors whose corrections were not mutually consistent.

Once again he asserted that it was of the utmost importance for his indications  of punctuation and spelling to be heeded.

Then he complained about the firm’s “disorderliness.”  He doesn’t like it when lots of divisions of the firm write to him directly.  I thought it would be ideal if we could have all correspondence addressed to Bernhard routed through Ms. Zeeh.

But this time all these grievances were expressed in a very amiable tone, indeed, an amicable one; we had a pleasant conversation.

Admittedly less pleasant was the fact that owing to fog planes could neither land at nor take off from the Salzburg airport.  So the passengers were bundled into a bus and transported to Frankfurt in a veritable night-and-fog journey.”

The Wendt-penned article mentioned in the travel journal appeared under the title “Illness as a Musical Problem” on pp. 162-164 of the 1972 Almanac of the Salzburg Festival; on pp. 157-159 of this same installment of the Almanac there is also an article by Rudolf Rach on The Ignoramus and the Madman entitled “Autopsied Singing.”


Letter No. 176
Dear Dr. Unseld,
In Salzburg I initially intentionally and then unintentionally forgot about a scheme, a  venture, that I had planned to initiate, but I am determined to make up for the omission straightaway today.
I am requesting that the firm (if we take into consideration the arrangement we came to then) advance me the Salzburg honorarium of DM 30,000 and remit it as soon as possible to my account, No. 318, at the Bank of Upper Austria and Salzburg in Gmunden.  Minus the firm’s share obviously.  In Salzburg I was told I could have the sum “at my disposal” at any time.  I do not believe you shall refuse to grant me my wish, and in doing so you will avert a chaotic situation.
Neither the dismal weather nor the gloomy surroundings kept me from being in a good mood throughout your visit yesterday.
And probably it was not a bad thing for you either to be suddenly on your own for a couple of hours on your way to Frankfurt.
Here everything is uncanny, just right for my work.
Yours sincerely,
Thomas Bernhard

Letter No. 177
Frankfurt am Main
November 26, 1971

Dear Mr. Bernhard,

I was out of town for a few days,1 and now I am faced with the sales representatives, whom in several days of conferences I must fit out for the schedule for the first half of 1972!  Of course this schedule includes a play by the name of The Ignoramus and the Madman.

It’s too bad you didn’t broach this request back in Salzburg, but on the other hand you were obviously trying to brighten the atmosphere then.  I fully understand that and I also thank you for it.

I can write to you only briefly right now because I am literally surrounded by work; the contract has not yet been sent back to us from Salzburg.  We are nagging them importunately to send us this contract.  You must understand that until I receive this contract I cannot issue any advance.  And then there is another thing: DM 30,000 is a very large sum of money!  I must be able to apply this sum to the firm’s budget.  Could we not arrange things so that--always provided that the contract has arrived from Salzburg by then--I remit you DM 10,000 in December and another DM 10,000 in March and the last installment in May?  If Salzburg should send us all the money in advance, as we obviously are going to try hard to get them to do, you would receive that amount immediately.  I hope you are content with this.

with friendly regards,
Siegfried Unseld

  1. Unseld was in Munich on November 16, 1971 and in Berlin on November 17 to attend Peter Szondi’s funeral.

Letter No. 178
Dear Dr. Unseld,
The Zurich Boris was an overwhelming success for all involved; Agnes Fink is a great artist, the people at the theater were as one can only wish them to be, and so the atmosphere of Switzerland in its entirety was quite an exciting one for me throughout the three days.
The Schauspielhaus has not enjoyed such a success in a very long time, and The Ignoramus and the Madman is going to make its first appearance in Zurich at the beginning of next season; Buckwitz and I have agreed on this; the dramaturgical personnel are quite enthusiastic about the play.1
Upon my return I found that a letter from Wendt had arrived, a letter in which he writes that he is “fascinated” by my new work and that the Schiller Theater would like to put on the play at the beginning of next season (the first Lietzau-governed one), if I am amenable to that.  We shall say yes, I think.
I am quite satisfied with your financial proposal, but I urgently need the first ten thousand; I cannot comprehend why Salzburg has still not signed and posted the contract, unless it’s in the hands of the madmen; when the money has been transferred from the horrible “fair” city (a reprint couldn’t hurt either, I think), please immediately remit to me the entire sum that is due to me.
The play has received excellent reviews in Zurich; if you are in the mood and have the time, go to the theater in Zurich.
Yours sincerely,
Thomas Bernhard
|Please give my very sincere regards to Paul Nizon!|  
  1. The Swiss premiere of A Party for Boris took place on November 28, 1971 at the night studio of the Schauspielhaus Zürich.  Under the direction of Karl Fruchtmann Agnes Fink played the good woman, Anneliese Betschart Johanna, and Hermann Schlögl Boris.  Bernhard attended the performance.  At the Sunday matinee of the play Bernhard read the two novellas Two Tutors and Attaché at the French Embassy.  Positive reviews appeared in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung of December 1, 1971.  The Swiss premiere of The Ignoramus and the Madman took place on November 5, 1972, likewise at the Schauspielhaus Zürich.

Letter No. 179
urgently requesting ten thousand1
sincerely = bernhard

  1. On December 8, 1971, Burgel Zeeh Geisler wrote to Bernhard acknowledging the receipt of his letter and telegram and informing him that although Unseld was out of town, the desired sum was already on its way to Bernhard’s account in Freilassing, Germany.  In a memorandum for Unseld she noted that Rach had spoken with Salzburg and “guaranteed” that the contract would arrive in the next few days, and that Lina Roser had sent the DM 10,000 to Bernhard on December 8.  A handwritten comment on this memorandum notes that Bernhard picked up the money in person.


Translation unauthorized but Copyright ©2015 by Douglas Robertson

Source: Thomas Bernhard.  Siegfried Unseld.  Der Briefwechsel, Herausgegeben von Raimund Fellinger, Martin Huber und Julia Ketterer.  [Thomas Bernhard.  Siegfried Unseld.  The Correspondence, edited by ….] (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2011), pp. 209-256. 

Apart from interpolations postfixed by the translator's initials (DR), the notes are in substance entirely the work of the editors, but the translator has not scrupled to bring them into line with what he believes to be mainstream editorial practice in the Anglosphere, most signally by moving all instances of the historical present into the simple past.