Friday, April 10, 2015

A Translation of Thomas Bernhard's Correspondence with His Publisher, Siegfried Unseld. Part XI: 1973.

Letter No. 225


[Address: Ohlsdorf]

Frankfurt am Main
February1 19,  1973

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

My first letter of the New Year to you must be a heartfelt salutation!

I would like to express the hope that we will be able (after we have climbed through the financial mountain range) smoothly and successfully to implement the plans that we have taken in hand for this year.  In the last few days of the year and the first weeks of January, I was preoccupied with the problems occasioned by the death of Günter Eich.  I was also briefly in Großgmain, but I did not wish to notify you because my journey was too abrupt and you and I would not have been able to set a reasonable date for the meeting in advance.  And I also would much prefer not just to pay you a fly-by visit, but rather at some point to make a trip that is really dedicated to and centered on you.  We are going to hold a memorial ceremony for Eich here in Frankfurt.  The authors who are to join Ilse Aichinger in reading from Eich’s works have already been selected.  If the site of the readings had been “more southerly” we would have nagged you to participate, but Frankfurt seemed to us to be too far from you.2  Besides, I am hoping there is still a chance I can lure you to Frankfurt in connection with another event: our Brecht jubilee on February 10.3

But I can well imagine that you will want to see how the Vienna Boris is received first.  What are your impressions of the preparations?4

You were planning to meet Claus Peymann in Vienna to speak with him about The Hunting Party.  Please let us know if anything concrete emerged from the meeting.  I am very much looking forward to this play, which is destined to set the keynote of the 1973-1974 theater season.5

Yours
with warm regards,
Dr. Seigfried Unseld

(Typed from dictation by Renate Steinsiek during Dr. Unseld’s absence)

  1. “February” is an error. [Presumably it was made by the typist, Renate Steinsiek  (DR).] Bernhard underlined “February” with a wavy line and also commented, “January!” On the firm’s copy “February” was later corrected by hand to “January.”

  1. Günter Eich died on December 20, 1972 in a hospital in Salzburg.  Unseld met with Ilse Aichinger and her son Clemens Eich at Eich’s last residence, in Großgmain.  At the memorial function In Honor of Günter Eich that took place at the large broadcasting auditorium of Hessian Radio in Frankfurt  on  February 1, 1973--which would have been Eich’s 66th birthday--there were readings by, inter alia, Peter Bichsel, Heinrich Böll, Günter Grass, Peter Handke, Wolfgang Hildesheimer, Walter Höllerer, Peter Huchel, and Uwe Johnson.
  1. On February 10, 1972, the 75th anniversary of Bertolt Brecht’s birth, Suhrkamp Publications in cooperation with the Schauspiel Frankfurt hosted a Brecht evening attended by, inter alia, Lotte Lenya, Hanne Hiob, Anja Silja, Peter Roggisch, Milva, Ernst Schröber, and Gisela May.  Bernhard was not in attendance.     

  1. The Austrian premiere of A Party for Boris took place at the Academy Theater in Vienna; see n. 2 to Letter No. 182.

  1. In the lower-left corner of the letter is handwritten the number “060611,” composed of the then-current telephone area codes for West Germany (06) and Frankfurt am Main (0611).   


Letter No. 226

[Address: Ohlsdorf; telegram]

Frankfurt am Main
January 23, 1973

coming to vienna for premiere, if i can meet you in vienna on saturday or sunday, please phone1
sincerely siegfried unseld

  1. From a January 25, 1973 memo from Burgel Zeeh to Unseld, one learns that Bernhard got in touch with her by telephone:

“He had gotten my message from the post office asking him if the telegram had reached him.  He received the telegram; he also telephoned--unfortunately at 8:00 this morning when nobody was here in the office.

The premiere has been postponed to Friday, February 2.  He will be in Vienna and it would mean a lot to him if you could also come there.

He sent us the new play, The Hunting Party, by express mail yesterday.  In Vienna he spoke with Klingenberg and Bruno Ganz, whom he would like to play the principal role in the new play.

[...] We have [...] firmly agreed that we will be telephoning him at the post office on Tuesday, January 30; i.e., he would very much like to speak with you.

He was cheerful, in good spirits, inquired after our well-being, etc. [...]

On the 3rd he is flying to Brussels and will be staying there through the end of February.  He certainly had no plans to stop by Frankfurt either on the way there or on the way back; ‘We’ll see,’ he laughed.

He asked me to give you his sincerest regards.”
   

Letter No. 227

Ohlsdorf
1.25.73

Dear Doctor Unseld,

I very much hope you will have the manuscript of the The Hunting Party tomorrow.

I was away from Ohlsdorf for a couple of days; got your telegram on my return yesterday evening.  Meanwhile you will have learned that the Vienna premiere has been postponed to February 2.

I shall be in Vienna on that day and if there is any possible way of doing so inconspicuously, I shall attend the performance.

Before the performance, in the afternoon, it would be lovely and worthwhile to spend some time with you.1

Subsequently, for the remainder of February, I shall be in Brussels.

Sincerely
Thomas B.

Important!: Please have the manuscript copied and immediately send one copy apiece to Peymann in Berlin and Klingenberg in Vienna.  I have spoken to both of them.  And also to Bruno Ganz; my desire is for him to play the writer.  Everybody has given his word not to talk about the matter.

  1. The planned meeting did not take place.


Letter No. 228

[Address: Ohlsdorf; telegram-memorandum]

Frankfurt am Main
January 31, 1973

Fascinated by The Hunting Party.  Such thoughts could occur only to a Thomas Bernhard.

Yours sincerely--Siegfried Unseld


Letter No. 229

Brussels
2.14.73

Dear Dr. Unseld,

I must head back to Austria tomorrow; it’s too bad we didn’t see each other here.

Meanwhile it has become clear that the Hunting Party will be performed first at the Burg and then at the Schiller Theater.1

Here, in the ideal sort of house, I have managed to keep myself steadily preoccupied with Correction.2  At my own place I shall transcribe the final version of the manuscript, so that you will have it at the end of March as promised.

Probably in April I shall come back to Brussels for a longish time.  It is a hub and its mechanism fascinates me.  Upon my return to Ohlsdorf I must solve a financial problem of which you are aware.3  I am requesting that, with our so-called “contractual letter” in view, you should issue me an advance of DM 30,000 for the new play and of DM 20,000 for the manuscript of Correction, hence a total of fifty-thousand marks, a sum that is already secured by prospective revenues.  Issue it to my account at the Bavarian Mortgage and Checking Bank in Freilassing.  In the light of the urgency of the matter, please send word to Ohlsdorf as to whether I can count on receiving a payment in the next few days.

Perhaps sometime soon you’ll make good on your promise to come to Ohlsdorf so that we can chat over some Erlauer.4

Yours sincerely,
Thomas B.     

  1. On February 10, Bernhard wrote to Rudolf Rach, “Dear Rudolf Rach, a telegram from Wendt and Dorn came; in it they say they want to be the first to stage The Hunting Party in Germany.  Please give them our consent immediately.  These gentlemen are aware that the play must be staged at the Schiller Theater, hence at the largest of the Berlin houses.  But this stipulation and the phrase ‘after the premiere in Vienna’ unconditionally must be included in the contract.  A guaranteed honorarium of at least ten thousand must also be included.  This construction, Burgtheater/Schiller Theater, makes me happy.  From Ganz (he has since read the play and can perform it) I have heard that he may be available as early as December. [...]  During our breakfast together Ganz suggested we should get Paula Wessely to play the general’s wife.  The most important thing for me is for us to put on two good performances, meaning one in Vienna and one in Berlin, the best possible performances, naturally the most important ones.  [...]  I have no interest in any additional performance!!”  The letter bears a handwritten remark: “Copy to Unseld.”  The premiere of The Hunting Party took place on May 4, 1974 at the Burgtheater in Vienna; Claus Peymann was the director, the writer was played by Joachim Bißmeier, the general’s wife by Judith Holzmeister, and the general by Werner Hinz.  The German premiere followed on May 15, 1974 at the Schiller Theater in Berlin; the director was Dieter Dorn, the writer was played by Rolf Boysen, the general’s wife by Marianne Hoppe, and the general by Bernhard Minetti.  

  1. Bernhard was once again a guest of the Uexküll family in the Rue de la Croix.

  1. See n. 1 to Letter No. 220.

  1. “Erlauer Bull’s Blood” is a Hungarian red wine.


Letter No. 230

[Telegram]

Brussels
2.14.73

will be back in ohlsdorf starting tomorrow
sincerely
bernhard


Letter No. 231  

[Address: Ohlsdorf]

Frankfurt am Main
February 23, 1973

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

I am very happy about the possibilities on offer at the theaters.  Dr. Rach will submit to you a proposal that I regard as optimal.  It will be significantly beneficial to your interests if we seal the deal with the Burgtheater immediately.  At bottom our goal should be:

1. Premiere at the Burg with an optimal cast.

2.  Second performance in Berlin; third performance preferably in Hamburg with Peymann and Ganz.

If you are satisfied with this sequence, you will achieve more in an artistic, critical, and material sense with The Hunting Party than with your earlier plays.

It has been a long time since the manuscript of Remembering last cropped up in our correspondence.  On my end the publication date is firmly set at October 1973.  That would mean we would have to have the manuscript by June 1.  Is that possible?

You write of a visit to Brussels in April.  Couldn’t you make it there as early as March 24 or 25?  I could conveniently visit you then, and Brussels would be a good conversational platform for our Bernhard compilation volume, which we will of course plan together and try to have ready by 1974.  But in the event that the late March date is not possible, a meeting in the second half of April also could be arranged.

Yours
with sincere regards,
Siegfried Unseld

Letter No. 232

Frankfurt am Main
February 23, 1973

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

Rudolf Rach will see you in Munich and will also be able to speak with you about this letter.  I have our “contractual letter” before my very eyes.  You saw in it a “good foundation for the path ahead,” and I am of the opinion that we should stick to it.

This contract stipulates that in the event of the negotiation of a special honorarium we should “immediately pay” you your share (i.e., 75%) “in accordance with the provision.” I promise you that we will remit you the sum of DM 22,500 as soon as the contract with the Burg has been signed.

With Berlin we are carving out a deal that will generate DM 10,000.00.  That would mean another DM 7,500.00; I am prepared to pay you these DM 7,500.00 as soon as the contract with Berlin is letter-perfect.  Please bear in mind that this payment will very much be an out-of-pocket cost for us.  We will not receive the money from the theaters until much later.  Any earlier remittance on the part of the theaters is infeasible, but as I said, we will bear the cost out of pocket, and you will receive these sums as soon as the contracts are letter-perfect.

Regarding the DM 20,000.00 for Correction, we agreed that you would receive this sum upon our receipt of the manuscript.  We intend to stick to that arrangement.  I assure you that you will receive the DM 20,000.00 five days after our receipt of the manuscript.  

Moreover, this letter will give you sufficient security and collateral in the eyes of any bank.  I am firmly convinced that any bank would lend you DM 50,000.00 on the basis of this letter.

With friendly regards,
Siegfried Unseld


Letter No. 233

Frankfurt am Main
February 27, 1973

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

I must now settle the schedule for the Bibliothek Suhrkamp from October ’73 through March ’74.  I have kept open a free space in October for Remembering.  We of course know that it should be called Remembering 1, but I think it would be appropriate to keep this to ourselves for now.  The repetition is something we prefer to make public only with the appearance of the second volume.  I ought to have a couple of lines about this text so that I can make up the announcement for it.  Would it be possible for you to give me these lines?  These can of course be paraphrases; you aren’t really committed to anything here.

The Hunting Party is being designated as Volume 376 for February 1974.  But now that this book has a volume number, we can move it forward in the schedule at any time and bring it out on the date of the premiere; of course I would not require any further documentation to do this.  You know that on the back cover of a Bibliothek Suhrkamp volume we always put a quote from the book.  In the event that you have a proposal or a preference here, please let me know of it.

Yours
with warm regards,
[Siegfried Unseld]      


Letter No. 234

Frankfurt am Main
March 16, 1973

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

On the telephone today Rudolf Rach told you that we are going to remit you the sum of DM 42,500.00 now, i.e. today.  The signature at the foot of this letter will also count as a signature to the remittance order.  The sum of DM 42,500.00 is composed of your share of the sum due to us for the Vienna premiere, which comes to DM 30,000.00 (of which your share is DM 22,000.00), and the agreed-upon advance for the novel Correction.  You know that by making these remittances we are incurring advance costs.  The Burg will be remitting us a third of the sum due to us in advance, the second third at the start of the rehearsals, and the third third on the day of the performance.  According to the strict terms of our agreement, the DM 20,000.00 for Correction is not to be remitted until the day you deliver the manuscript, but I have your word that this delivery will not be delayed and that we will receive the manuscript on schedule by the end of this month.  These remittances, my dear Thomas Bernhard, will serve to put your mind at ease and to provide you with a secure existential foundation on which you will be able to work with that heightened intensity that is peculiar to you.

Through our running monthly remittances and through these two remittances we are once again endorsing the terms of our contracts and those specifically defined modifications that we made for the sake of The Hunting Party and Correction in my letter of December 5, 1972.  In your letter of December 12 you assented to these terms and declined to strike through a single one of them.

Let me reaffirm my promise that The Hunting Party will be published in the Bibliothek Suhrkamp.  We have firmly designated it Volume 376.  The publication date can be changed to match the date of the premiere.

I would be very grateful to you if you gave some attention to both of my letters in your possession and wrote back to me.

I hope that we have now clarified these objective matters satisfactorily and that it will now be possible for us to have a hassle-free, open, productive conversation oriented towards the future.

Yours
with warm regards,
[Siegfried Unseld]  


Letter No. 235

Ohlsdorf
3.21.73

Dear Dr. Unseld,

You yourself are a lover of brevity, a loather of long explanations, and so I shan’t say anything about why I waited a fairly long time to answer your letter; the fact of the delay as such is always the only explanation for everything.

The important points:

  1. The Hunting Party will first be performed in Vienna; its first performance in Germany will be at the Schiller Theater.  After that I can only think of Hamburg, where the directorship is addlebrained, and of Munich, where it is guaranteed to be feebleminded.  Regarding any inclination to stage the play on the part of other theaters of lesser stature, which simply means actors of lesser stature, please talk to me first.  You yourself know that there is no point in having one’s children boarded in any old house, where they will pick up all sorts of bad habits.  

Regarding the financial side of the theater business, I have neither the relish nor the stupidity required for dealing with it, for “leaving on a Hamburg playhouse an imprint that will last for years (Boris)” for twelve-hundred marks, or “putting paid to years of theatrical misery” (Süddeutsche Zeitung, regarding Munich) for 500 marks.  I shall spare myself the slap in the face that is a Swiss premiere for 600 marks or a performance at the Styrian Fall Festival for 550.1  I am not the money-grubber in this situation.  The real criminals are unquestionably the (governmentally affiliated) theaters.  The level of blame ascribable to the publishers, the extent of their share in this crime, you may best ascertain yourself.

2. I have finished the novel, but at the beginning of April I am travelling to Yugoslavia for three or four weeks in continuation of what you know is a twenty-year-old tradition, and I am taking the manuscript with me.  So at the window facing a white wall with the sea at my back, I shall then still have leisure to strike through a couple of commas or to amputate an unsightly sixth finger from a philosophical proposition.  One must absolutely never sell one’s mind short.  

3. I shall also have Remembering with me then, and at the moment I am busy trying to think up a couple of sentences about them for your prospectus.  (I am thinking outwards towards all points of the compass from a point that is also the point of convergence.)  It is worth mentioning that I am quite smitten with the idea of your having Remembering published in your Bibliothek, and the same goes for the Hunting Party.  Full stop and end of point.

4. This is a much sorer point: so many books that I open prove to me how many writers have read my prose works.  I am constantly coming across my godawful grandchildren and their kinspeople, the grandchildren of my characters.  The net effect is ultimately rather horrifying.  At the moment things haven’t come to such a pass that my characters (or at any rate other characters togged out in my rags or regal crockery) lunge out at me whenever a curtain goes up.  In any case I obviously don’t ever go to the theater, so no need to worry!  I plow the furrows; other people harvest the potatoes!  But please don’t think that in these remarks on inimicality I am remarking nothing.  Full stop and end of point.
5. This is a side-point.  Beckermann sent me a copy of The Lime Works for me to proofread in preparation for the paperback edition.  This is something I simply have no time for or interest in doing, because I have no time.  I cannot undertake such a redoubtable task.  It must be carried out by an “impartial party,” somebody who is fastidious, punctilious.  (Please!)  Please give my sincerest regards to Beckermann!  Full stop and end of point.
6. This would be a ton of things to be delighted about.  But I shan’t write about them.
7. I am glad that now Correction won’t be coming out in the spring, because of course a bunch of new novels will be coming out then.  That really would be the most pointless thing imaginable.  To this point I am “pinning” the question of whether Correction will be [issued] in the following fall or in the spring of ’74.  The manuscript can weather any postponement, even a ten-year one.
8. Remember how ironic it is that we get along so well together and I get along so well on my own.
9.  I am asking you when we will next see each other, as in April I shall of course be on the Adriatic coast instead of in Brussels.  I have transformed my “longing” into its antithesis.  Point No.
10.  concerns my beloved austerity and solitude.
Yours sincerely,
Thomas B.

  1. A Party for Boris received its Austrian premiere at the Graz Playhouse on October 15, 1971, as part of the Styrian Fall Festival.  Axel Corti was the director; the cast included Heidemarie Theobold as the good woman, Elmar Schulte as Boris, and Maria Christina Müller as Johanna.

      
Letter No. 236

[Address: Ohlsdorf]


Dear Thomas Bernhard,

Frankfurt am Main
April 3, 1973

I am very glad that I have once again received  from you a detailed letter, one that now also addresses my questions.  So with this in mind, I thank you warmly for your letter of March 21.

Once again we are in very substantial agreement on a few points.  On the other hand we are clearly in very stark disagreement on one of the other points.  You conceive of the effect of your plays solely in terms of the size of the royalties they yield you.  That is simply wrong.  I have written to you once before that the most important thing for me is to introduce your works to individual readers and spectators.  A man or a woman who is touched by a word written by you and performed on a small stage and has his or her existence transformed by your utterance means more in the history of your work’s influence than any honorarium, which can never amount even to a few thousand marks.   But we have of course arrived at a clear agreement about this.  Vis-à-vis premieres we have of course already taken into account your remonstrations, and in connection with additional performances we must proceed as we see fit.  Moreover on one point I am in complete agreement with you: it is rather scandalous that such performances yield such wretched royalties, but the situation at the theaters is getting more and more difficult, at least in the Federal Republic; even the larger stages like the one here in Frankfurt are facing a serious reduction of their state subsidy, if not an outright abolition of it.  The only thing one can do here is to fight things out case by case; each time one must try anew to obtain the best possible dramatic realization and the largest possible honorarium.  It naturally saddens me that over the telephone the other day  you asserted to Dr. Rach that you had no intention of abiding by the agreement we made regarding the submission of Correction.  I also don’t think it says much for the equitability of our relationship that you insisted on receiving in advance the DM 20,000 sum associated with the submission of the manuscript only to assert, as you after all did the other day, that you did not plan to meet the deadline for the submission. To me this bespeaks a difficult disposition.  You will have learned from my past letters and also from my requests for an announcement-text for Remembering that we must wrap up the editorial work on our schedule. I had assumed I would have the manuscript at the end of March and then be able to write the announcement-text myself.  Now this is altogether impossible, and what is more you are hinting that you wish to postpone the submission deadline to an even later date.  I very much regret this; the commercial possibilities are much richer in the fall.  On the other hand, in the spring the critics will have more numerous and intensive opportunities to delve into the text.

I will talk with Mr. Beckermann and then The Lime Works will be perused one more time by one of our proofreaders.

I had counted on our seeing and speaking to each other in April.  That is not now going to be possible.  In May I shall again be on the road a great deal, but shouldn’t we settle on meeting in June at your lake?  In June of course the tide of vacationers hasn’t yet reached its height, and yet it is already late enough in the year for swimming.  Or would you prefer to travel to some urban setting?

Yours
with warm regards,
and above all best wishes for the Adriatic.
[Siegfried Unseld]    

    

Letter No. 237
Ohlsdorf

April 12, ’73
Dear Dr. Unseld,
On Monday at the Munich Kammerspiele I was obliged to witness the currish butchering of one of my plays, to witness the downright brutal, imbecilic murder of the work that is entitled The Ignoramus and the Madman and that figures among the most demanding plays ever written for the stage; and the firm has completely thoughtlessly allowed this very play to be produced and performed by a theatrical company that will never have the qualifications to put on an even barely acceptable performance of any of my plays, to a team of dramaturges made up of idiots, of actual provincial village idiots and an ensemble of actors who may be fit to ham up a Lehár operetta in Sankt Pölten or in Kurstadt Baden near Vienna, but who on no account should ever have been let loose on one of my plays.1  The firm “entrusted” my play to a director who has never directed a proper dramatic production in his life, even though some of the very best directors, that handful of first-class ones, have already had a very hard row to hoe in my plays and will probably think twice before tackling my work again.  The curtain went up and I instantly knew what kind of catastrophe would ensue.  This must have been, could possibly have been, how Beethoven felt when he unexpectedly found himself blundering into the premiere of his ninth or seventh symphony at the Vienna Musikverein, when the performing orchestra was an understaffed police band.  At no point whatsoever did the performance at Munich attain a professional level, and had it not been directed against that bamboozled, canine rabble of an audience I would have gone on to the stage and murdered those verminous lemurs, those megalomaniacal actors, not without first dealing a fatal slap in the face to that so-called director.  This German theater, my dear Dr. Unseld, talks as big as a colossus, and yet it hasn’t even got the brain of a gnat.  For me this performance, after which I traveled back home feeling as if I had suffered a mind-deadening stroke, had but one decisive benefit: as justifiably as is imaginable, I am insisting on an immediate cessation of the firm’s present method of dealing with my works for the theater.  And this logically entails the following: effective immediately the firm is no longer permitted to confer performance rights for any play of mine to any stage anywhere.  From this exact moment onwards there are to be no [further] negotiations whatsoever with any theater or theater people regarding my plays.  Until--if this is even still at all possible--we have established a new footing that I find tolerable, my corpus of works for the theater at Suhrkamp Publications will sit in storage.   And I would like this demand on my part to be heeded verbatim; I am making it in complete seriousness and I am peremptorily repudiating any interpretation of this demand in any other sense but the verbatim one.  My reason for making it is that I must assume on financial grounds alone that the firm has been utterly unscrupulously surrendering my work to the cannibalistic mercies of all interested theatrical concerns.  This Munich performance is a case in point.  Here the firm has relinquished my play to a beginner-cum-utter dilettante, to a wretched excuse for a theater, and to a provincial production team that is incapable of comprehending a single one of my sentences.  The firm has not troubled itself the slightest bit about my play and is entirely responsible for this catastrophe.  For me this Munich performance is a signal to put an end to this chapter that you are allowing to be written by Dr. Rach, a man who is not even slightly sympathetic to my work, who indeed cannot be sympathetic to it because he does not understand it and has no wish to understand it.  And I am not going to relinquish my works for another instant to a man like that, a man who is indifferent to my work and who has his wits about him but happens not to have the slightest intellectual or artistic affinity with my way of writing for the theater.  I could cite you literally hundreds of examples of the uninterestedness and incompetence of Dr. Rach, if to do so wouldn’t be to stretch the point and ultimately to stretch it to no purpose.  But to be brief, my work is too important a part of my entire life for me to send it, upon its completion, to some factory in which it is mimeographed and scattered to all four winds.  There will be no more of that.  This is not the first unsavory catastrophe involving my plays; I have only to think back to Zurich, to Krefeld, to the Boris in Munich.2  And this brings me to a remark, one that basically constitutes a slur as far as I am concerned, from your last letter, in which you write that vis-à-vis my plays I have been thinking of nothing but the thousands of marks and not at all about whether a person could be “affected by a word written by me.”  This is an error that can have been occasioned only by your having either not read the relevant passage in my letter carefully enough or deliberately misread it.  I wrote that theaters of lesser stature meant actors of lesser stature, and I conceive of the theater as a morass of hopeless dilettantism; this is why I bridle against allowing my plays to be performed just anywhere.  First of all I must say that I really could not care less about and am in fact disgusted at the thought of Mr. Maier or Mrs. Huber the housewife in Flensburg or in Ingolstadt or in Düsseldorf or Munich (piffling provincial towns, Dr. Unseld) being affected by one of my words, because that would of course mean that not merely nothing but even absolutely nothing about my work had been properly understood.  The intent of my works is not to affect some random person; rather, their intent is to be appreciated beyond all common measure as works of art.  And this is only possible on a first-class stage with absolutely first-class people.  To dispute this would be like trying to make butter out of potatoes.  But unfortunately the Germans have become all too avid specialists in this potatoes-into-butter business.  This is something that has to be said.
But back to the central point of the letter: Dr. Rach is not my man and the firm, as it represents itself with respect to me, is not my publisher.  But in order to be able to say this as distinctly as possible, we would have to discuss all this tête-à-tête and obviously without any smoke and mirrors.  The way things look now, my relationship with the firm is a total wreck.  This is a wreck that you have personally brought about with your constant mistrust of me, which is downright lunacy in view of the glaringly evident facts (I am talking about the financial ones), and with your resulting…what?: pettiness, of which you also have your share.  Acknowledge the truth of these words for me, for otherwise we will never get together again.  Of this pettiness I shall give only one example: even though you were certain of receiving your money from Vienna (and even though I [compute] that there will be thirty additional performances of The Hunting Party at the Schiller Theater in Berlin alone)3 you left me begging in the most literal sense at the doorstep of your house in Frankfurt for four months, even though I made no secret to you of the direness of my exposure to various coercive pressures here.4  And then when I finally was remitted this sum amid much wailing and gnashing of teeth (at bottom it is after all my money, my dear Dr. Unseld), you mixed it together yet again with the publication rights to Correction, even though my outstanding debts to you are to be covered exclusively by the dramatic works.  You are constantly setting mantraps in the undergrowth, traps that you assume I am simply blindly walking into.  But that is not the case.  My mind is sound and my sense-perceptions are the natural ones to have.  Since you cannot under any circumstances partake of any financial injury sustained by me, I must once again make a summary of my demands: absolutely no negotiations with any theater whatsoever regarding any part of my corpus of works for the theater.  The only theaters to be exempted from this policy are the Burgtheater in Vienna, with which a contract already exists and with which I deal best myself, and the Schiller Theater in Berlin, with which an agreement has already been concluded and where relations are of exactly the same character as in Vienna, because I myself am also the person best suited to negotiate with the Schiller Theater.  All the rest are now off-limits.  And I must ask you to comply strictly with the letter of my demands.  As regards my prose works: in ’73 I am not going to publish anything, not even Remembering.
My dear Dr. Unseld, if I am to pursue my work continuously and consistently I cannot have anything weighing on my shoulders and as long as I cannot be sure that what is happening with my works is what I want to happen and everything is perpetually being handled in a way that contravenes my intentions, I shall have to keep our publisher-author relationship on ice.  The work that the firm has been doing for quite some time now, and, so it seems to me, ever since Dr. Rach got involved in it, is in opposition to me and detrimental to me.  But I refuse to allow this to continue, because it depresses me and engenders in my mind a feeling of unease in which I refuse to indulge myself.

All this, if we provisionally keep everything on ice as specified, is unaffected by finances.  Because financially speaking you are completely covered.

I could write a great deal more, though it would of course swell to the dimensions of a comprehensive accusation.  But I shall deny myself that pleasure.  And it is pointless.  It would be fine by me if we could get together for a conversation at the end of June.  At a neutral spot not far from here.  Perhaps we still enjoy the possibility of starting anew.  The old way is dead and I refuse to have anything further to do with it.

Naturally this letter has not come easily to me, but it had to be written.  It designates an endpoint.  The starting point is for you to come up with.

Yours sincerely,
Thomas Bernhard

P. S. “We will abide by my letter of December 5 and by your reply of 12.15.  I am of the opinion that if we do this there will be no further misunderstandings, and if there are any we will argue them out like grown men.”  Siegfried Unseld on 12.21.72.5

  1. Bernhard attended the first performance of The Ignoramus and the Madman at the Werkraum Theater of the Munich Kammerspiele.  The director was Jens Pesel; the doctor was played by Wolfgang Gasser (who would take on the role of Professor Josef Schuster in the premiere of Heldenplatz in 1988; see n. 2 to Letter No. 522), the father by Wolfgang Büttner, the soprano by Krista Keller, Mrs. Vargo by Maria Singer, and the waiter by Jörg Schleicher.  Already on April 4, Bernhard was writing in a postscript to a letter to Rudolf Rach, “I hear that at the Munich Kammerspiele we are in for a belated April Fool’s joke in the form of total chaos.  You will soon agree with me that caution is almost everything.”  A striking contrast to Bernhard’s letter to Unseld is afforded by an April 13, 1973 communication to Rach from the chief dramaturg of the Bavarian State Theater, Peter Mertz, in which Merz reports that at the Munich performance of the Ignoramus Bernhard “gave his unreserved approval” to the theater’s plans to stage The Hunting Party the following season.  

  1. On the performance of A Party for Boris at the Schauspielhaus Zürich see Letter No. 178; the play had its first performance in Munich at the Couvillié Theater on February 18, 1973.  Jürgen Flimm was the director of this performance, which featured Lola Müthel as the good woman, Dieter Kirchlechner as Boris, and Gertrud Kückelmann as Johanna.

  1. The editors note that a verb, possibly rechnen (meaning compute)  is missing from this parenthesis. (DR)

  1. See n. 1 to Letter No. 220.

  1. See Letter No. 224.


Letter No. 238

[Address: (Ohlsdorf); telegram-memorandum]

Frankfurt am Main
April 17, 1973

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

Can I speak with you on April 28 or 29 at a place near Salzburg that you are partial to?

Sincerely S. U.


Letter No. 239

[Telegram]

Gmunden
4.20.73

is saturday the 28th twelve noon cafe tomaselli salzburg possible for you
bernhard


Letter No. 240

[Address: Ohlsdorf; telegram]

Frankfurt am Main
April 25, 1973

dear thomas bernhard flight arrival 11:50 in salzburg stop meeting tomaselli 12:30 possibly will propose meeting at airport due to uncertainty of arrival time  

regards unseld


Letter No. 241

[Address: Ohlsdorf; telegram-memorandum]

Frankfurt am Main
April 25 1973

Due to cancellation of the morning flight am proposing new date: Sunday, 4.29
12 noon Tomaselli.

Regards Siegfried Unseld


Letter No. 242

[Telegram]

Ohlsdorf
4.27.73

sunday tomaselli
bernhard


Letter No. 243

[Address: Ohlsdorf; telegram-memorandum]

Frankfurt am Main
May 2, 1973

Of course your trip home took you through a storm; mine took me through clear skies stop Berlin date for Hunting Party still not firmly set no later than 5.31.  Telegram to Ganz was sent stop letter and cash transfer on their way.

Yours sincerely
Siegfried Unseld  


Letter No. 244

Frankfurt am Main
May 2, 1973

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

At the prompting of your letter of April 12 we had a conversation on April 29 in Salzburg, a conversation the objective, concrete points of which I would very much like to put in writing for our guidance and the assistance of our memories.1  I believe that this conversation resulted in the establishment of some standards, standards for a pleasant, amicable, and above all productive future partnership.  I don’t care to dwell on any further on any of the individual points in your “accusation.”  We have spoken about them.  Your fictional reflections on Beethoven’s shock on hearing a premiere of his ninth symphony by a police orchestra will never again be repeated.  On the other points I should communicate to you the firm’s point of view as well as my own personal judgment.   The fact that we have found a new consensus on the work to be done by the firm on behalf of your plays will have significant implications both in the present and in the future.  I could confide to you my “conversion,” in other words my newfound deep-seated willingness to second your notion of allowing only a few, and therefore first-rate, performances of your plays.  We will put this notion into practice in our treatment of The Hunting Party.  At the end of the line in my notepad that reads, “Thomas Bernhard is prepared to accept any consequence” there are three exclamation points added by you, along with the initials Th. B.

In concrete terms this will mean: the performances of The Hunting Party in Vienna and in Berlin have already been firmly guaranteed.  All additional negotiations will be conducted by you.  In Munich negotiations are at a standstill; you will be the one who resumes them.  Regarding Basel, we will acquaint you with the protocols and ask Mr. Nils Peter Rudolf to get in touch with you.  So perhaps when you get a letter from Basel you should open it and not toss it straight into the wastebasket.  It is said that it is up to Bruno Ganz whether there will be a fifth performance.  I have sent him a telegram. I expect to communicate with him at some point this week.2  I will keep you in the loop.  Once again my urgent request: I would not dedicate this play to Bruno Granz; such a dedication would be a kind of imposition on every other actor; as you know actors are of course terribly sensitive souls, indeed, the most sensitive souls of all.  You can of course dedicate a copy to Bruno Ganz by hand, and even tell him afterwards that you wrote the play for him or to him.  That will render him an adequate tribute and at the same time won’t cause the play any problems.    

DM 20,000.00.00 have been remitted.  We offset DM 15,000 with royalties from The Hunting Party, and DM 5,000.00 with the honoraria for Correction.

Regarding publications, we have agreed on the following deadlines for the delivery of manuscripts and release of books:
Correction: Manuscript no later than 10.31.’73.  Release date April 3 (the 2nd is a Sunday), 1974.
Remembering: Manuscript no later than 3.15.1974.  Release date September of ’74.
Hunting Party.  Release date to coincide with first performance, presumably in February of ’74.
Thomas Bernhard Reader.  Release date September 1974.  We will compile the manuscript collaboratively at the beginning of ’74.

We are going to set up a different system of organization within the firm; you will receive all mailings from one place; perhaps you will be getting less than before, but hopefully it will be more concentrated as well.

I will be giving you news about the Star journey in the course of the next week.

In a further essential, indeed the most essential point, I am affirming in writing the thing we discussed.  As of this moment Mr. K. is essentially sworn to the deepest silence.3

Such is what was said to the best of my conscientious recollection; to describe what was contained in the intertices of our words exceeds my verbal resources, but perhaps you will put it in writing.

Yours
very sincerely
and expectantly,
[Siegfried Unseld]

|P.S. Your new play-plan--by which I am fascinated--is known of only by you, K., and me.  I am certain you will pull it off!

In October you will deliver the manuscript to K.  Bibliothek Suhrkamp on the performance date in July 1975.  You will negotiate; we will conclude the contract with K. (if possible DM 10,000.00 extra!)

I am continuing to develop my idea of a Suhrkamp touring theater with your play as its centerpiece.  The important thing is that we have a clear, manageable perspective on the future.

The future is the important thing.

Yours
sincerely,
Siegfried Unseld|
  1. Unseld recorded his impressions of the April 29 meeting in Salzburg in his Salzburg Travel Journal, Sunday, April 29, 1973:
“The basis and motive of this encounter in Salzburg was Thomas Bernhard’s April 12 letter to me.  As a result of having witnessed the “currish butchering of one of my plays” at the Munich Kammerspiel, Bernhard wished to break off his connection to the firm with an ‘endpoint.’  This several hour-long conversation clarified our positions.  I was obliged to accept some of the points of his ‘accusation’; I rejected just as many of them decisively and, as it happened, quite sternly as well.  I believe that this conversation can serve as the starting point for an altered continuation of our relationship, although I am well aware that Bernhard’s sensitivity, touchiness, and neurotic anxiety have reached a peak that will not be easy to deal with over the long haul.  Shortly before our meeting, I read Joachim Kaiser’s article in the weekend edition of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, in which he asserts that Bernhard has ‘discovered for literature’ the conception of mental illness as a symbol of modern consciousness [Joachim Kaiser: Der Einzelne--und das »Haus mit Telephonen«.  Zwischen billigem Heroenkult und wohlfeilen Gerede von der Personalisierung (“The Individual--and the ‘House with Telephones.’  Between Cut-Rate Hero-Worship and Clichéd Chit-Chat about Personalization”) in Süddeutsche Zeitung, April 28/29, 1973]. I for my part discovered, and not without a certain amount of admiration, that Bernhard is managing to neutralize his neurotic anxiety through writing and through material commitment to his work; the price for this is high; and we, too, must pay a share of it--and pay in the literal sense of the word.  

I shall record the outcomes of the meeting under topical headings:

  1. Work having to do with his plays.  Here a radical change was instituted. In conformity with Bernhard’s wishes, there will be only first-rate performances of The Hunting Party.  We will also make this public after the state of ongoing negotiations has been made clear.  The performances in Vienna and Berlin are certainties.  Bernhard will be continuing the negotiations with both theaters.  Bernhard knows nothing of any negotiations with Basel.  I would propose Mr. Nils Peter Rudolf’s getting in touch with Bernhard immediately.  After Basel, Bernhard would like to negotiate on his own behalf with the Residenz Theater; under certain conditions he will still assent to a performance there.  So then we will have four performances in all; there may still be a single  fifth performance in which Bruno Ganz will play the principal role.  Bernhard asked me to mediate in the Ganz-Peymann-Bernhard quarrel.  Ganz must decide within a certain timeframe whether he wishes to perform the role; if he decides he does, Bernhard will agree to any terms for the sake of this performance.  Then the performance with Ganz would also have to be selected as the one to be videotaped; here, too, Bernhard would agree to any negotiated terms.  After clarifying matters with Ganz we would have to prepare a press notice whose wording would have to be fine-tuned in collaboration with Bernhard.
Bernhard was extremely annoyed at the fact that the theatrical publications division sent to the theaters a version of The Hunting Party into which numerous corruptions had been introduced during duplication; among other things, an entire line was missing: “The firm sent off my play in a mutilated state!”  Bernhard looked through the play once again and gave me a corrected copy to take with me.  I have inspected this text; Bernhard may have been upset by the fact that the last page had been photocopied in such a way that the last lines ended up being not very easy to read.  Bernhard is certain that he will make no further changes to this version.  I therefore would propose our immediately typesetting the text for the Bibliothek Suhrkamp and then making a couple of provisional printed copies available to the two theaters.  Dr. Rach would like to get in touch with Mr Staudt in connection with this.  Typography should match that of The Ignoramus and the Madman.

It is evident to me that the stance that the Suhrkamp theatrical publications Division is about to take with regard to this play will cause a huge sensation; but we must act in conformity with the author’s wishes; at my request Dr. Sieger has researched the specific question of whether we will be in any danger of incurring any new legal obligations to the theaters, and he has concluded that we will not.  Thomas Bernhard is prepared to accept any consequence of his behavior.

2. On account of his present situation he is asking for yet another DM 20,000.00.  This sum is on its way to him.  DM 15,000.00 to be debited from The Hunting Party; DM 5,000.00 to be debited from the novel Correction.  The remittance is to be immediately posted to his account in Freilassing.

3. Publications: Hunting Party in the Bibliothek Suhrkamp.  Prospective publication date on the date of the first performance, probably in February of ’74.

Correction--Prospective publication date April 3, 1974.  We will receive the manuscript on October 31.

Remembering--prospective publication in the Bibliothek Suhrkamp September 1974; we will receive the manuscript on March 15, 1974.  A Thomas Bernhard Reader, edited by me, is slated to appear in September of ’74.  I will have a lengthy closed meeting with Bernhard about this.

4. Bernhard is always getting riled up about the firm sending him things that shouldn’t go to him.  So now the theatrical publications division has sent him the reviews of Sylvanus’s book.  I am of the opinion that we can resolve this problem only if we stop sending Bernhard things from the individual divisions of the firm, from not only the press office but also from the advertising, sales, and theatrical publications divisions.  All mailings intended for  Bernhard are to be handed to Ms. Zeeh; Ms. Zeeh will examine their contents; this goes even for the complimentary copies he receives.  We cannot send him any packages.  Packages as well as small parcels have recently become subject to customs duties in Austria; he refuses to pay these duties.  So when we send him books we should send them only singly as printed matter, which is still possible; Ms. Zeeh should also take this in hand.  Conversation on the subject of our forthcoming revision of The Lime Works for the paperback edition of the book was difficult.  I had asked Mr. Beckermann to peruse the revision Mr. Ballert had undertaken in punctilious conformity with the rules of orthodox orthography and to draw my attention only to passages in which something was genuinely unclear.   Fortunately I read the pages one more time before the encounter with Bernhard and managed to clarify half the passages on my own.  I don’t understand why this couldn’t have been taken care of earlier, but the other passages were also perused by Bernhard only reluctantly and under gentle coercion from me.  There was one single passage that we could not clarify.  He intended to do so by letter.

In summary: Thomas Bernhard is quite happy to maintain his relationship with the firm.  But he would prefer to stop having with the firm an experience like the one Beethoven could have had if he had been forced to hear a performance of his ninth symphony by a police orchestra.  Bernhard values the firm, its employees, its leader.  He acknowledges that there are other authors besides him; indeed, he sees that the firm needs a broad basis of diversification if it is to survive.  But he also expects us to acknowledge his work, its peculiar conditions.  I believe our effort signifies such an acknowledgment.”

2. According to a telegram-memorandum, on May 2, 1973, Unseld sent a telegram to Bruno Ganz at the Schaubühne am Halleschen Ufer: “After my visit to Thomas Bernhard I would like to speak with you stop Could this happen on Friday, May 4 at 5 p.m. in Berlin; if so, choose the place stop If not, would you be so kind as to phone me Monday May 7 during the day at the firm 74 02 31 or in the evening at home 55 28 67 stop  Warm regards Siegfried Unseld.”  

3. The “most important point” and the “Star” journey were addressed by Unseld in the Salzburg Travel Journal, Sunday, April 29, 1973 that he prepared for his Chronicle.
“Comedy in the minor mode--tragedy in the major--thus could one describe the conversation I had with Thomas Bernhard in Salzburg.  He wanted to know how and when I was going to come here.  I managed to avoid having to say that I had been in Ilse Aichinger’s company during the afternoon and evening of the preceding day.  That would have offended him because he had figured out that in the morning I had flown from Frankfurt to Munich and from Munich to Salzburg. [...] From 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. during a meal consisting of a number of small courses, we dealt with our problem.  We discussed his ‘accusation,’ what he saw as our gross acts of negligence, for example the ‘butchering’ of his play in Munich.   I explained to him that no publishing firm can prevent anything of that kind; that he had of course been referred expressly to the director and actors by Rach; he would not have contradicted him.  But he said that that was none of his affair; the firm had been obligated to prevent the catastrophe.  The whole time his firm motto was “prevent” and “forbid.”  I for my part succeeded in preventing what I most dreaded and he very much hoped to obtain, namely the discontinuation of his collaboration with Dr. Rach. We intend to wrap another layer of cotton wool around this collaboration; he was also not displeased that I had not shown Rach the letter in all its naked truth.  Next we talked about the dramatic works, money, and publications.  It was good that I explained to him that I had undergone a change of thought that redounded to his benefit, inasmuch as I have come to see that we should license his plays for only a few first-rate performances.  On the subject of money I caused him no small amount of embarrassment because I kept pointing out to him that we had a clear agreement that he had not abided by.  I told him he always spoke the absolute truth, but when he heard my truth he didn’t want to hear it.  At one point he turned red with anger when I told him that in money matters I valued concrete arrangements and strict adherence to them and that I was not going to deviate from them.  I formally compelled him to accept that in this matter he had done me wrong.  So then the wrongs balanced each other out, and after I became privy to his secret, I fulfilled his wish for another DM 20,000.00  The question of publications was resolved relatively quickly.  Consensus prevailed.  I frankly denied his request to have Suhrkamp Publications release only Correction and no other novels next year.

His big secret: during preparations for the trial involving the Salzburg Festival and Peymann and his actors [i.e., the trial occasioned by Claus Peymann’s refusal to allow The Ignoramus and the Madman to be performed more than once if all the lights in the hall were not extinguished at the end; the board of directors of the festival sued Peymann and the actors; see n. 1 to Letter No. 201], while Peymann’s lawyer, Dr. Stern, “driving big cars purchased with royalties,” is agitating for a trial, while all the world [knows] of the big falling out between Bernhard and the president of the festival, Kaut (Bernhard had more or less described him as mentally incompetent in a published telegraph [see n. 1 to Letter No. 201 again]), Kaut and Thomas Bernhard are and were quite calmly joining hands in planning for the 1975 festival.  Thomas Bernhard is going to write a new play for the 1975 Salzburg Festival.  He is hellbent on this at the moment.  He is thinking of a fairy tale with long comedic interludes.  He is fascinated by Stravinsky and Ramuz’s Histoire du soldat.  He would like to give greater emphasis to the poetic element again.  His play will quite simply have to be a chamber play with few characters.  The new play is to be published in July 1975 in the Bibliothek Suhrkamp.  He said Kaut had already agreed to the play because 1974 would see the performance of a new play by Zuckmayer that was likewise certain to be a catastrophe, and for that reason Kaut was very keen on having something innovative again for 1975.  And now came the volte-face: whereas Kaut told him he would like to conclude the contract directly and collect the money entirely for himself, Bernhard attached great importance to our concluding this contract on the same terms, perhaps DM 10,000.00 more, which would bring it to 40,000.00.   As I said, Bernhard is quite hellbent on and obsessed with this plan, and then came my counter-idea: I proposed that we should conclude with Kaut a contract according to the terms of which the Salzburg cast would be required to go on tour, and specifically on the first tour of a new Suhrkamp touring agency.  This struck him as a very sensible idea, first because it was in line with his notions of quality and exceptionality and also because it naturally may generate some money. [...]

Then he told me he wanted to travel to Vladivostok, in November.  He is hoping specifically, and in accordance with his agreement with Kaut, to have finished the manuscript by October 1973, and then he will travel in a completely new direction, to Vladivostok on the train, and then come back by ship via Japan and the Indian Ocean.  This over the two months of November and December 1973.  I promised him that I would try to find out whether this trip could possibly be taken as a Star-journey for authors.  I shall of course be meeting with Mr. Nannen on Friday evening or on Saturday in Düsseldorf and will speak with him about it.

Thus this discussion that began with disagreeable omens ended in a cheerful, relaxed, almost friendly atmosphere.  As we were taking leave of each other, a storm was brewing over the airport and rolling eastward.  Within a short period it grew dark.  Bernhard must have been accompanied by the storm during his drive home.  As I flew westward, I headed into a clear blue sky.”


Letter No. 245

[Address: Ohlsdorf; telegram-memorandum]

Frankfurt am Main
May 8, 1973

The Ignoramus will be performed on Friday, Saturday, in Berlin.  Conversation with Bruno Ganz in our interest has taken place.
Sincerely Siegfried Unseld


Letter No. 246

[Address: Ohlsdorf]

Frankfurt am Main
May 15, 1973

Here are a few pieces of news that presumably will interest you.  First of all, the ORF has informed us that the television production of Frost “will not come into being.”  A copy of the letter is enclosed.  Do you wish to fight on?1  

As I wired you, I had an illuminating telephone conversation with Bruno Ganz.  He knows nothing about any pre-trial negotiations in Vienna, and he also informed me that Peymann had gotten tired of the case.  That in any event he had no great desire to pursue the case, and I hinted to him that that was quite fine by you.  Incidentally, he is of one mind with me; within the next four weeks he will decide whether and in which theater he will perform the principal role in The Hunting Party; I have indicated to him that there may be a television broadcast.  I would also like to inform you that Dr. Rach has resigned his position at Suhrkamp Publications; he will be working as the dramaturg at the theater in Düsseldorf.  This probably will take effect on January 1.

I somehow have been getting the impression that you are writing and writing, and that is a good thing.

Yours
sincerely,
[Siegfried Unseld]

  1. The enclosure has not survived.


Letter No. 247

Frankfurt am Main
May 22, 1973

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

I shall be unable to sign this letter because I must set off on a trip abroad.1

Peymann rang me up and informed me of the events in Berlin.  I assume that you are going to write me something as well.  I shall be out of town for the next few weeks, but I will be back for one or other of the two days, but basically I shall be gone (USA!) through June 25.  After that, I think we should perhaps meet somewhere or other.  What do you propose?

As I have already informed you in writing, Dr. Rach has tendered his resignation.  He would like to bow out of here relatively quickly in order to do some “practical” work in the theater.  As I had to put everything in order at very short notice, Jürgen Becker and I came to an arrangement according to which he will assume leadership of the theatrical publications division for a two-year transition period.  He values your works to an extraordinary degree and as one of the few exceptions he is in the position to distinguish between his own intentions and the qualities of other people.

When we meet, perhaps a conversation with Mr. Kaut should also be possible.  The longer I think over our conversation, the clearer a possible combination of his and our new interests becomes to me.

I hope you are managing to work.

Yours
with warm regards,
Dr. Siegfried Unseld

typed from dictation by Renate Steinsiek in Dr. Unseld’s absence

  1. Unseld set off for London on May 21, 1973, flew from there to Zurich, spent May 28 and 29 in Berlin, and attended publishers’ conferences in the U.S.A. between June 9 and 26.

  1. Bernhard wrote two telephone numbers on the letter: 07612/4185 in green ballpoint ink in the lower-left corner and 03584/2426 in the left margin.  The first is the number of the Café Brandl in Gmunden, the second of the Hotel Landsitz Pichlschloß in Mariahof, Styria, to and from which Bernhard conveyed Hedwig Stavianicek for each of her many multi-week summer sojourns there over the years.


Letter No. 248


[Address: Ohlsdorf]

Frankfurt am Main
June 4, 1973

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

This year the book fair will be taking place on October 11 -16.  In conformity with tradition the fair will begin for us with a reception for critics in the Klettenbergstraße at five in the afternoon on Thursday.  Here the most important people, authors, critics, will be in attendance.  On each occasion a writer reads from a work that is going to appear not in the current year but rather in the following year.  The idea is not so much to pay homage to sales as to afford a glimpse into the writer’s studio.

This year it would be especially nice if you could read from Correction.  It would be a good opportunity to draw attention to this novel, and here you would have the ideal intellectual audience.  Admittedly, the reading should last no longer than 15 or 20 minutes, and in the second place: you would have to make a firm pledge to come to Frankfurt on this date.  A change of schedule would be an incredible nuisance because we have to invite people to this reading and any substitute chosen at such short notice might be seen as a stopgap and not taken seriously.  So would you like to come?  It would please me very much.  Perhaps you could let me know by Friday, June 8; after that I will be away from Frankfurt on a 15-day trip to the U.S.A.

I am posing this question to you now because I do not know what your precise travel dates are, but perhaps in October you will be in Vladivostok or swimming in the Indian Ocean.

Yours
with warm regards,
Siegfried Unseld


Letter No. 249

[Address: Ohlsdorf]

Frankfurt am Main
June 9, 1973

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

I am still very much hoping to hear from you before my departure for the U.S.A., but I interpret your silence as entirely friendly in intent.

I will be back here on June 26, but soon after that I must set off again on a trip to Switzerland; in July I shall be properly back in Frankfurt.  I surely will have heard from you by then.

I hope you are pleased with the news that we will be including your play The Ignoramus and the Madman in the next Spectaculum.  This will give this play renewed exposure.1

Yours
with warm regards,
Siegfried Unseld

  1. The Ignoramus and the Madman was reprinted on pp. 7-82 of Spectaculum 19.  


Letter No. 250

[Address: Ohlsdorf]

Frankfurt am Main
July 12, 1973

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

I am back from my various trips and again working at my desk in Frankfurt.  How are things with you?  How are your works developing?  How are your plans shaping up?  When shall we see each other?  Nothing but questions.

I have plenty of urgent business to attend to here through the end of July, but I should have a bit more free time in the first half of August.  Are you coming to northerly or westerly zones at some point so that we could meet halfway?  Flying is of course none too pleasant in German climes these days.1  

Yours
with all good wishes for you and sincere regards,
Siegfried Unseld

  1. On July 11, 1973, 123 people died in an airplane accident at Orly Airport in Paris.


Letter No. 251

[Address: Ohlsdorf]

Frankfurt am Main
July 23, 1973



Dear Thomas Bernhard,

I hear nothing from you, so you are working!  Aren’t you?

I hope you got my last letter; it would be nice if we could see each other somewhere in the first half of August.  Please let me know what is possible for you.

In the Zeitwende I read an essay by Heinz Beckmann, “The World of Thomas Bernhard.”  I am sending you this text because I presume you are unfamiliar with the periodical.

Yours
with warm regards,
and see you soon,
Siegfried Unseld

Enclosure1

  1. Heinz Beckmann, “Die Welt des Thomas Bernhard,” Zeitwende 1973, pp. 264-274.  The article is the text of a lecture given at the Akademie Rabanus Maurus in 1971.


Letter No. 252

[Address: Ohlsdorf; telegram]

Frankfurt am Main
July 27, 1973

would very much like to meet evening of tuesday the 7th or wednesday august 8 in ohlsdorf, salzburg, or elsewhere please give me your decision

yours sincerely
siegfried unseld

Letter No. 253

[Telegram]

[Ohlsdorf]

[between July 27 and 31, 1973]

expecting you tuesday ohlsdorf requesting news of when
sincerely bernhard    


Letter No. 254

[Address: Ohlsdorf; telegram]

Frankfurt am Main
July 31, 1975

arriving tuesday 8.9 at 7 p.m. ohlsdorf--return flight wednesday afternoon
sincerely unseld


Letter No. 255

[Address: (Ohlsdorf)]

Frankfurt am Main
August 1, 1973

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

Our conversation permitting, I would like to present you with the following request: we are trying to put together a memorial book in honor of Günter Eich.  We have received impressive reminiscences from Jürgen Eggebrecht, Max Frisch, Wolfgang Hildesheimer, Uwe Johnson, Joachim Kaiser, et al. as contributions to this book.  We would very much like this book to be available on the anniversary of Eich’s death; it therefore should be published on December 1.  The date the book is scheduled to go to press, and the very last date for the submission of a contribution, is September 1.  You, my dear Thomas Bernhard, really ought to make a contribution to this book of memories.  I would really very sincerely like to request one from you.  The form of the contribution is wide open: a meditation, a memoir, a portrait, reminiscences of an encounter, letters to or from Eich, a dramatic scene, a prose piece, a poem.  But please do write something for this essential occasion.   

Depending on whether it is possible we will also insert a photo of you and Günter Eich together.  Does such a photo exist, and could you relinquish it to us?1

Till soon!
With friendly regards,
Siegfried Unseld

  1. Bernhard did not contribute to In Memory of Günter Eich, which was edited by Unseld and published on December 6, 1973.


Letter No. 256

[Address: Ohlsdorf; telegram-memorandum]

Frankfurt am Main
August 9, 1973

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

Couldn’t get through by telephone.  Urgently requesting call this afternoon.1

Regards Siegfried Unseld

  1. Possibly this telephone conversation pertained to a recently scheduled meeting with Bernhard; such, at any rate, is suggested by the conclusion of Unseld’s Venice-Zurich-Großgmain Travel Journal, August 4-8, 1973:
“I am going to record the particulars of my encounter with Thomas Bernhard during this trip separately; it was unusual, or rather utterly typical of a meeting with Bernhard.  I cannot unveil the facts here, because absolute silence about them must prevail through the end of August.  But I will say this much: Bernhard has finished a new play that will also be performed in 1974.  So in this year we will have a special Thomas Bernhard Year; The Hunting Party at the Burg and three other theaters, then the new play.

Three separate titles will be appearing in the Bibliothek Suhrkamp in 1974 (this is not ideal, but the exception is justifiable), The Hunting Party, the new play--on whichever date it is performed--and Remembering in September of 1974.  We will receive the manuscript of the novel Correction in time to print the book by December and send out the reviewers’ copies by the end of that month.  The prospective publication date will then be March 15, 1974.   

On account of the surprising decisions regarding this new play I must take another trip to Salzburg/Ohlsdorf in the next few days.”

Unseld subsequently wrote the above-mentioned separate account, entitled Thomas Bernhard, Visit to Ohlsdorf, Tuesday, August 7, 1973, for his Chronicle:

“I arrived a half an hour earlier than expected because my rental car allowed me to cover the stretch between Großgmain [where Unseld visited Günter Eich’s widow, Ilse Aichinger] and Ohlsdorf faster than usual.  He didn’t hear the car pulling into the courtyard and was surprised when I knocked at his window.  He had just made my bed and was holding two coat-hangers.  The first two things he immediately said were that I had come came at a decisive moment, but that he was ill, that he had a 39-degree fever and was groggy and had only just gotten out of bed.

I immediately told him what I saw as the decisive factor: the Zuckmayer play would not be finished in time for the 1974 Salzburg Festival, and I assumed that it was now an open question whether his new play would be performed at the festival the following year.  [No play by Carl Zuckmayer was performed at the Salzburg Festival.  The Pied Piper.  A Fable, his last work for the stage, had its premiere at the Schauspielhaus Zürich in 1975.]  That was precisely how things stood.      

He read in the Salzburger Nachrichten that the Zuckmayer play had been postponed to 1975.  But that was of course his date.  He became, as he said, “furious.”  He had a reading at the Salzburg Festival scheduled for the day after my visit, a reading that he regarded as a kind of sop.  He intended to cancel this reading, and he did this through Mr. Schaffler of Residenz Publications.  The latter called on Mr. Kaut, the president of the Salzburg Festival, and the latter understandably came up with the idea of putting on Bernhard’s play as early as 1974.  Of course this idea could only be congenial to him, to Kaut.  Thus far had events unfolded when I arrived at Ohlsdorf.  Bernhard told me that the next day he was going to have lunch with Kaut, who would now have to make a decision.  We discussed the pros and cons of this performance quite extensively.  About the play itself Bernhard told me very little; he said that it was a comedy, a fairy tale along the lines of Stravinsky’s Soldat, with three male principal characters, along with a director who is performing in his own mise-en-scène; he said that the work had quite a number of musical elements, so that it should be directed by a director who had a feel for musical theater.  It already has a firm title: Headpiece.  I told him right away that I didn’t care for this title.  He was surprised by the spontaneousness of my reaction; his alternative title, Quintet, certainly did not strike me as much of an improvement.  We then discussed potential directors.  Apart from the handful of names one obviously always thinks of and who are out of the question for the play and also for Bernhard, I mentioned Everding, whom Bernhard found too old, then Jan Groszmann from Prague, who was too popular for Bernhard, and finally Hans Hollmann, who has after all directed some stunning performances of Horváth, Hofmannsthal, and Nestroy.  He reacted to Hollmann with spontaneous antipathy; he rejected him.  ‘He is too close to me; he comes from Gmunden.’  It is quite clear to all of us that the premature performance of the new play will cause problems for everyone involved in the performance of The Hunting Party.  The Burg will certainly not be happy to have The Hunting Party premiere at the end of April / beginning of May and then see the new play coming out as early as July, to say nothing of Peymann: we must certainly expect him to be angry at the mere fact that Bernhard has become buddy-buddy with Kaut again so soon after Bernhard declared his solidarity with Peymann and Ganz in opposing the festival’s juridical assault on them.  Eventually, after nightfall, we started wondering whether it might not still be possible to take the bull by the horns, i.e., induce the theater, including Peymann, to present The Hunting Party before the end of 1973.   

On the subject of publications, Bernhard once again had very settled opinions, as of course he always does about everything: he never thinks about anything but his work, day and night, and exclusively.  He knows exactly what he wants and tries to get it by hook or by crook.  And to impose his will on the world around him.

He naturally also wants the new play to be published as part of the Bibliothek Suhrkamp.  I pointed out to him that three titles in one year in the BS would simply be too many, and that he himself wanted the new play to be an exclusively “Austrian theatrical affair,” because it was after all his idea not to allow the play to be performed in the German theaters and to save it for a performance tour  that could begin at the Salzburg Festival.  But he implored me to have this play issued in the BS along with the other titles.          

So then in 1974 the first editions of the following three titles will be published in the BS:
in April: The Hunting Party
in July: The new play
in September: Remembering 1

Because I was now making him these promises, I did twist his arm a bit towards getting him to hand over the manuscript of Correction ahead of his schedule.  He plans to give us the manuscript early enough to allow us to typeset it immediately, print the sheets in December, and send advance copies to select book dealers and critics by the end of the year.  Publication will follow in mid-March of 1974.  He acceded to this request.

We then deliberated about his appearance at the book fair.  First he ruled it out, then he planned to think about perhaps appearing alongside Uwe Johnson [whose third volume of Anniversaries was published in October of 1973], but finally he said no.

I drove to Salzburg early the next morning in order to set up a meeting with Strehler, because I wanted to discuss the possibility of his directing the Bernhard play.  Then my meeting with Strehler was scheduled for 11:20 a.m.  I met Bernhard  punctually at 10:30 a.m. at the Café Tomaselli.  Yet another recapitulation of the pros and cons; eventually we agreed that there was really more to be said for the 1974 premiere date.  I was unable to offer him any hope of securing Strehler, because I of course knew that Strehler had and wanted to direct The Magic Flute in 1974.      

Bernhard briefed me on his conversation with Kaut over the telephone the next day.  Everything had gone according to plan; i.e., Kaut wanted to grant him his wishes.  After the meal he had had to lie down on account of a feeling of faintness; he had a fever, and in such an overwrought state he got the idea for the title of the play: Force of Habit [Macht der Gewohnheit].  Really quite an excellent title that is also immediately plausible; indeed, one is inclined to think it must have already existed, but there is only the Force of Darkness [Macht der Finsternis].1a  Then possible actors were discussed with Kaut.  Kaut frankly proposed three names that appealed very strongly to Bernhard: Leopold Rudolf, Otto Schenk, and Bruno Dallansky; as a director (to my obvious surprise) Hans Hollmann.

Bernhard will deliver the play at the end of December; but I know that he wants to finish it by the end of October.  Kaut will announce the performance of this play along with its title at the end of August.

Next Bernhard revealed to me that had had discussions with Kaut about
  1. the amount of the honorarium (as against the DM 30,000 from 1972 he is asking for a sum of DM 40,000) and
  2. the question of the tour must be settled.  What Bernhard really wants is this: no performances in Germany, but the greatest possible number of performances during the tour to take up the slack.

Over the phone Bernhard also gave me a rather confusing account of how an assault had just been committed against him; he said that somebody was out to kill him.

Such are the strains to which this Bernhardian existence is exposed; it is a constant all-or-nothing affair; it is ruthlessness incarnate when trying to get its way, and it is the acme of sensitivity and vulnerability when it fails to get something.  As he had a bit of a cold, he did not dare to step out into the open air; he sent me into the cellar to fetch some cider, but he did not go with me so as to make sure that I didn’t stay down there too long.  We went to bed early; I asked him to let me read part of Correction, but he wouldn’t even allow that; he wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep if he knew that I would be reading that as-yet-unfinished new manuscript.  To some extent he even divides the world into two parts according to the principle of ‘Whoever isn’t for me is against me,’ but even here he has very sound views; thus, regarding Peymann he said that if his anger were now suddenly to flare up it would just as suddenly cool down.  So the sooner the better.”    

1a. Unseld is evidently thinking of the Tolstoy play known in English as The Power of Darkness (DR).



Letter No. 257

[Ohlsdorf]
8.20.73

Dear Dr. Unseld,

Last Sunday I waited for you at the market square at Mondsee1 until eight o’clock, pacing up and down along with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, who all that time was pacing up and down alongside me, until she finally addressed me in words to this effect: this is what happens whenever it makes a difference to you--and at eight o’clock the person she had been waiting for, Paula Wessely, showed up, but the Doctor from Frankfurt did not.  Ditto at the “King’s Bath,” where I was told the Doctor is ill etcetera.  The drive home with all the melancholy of a convaleccentric.2

The Ohlsdorfian bacilli have wrought their damage in Frankfurt; I am sure such things were in the air.  I myself am once again healthy, knock on wood; in better shape than before, but after all it took two whole weeks.  Perhaps the skill of the Frankfurt physicians has succeeded in getting you back on your feet faster than me.  After I recovered, my brother, the internist, came and said to me, you don’t want to mess around with a summer flu!

But what am I supposed to say about the whole business?  Like most invalids, I get my best ideas when I am lying in bed.  And now I am thoroughly immersed in the Force of Habit, and I don’t intend to give it a rest until it’s finished.  A good subject, a proper comedy, perhaps even a farce.  We shall see.

I was in the forest for two days;3 when I got back here today, there was a note from Bruno Ganz on my doorstep: he wrote that he had stayed here overnight...Now [I] am melancholy again, as you may well imagine.  The man is gone, whither I do not know.

On Friday Kaut will be paying a visit to Ohlsdorf (he spent his childhood a couple of hundred meters up the road); we shall discuss all the necessary things then.

You yourself had promised to tell Peymann and Klingenberg the necessary things about my comedy in Salzburg; I hope this happens before Kaut “makes an announcement.”

I ought to be in the best of moods.

But just this one thing: when everything is perfect, please draw up the contract for Salzburg and do so personally.  The substance of it is the same as in ’71; the tour is the only thing that needs to be added.  I am asking you literally to rack your brain over this; the idea is “classic” (Nestroy) and must be intensively pursued as an actuality.4

On Friday I shall certainly learn from Kaut whether things are working out with Hollmann.

I couple of books arrived; I have to pay a large customs fee; the world is crazy, perverse, annihilating.

I really think you will still come to Salzburg and watch the pack of Shakespearean kings as they scuffle onstage like stupid dogs with their innocuous yapping.5

Think of what an enormous boon a brief, intensive illness is and don’t curse me.

I myself am back here, where I belong.  And by now you where you belong --probably.

Give me a sign of life.6

Yours sincerely
Thomas B.

  1. The town of Mondsee is sited on the shore of the lake of the same name in Upper-Austrian Salzkammergut, about halfway between Salzburg and Obernathal.

  1. Bernhard apparently received two communications from Burgel Zeeh--an August 11 telegram and an August 13 letter--only after leaving for Mondsee to meet Unseld.  The memorandum for the telegram, handwritten by Unseld, reads thus:

“Dr. Unseld has fallen ill presumably thanks to Ohlsdorfian bacilli stop His
doctor forbids travel stop conversation with Kaut therefore later [...]”

And the letter reads thus:
“Dear Mr. Bernhard,

The Ohlsdorfian bacilli sure are mighty strong!  In any event so strong that Dr. Unseld will not be coming to the office today or tomorrow either probably.  He himself is very sorry to have to cancel the trip, but in the end he must defer to the advice of his doctor.”

  1. In November, Bernhard purchased a house in the woods in Ottnang am Hausruck.

  1. A performance tour of The Force of Habit took place in 1975 (see n. 1 to Letter No. 283).

  1. Bernhard alludes here to Giorgio Strehler’s Spiel der Mächtigen [Game of the Powerful] a reworking of Shakespeare’s Henry VI plays with a performance length of six hours.

  1. In the upper-right corner of the letter there is a note in Unseld’s handwriting: “done by tel.[ephone].”


Letter No. 258

[Telegram]

Wolfsegg
8.29.73

nozkaut here yesterday salzburg perfect director dorn sets minks vertrakdogst herzlieaifo
bernhard


Letter No. 259

[Address: Ohlsdorf]
Frankfurt am Main
August 29, 1973


Dear Mr. Bernhard,

A rather garbled telegram originating from a place called “Wolfsegg” arrived  here.  It said that the agreement with Mr Kaut was perfect, that Dorn would be the director, that Minks would design the sets; but after that everything was completely garbled.

The most important question: did you speak with Kaut about a lump royalty sum?  Did you fail to get the sum of DM 40,000.00, or shall I try to get him to commit to an even higher one?  Please write to me, phone me, or send me a telegram.  I shall get in touch with him immediately afterwards.1

I am taking your refusal to give a reading in Frankfurt during the book fair as definitive, but on one point I would like to be insistently obdurate: it would be an optimal scenario if by Christmas we could get some advance copies of Correction to some choice book dealers and a very small circle of committed Bernhardians at the newspaper editorial desks.  In order to make this happen we need the text by September 15.  Is this possible?2

Yours
with warm regards,
[Siegfried Unseld]

  1. On August 29 Josef Kaut wrote to Suhrkamp Publications, “Yesterday I had an extensive conversation with Mr. Thomas Bernhard regarding the premiere of his comedy The Force of Habit.  Mr. Bernhard explained that he had the Salzburg Regional Theater and the Salzburg Festival in mind for this play and that his chief desire is to have the performance of this new work hosted by us.”  In a letter dated August 31, Unseld replied, “I too am delighted that Thomas Bernhard would like to entrust the premiere of his comedy The Force of Habit to the Salzburg Festival.  You doubtlessly have read that in Theater heute [Theater Today]’s critics’ poll The Ignoramus and the Madman was rated “the most important play of the ’72-’73 season.” [...] We would be happy to conclude a contract for the premiere with you. [...] Now to the other questions pertaining to this play.  I am assuming that Thomas Bernhard has informed you of our scheme of having the festival production of the play go on tour with the same cast after the end of the run of Salzburg performances.  Will it not be necessary for us to have a detailed conversation about this soon, given that the hiring of actors will inevitably be affected by this plan?”     

  1. “Express Mail” is written above the address on the firm’s file copy of the letter.


Letter No. 260

[Address: (Ohlsdorf)]

Frankfurt am Main
August 31, 1973

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

I was asked to express my opinion on spelling reform; the West German minister of cultural affairs is considering a general introduction of non-capitalization into the German language.  How are you disposed to this change?  I myself resile against non-capitalization with every fiber of my being.  The ideological argument that it will make the acquisition of German easier for the underprivileged is one that I cannot take seriously.  Mere clarity demands that one exert a measure of care or even effort and put capital letters at the beginnings of things that are regarded as nouns.

I would be interested in learning your opinion on this question; for example, your answers to the following questions:

  1. Do you see in a general non-capitalization policy a step forward in the democratization of social conditions?

  1. Could you imagine reading our classic writers--Goethe and Marx, for instance-- in new editions with non-capitalized nouns?

  1. Would you personally be persuaded not to use capital letters by the passage of a Cultural Affairs Conference resolution in favor of non-capitalization?
  1. Could you envisage a compromise version of the reform, in conformity with which in addition to proper names all clearly identifiable nouns and nominalized verbs would be capitalized but all ambiguous cases would be uncapitalized?  As a further compromise one could envisage giving recommendations on spelling but not on capitalization and non-capitalization.1

I would be very grateful to you for a reply.

Yours
with friendly regards,
Siegfried Unseld
  
  1. Unseld sent this letter to 60 of the firm’s authors, among them Uwe Johnson (see pp. 799f. of the Johnson-Unseld correspondence) and Wolfgang Koeppen (»Ich bitte um ein Wort...« [I Would Like a Word...], pp. 255f.), and received 45 replies to the questions posed in it.  The occasion was a request from the PEN Club of Germany for a statement on spelling reform.  On October 5, at a Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft [Education and Science Union]-organized conference entitled vernünftiger schreiben.  Reform der Rechtschreibung [writing more rationally.  Reform of Spelling.] Unseld gave a speech in which he quoted from the authors' responses.  For Bernhard’s reaction see n. 1 to Letter No. 280.  


Letter No. 261

Ohlsdorf
9.13.73

Dear Siegfried Unseld,

It is unavoidable for us to meet in the very near future; I am asking you to come to Salzburg if it is at all possible, but it must be at a time when Mr. Kaut is back from his vacation; I believe he has gone out of town.  But everything can be easily ascertained from Frankfurt.

The theaters, which are inhabited by the most useless riffraff I have ever met, have of late been incessantly sending me telegrams and think that I can constantly go running to the telephone like a monkey or even deliver decisions by wire.  I am absolutely incapable of reacting to all these formulas of convenience.  In the meantime several “cases” have accumulated, cases that must be addressed.  Unfortunately I cannot reconcile myself to the idea of everybody’s doing whatever he likes with my work under any number of possible conditions; that is unfeasible and at minimum these things must be talked over.  Whatever I don’t know the particulars of I have to reject.

The only thing that interests me is good work; not even people interest me at the moment and it may be a long time before that changes.

By the end of October I will have gotten far enough along in the comedy to start talking to directors.  I can envisage only Peymann as the best choice; if I am going to have to make a compromise, we would do well to consider that the decision is not in any case one to be made lightly.  What you should personally do everything to prevent is the hiring of any other man before it is quite clear that the Salzburgers will not accept Peymann.  Whoever this other director is, he will not, to my mind, be the best one.  But I don’t want to fall out permanently with Kaut on account of this verdict.  For me this is all about my settling a few more scores with this town; it is quite simply about standing this place I came from on its head and thereby making its head like mine.

Today I have asked the Burgtheater, the Schillertheater, and the Residenztheater to awaken from their summer slumber and consider the question of their respective casting lists.  Sleepy fellowships, the lot of them; dim-witted creatures in every last general-managerial office.  I quite dread them.

The most important thing is an optimal Hunting Party in Hamburg with Peymann and Ganz and the same thing as a baseline principle in Salzburg next year.

And an “exquisitely” appareled novel in the spring, but you won’t be receiving this novel until some time from now, because I am thoroughly immersed in the theater, and because I pay absolutely no heed to the critics, and I pay the least heed of all to the most famous ones.

Yours sincerely,
Thomas B.

P.S. Your administrative office has sent me only the less enjoyable of the two pages from Theater heute, and not the crucial one.  But no matter; I already know what’s on the other page.


Letter No. 262

[Address: Ohlsdorf; telegram-memorandum]

Frankfurt am Main
September 14, 1973

Kaut on vacation through beginning of next week.  News possible Wednesday at earliest.

Regards
Siegfried Unseld


Letter No. 263

[Address: Ohlsdorf]

Frankfurt am Main
September 19, 1973

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

I thank you for your letter of September 13, which arrived here somewhat belatedly.

In the meantime I have spoken with Kaut by telephone, at great length.  I shall skip the details, which of course we keep having to come back to, and brief you on the main point: I succeeded in getting Peymann decisively into Kaut’s frame of consideration.  At first Kaut seemed appalled; he regarded the solution as unacceptable on account of “loftier” sentiments about the festival, on account of the local press, above all on account of the employees of the regional theater, who would refuse to work with Peymann.1  But after a lengthy exchange of arguments he was prepared to make it a priority to look into these questions.  But he simply needs time to do this because he must round up reinforcements.  We have reached a stage where he is giving top priority to deciding these questions and is going to give me his decision.  But this cannot happen in the next fortnight, because I shall be out of town from 9.27 through 10.4; a follow-up telephone conversation has been scheduled for Friday, 10.5.

I was also able to get Kaut to warm to our ideas about the tour.  Admittedly twofold difficulties present themselves here.  The first: he can definitively engage an actor only once the actor has read the text, or at least a portion of the text.  And then we will have to confine our search to actors who are able to perform both in Salzburg and on the tour.  As we can’t get a text from you right now, these questions obviously cannot be cleared up any earlier than the second half of October, or can they?  The answer to this question depends upon you, upon when you can give us the whole thing or an excerpt for the sake of answering it.

Regarding the tour itself, we are positively euphoric about it.  This may end up being  a very interesting event, with respect to your play, with respect to revenues from honoraria, with respect to Salzburg, and with respect to Suhrkamp Publications.

So the most important thing, my dear Thomas Bernhard, is and will remain your being left in peace so that you can work on this play.  For a start you should just let all telegrams and queries slide off your back.  If I were you I would not bother replying to anything else, not bother reacting to anything else, and from now on think of nothing but that play and getting it finished.

Right now Peymann is here in Frankfurt, where he is rehearsing Edward Bond’s The Sea.  I have been in touch with him; he is inordinately delighted about the prospect of being able to direct The Hunting Party.  And naturally he now also has high hopes for Salzburg.  As do I.

Yours
with sincere regards,
[Siegfried Unseld]        

  1. See n. 1 to Letter No. 200.


Letter No. 264

[Address: Ohlsdorf]
Frankfurt am Main
September 26, 1973
Dear Thomas Bernhard,
I would have preferred to share this news with you viva voce rather than in a letter, but my Salzburg trip won’t be able to take place any earlier than circa mid-October.  But for the sake of keeping you informed, I think it would be better to go ahead and write to you today and not save the news for my visit.
Rudolf Rach will not be going to Düsseldorf!  He realized that this step would perhaps not be the most fitting one for him to take, and I am glad that I managed to persuade him to stay here and to take on a new job here.  Within the confines of Suhrkamp Publications, we intend to establish a new sub-firm, to be called SUHRKAMP MEDIA PUBLICATIONS, which will comprise three divisions: the theatrical publications division--under the leadership of Jürgen Becker--a theatrical productions organization and also a film division (the last of these will at first merely consolidate the firm’s film adaptation rights, so that we will be better able to exercise them and monitor them).
The decisive point is that Rudolf Rach is prepared to set up and assume the leadership of Suhrkamp Theater Tours.  And a decisive element in the establishment of this division was the practicability of taking your new play The Force of Habit on tour.  In the course of our deliberations on how to effectuate such a tour Rach and I came up with the idea of establishing such an organization, in which Suhrkamp Publications and Dr. Rach will each have a share.  There is no question but that in order to effectuate a tour we need a very precise organizational structure that we lack here but that Rach will set up for us.
In spite of these deliberations, on November 1 Jürgen Becker will begin working for the firm as the head of the theatrical publications division.  I sincerely hope that you will be willing to resume your work with Rudolf Rach in this domain.  You must not forget that when he arrived here Dr. Rach did not have a great deal of practical experience.  I am certain that he has undergone a learning process here and that thanks to the experiences he has had here he has become a different person and that he has gathered an especially high proportion of these new experiences from dealing with your plays and working with you.  Accordingly, I very seriously believe that you would do well to place your trust in him.1        

In spite of this question, I shall carry forward the negotiations with Rach personally and keep you up to date about everything.

I am about to disappear for eight days in order to see the surf at Setubal and maybe even swim in it.  I shall be coming back on Thursday, October 4.  In the meantime we shall get a clearer view of how things stand in relation to the board of directors in Salzburg.

Yours
sincerely,
Siegfried Unseld  
   
  1. In a September 27, 1973 letter to Bernhard, Rudolf Rach wrote, “Circumstances are now conspiring to bring Suhrkamp Theatrical Productions fully to life via one of your plays.  This means that we ought to speak in coordination with the steps that Mr. Unseld has already taken and plans to take regarding the entire project.  I don’t wish to pressure you, but it would be nice if you could propose a date for a conversation.”  


Letter No. 265

Ohlsdorf
10.8.73
Dear Siegfried Unseld,

I presume you have spoken by telephone with Kaut, who has written to me that Dorn will be directing the play in Salzburg.1  This decision is actually fine by me, because I can no longer exist in a state of speculation and need my strength for my work.  This means that now everything now has to be concentrated on Dorn and his people.  Dorn will probably be coming to Ohlsdorf on All Saints’ Day; Rach ought to be here then; I wrote to him today.2

Dorn is in any case a good solution, as long as I keep the reins out of his hands from now on and familiarize him with my brain, because as of now he is not familiar with it--as the performance at the Schlossparktheater has proved.3  But he is a young, intelligent human being.

For the launch of the tour in Berlin the fact that Dorn is directing is an enormous advantage.

Unfortunately the two geniuses, by which I mean Peymann and Ganz, are all too little to be relied on.  They really are my favorites, but in this case they quite simply aren’t.

They really must put on an ingenious Hunting Party in Hamburg; then I shall actually be able to be happy.  And so will they.4

It would be a great advantage if Rach was also here, between the beginning and middle of November, if you were to pay a visit.  We must have twofold sagacity if we want to win the battle.

The day before yesterday I received a letter from Mr. Schaffler that contains a remark that will undoubtedly give you, like me, much joy and also prove useful to you; Mr. Schafller writes inter alia (and I quote): “incidentally, I just received a letter from Carl Zuckmayer, in which he writes, ‘Incidentally, Marianne Hoppe, who was visiting us here, gave me a new play by Thomas Bernhard that is going to be performed in Hamburg.  It is a grandiose play.  Since Strindberg’s chamber dramas I have not read anything as concentrated and spellbinding.  And it is of unparalleled significance for the theater.  In this play even a man who stokes the fireplace becomes a role that actors should beat one another up to get.  The play is called The Hunting Party.’5 (End of quote.)  (The underlining is in the original.)  On Saturday, the day before yesterday, I was quite elated by this letter; I was happy for a couple of hours and thanks to this happiness I worked without interruption.  I should have kept this remark to myself, but this is beyond my power.  So weak a thing is the human mind.  I shall have the comedy ready for Salzburg in about two weeks and then the foundation for all further scheduling will be complete.  I very eagerly await some news from you.

Sincerely,
Thomas B.

P.S. (Importance dissembles)!  Is it possible to send twenty thousand marks to my Freilassing account?  I very keenly hope that it is possible.   

  1. Kaut’s letter to Bernhard dates from October 1: “The director Dieter Dorn has essentially agreed to direct the production of your work The Force of Habit at the Salzburg Festival” (Thomas Bernhard and Salzburg, p. 235).

  1. Bernhard wrote as follows to Rudolf Rach:
“Dear Rudolf Rach,

I have written to Dieter Dorn, who will probably be producing my play in Salzburg; on the first and second of November he is supposed to be in Ohlsdorf so that all the important issues can be discussed.  Please send me a telegram letting me know if you can perhaps be here as early as October 31, which will be of enormous advantage, for we have some quite important things to discuss and wish to leave as little as possible to the mercies of dimwitted contingency. [...] I am very busy with the Salzburg comedy and if you like I can give you the text (as I did that of The Ignoramus at the same time two years ago) at the inn on up on the mountainside where we performed a scene of true grotesquery and also persevered.”  On October 10 Rudolf Rach sent Bernhard a telegram notifying him of his agreement to be in Ohlsdorf on October 31.

3. Dieter Dorn directed the first run of German performances of The Ignoramus and the Madman at the Schloßparktheater beginning on September 16, 1972.

4. Bernhard appended a handwritten addition: “both of them.”

5. The letter has not survived.


Letter No. 266

[Address: (Ohlsdorf)]

Frankfurt am Main
October 11, 1973

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

You shall have the DM 20,000.00.  For various reasons I would advise you to set up a new account for this sum; I shall then send you the money from Switzerland.  If that is too much trouble for you, I will also have the money from Switzerland sent to the Freilassing account.  But do mull the matter over.  You know what is behind it; we can talk about it later.

Yours
with warm regards,
[Siegfried Unseld]     


Letter No. 267

[Address: Ohlsdorf]

Frankfurt am Main
October 11, 1973

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

Warm thanks for your letter of October 8.  I understand why you were slow to reply to my letter, namely, because you must devote all your time to the new play.  We are of one mind all around.  In the meantime Rach will already have written to you; he will be happy to come to see you on the date you requested; I am in contact with Kaut by telephone.  You said you wanted to see me at the beginning of November.  The date I am proposing first to you and then to Mr. Kaut is November 8.  On the 9th I must be back in Frankfurt.  Is that good for you?

Yours
with warm regards,
[Siegfried Unseld]

P. S. In the meantime I have spoken with Mr. Kaut.  My travel plans look like this:

Thursday,  November 8, 11:55 a.m., arrival at Salzburg.  Could you pick me up at the airport?  I would then ride with you to Ohlsdorf.

Friday, November 9, 10:00 a.m., Salzburg Festival, Mr. Kaut.  In the afternoon I shall fly back to Frankfurt.

Letter No. 268

Ohlsdorf
10.23.73

Dear Siegfried Unseld,

I shall pick you up at the Salzburg airport at 11:15 a.m. on November 8.  At midday you are supposed to meet Mr Schaffler and have lunch with him.  But this all remains to be seen.

In the afternoon we shall drive to Ohlsdorf and at nine a.m. back to Salzburg, where you have an appointment with Kaut at ten.

Or we can stay in Salzburg overnight.

I am expecting Rach here in Ohlsdorf on the 31st.

The play is finished.

Sincerely,
Thomas B.


Letter No. 269

[Address: Ohlsdorf]

Frankfurt am Main
October 29, 1973

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

Warm thanks for your letter of 10.23.  The appointment times mentioned by you are fine.  I shall arrive at the Salzburg airport on November 8 at 11:50 a.m. (not 11:15), and I am very glad that you will be picking me up.  In the matter of appointments and meeting times I am entirely in your hands.

I am delighted that you managed to wrap up the play.

I am very anxiously looking forward to reading it.

Yours
sincerely,
Siegfried Unseld


Letter No. 270  

[Telegram]

Gmunden
10.30.73

salzburg negotiations as agreed upon exclusively between you kaut and me and on no account with rach1
bernhard

  1. Possibly this telegram is a reaction to an October 26 letter to Bernhard from Rudolf Rach in which Rach writes, “Are you in touch with Kaut?  I would like to meet with him after our conversation in order to discuss the ensuing questions related to the touring guest productions.”


Letter No. 271

[Address: Ohlsdorf]

Frankfurt am Main
November 12, 1973

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

We will of course keep each other abreast of further developments in the Salzburg affair.  Here I would like for tidiness’s sake to register the more serious points of our conversation once again.1

You have decided that the novel Correction will be not be coming out this spring but in the middle of August at the earliest.  I bluntly told you that I thought this was a bad decision, and I am still of this opinion; but I couldn’t change your mind and so I must accept this August publication date.  I am requesting that you submit the manuscript no later than March 15, 1974; any postponement beyond this date will not be possible because it will throw our financial calculations into disorder; i.e., the large debt balance that we were planning to cover through 12.31.1974 will no longer be coverable.

We discussed the following publication schedule:

The Hunting Party, Bibliothek Suhrkamp, April 1974;
Force of Habit, Bibliothek Suhrkamp, July 1974;
Correction, clothbound edition, mid-August;
Remembering, Bibliothek Suhrkamp, April 1975;
Bernhard Reader, April 1975.

For 1975 or 1976 we are projecting a volume called Salzburg Plays to be included in the taschenbücher series; after that the individual titles in the Bibliothek Suhrkamp would be allowed to go out of print.

I would like to have some time to think over the idea of a new edition of Amras; it is also slightly connected to my conception of the Reader.

Regarding the book version of Kulterer, Mr. Schaffler from Residenz Publication lays claim to the rights; he explicitly told me you had promised him a “little booklet.”  This promise troubles me because you never told me anything about it, and on the other hand it has always been understood that our payments to you, and especially our continuation of the monthly remittances, is contingent on our exercising a general option on everything you write.  But I don’t mind your giving Mr. Schaffler permission to put out an edition of Kulterer; in some way that obviously would make sense as a companion piece to The Italian;2 you indicated that you were planning to write a ballet libretto; I think it might be a good idea to reserve this for the Reader; but I also wouldn’t mind your ceding it as a separate title to Mr. Schaffler by way of keeping your promise to him.

On the assumption that this publication schedule will hold and using the performance rights for your plays and for The Hunting Party as a foundation, we have agreed to the following material arrangement:

On 12.31.1973 our debt balance will amount to DM 94,500.00.  DM 20,000.00 will remain as continuous options payments, leaving a sum of DM 74,500.00.  This sum of DM 74,500.00 must be paid off by 12.31.1974; if honoraria payments from your works and the resulting royalties fall short of this sum, you will be in default effective 12.31.1974; if honoraria revenues exceeding this sum accrue, they will be credited to you.

We then agreed to an augmentation of the monthly remittance rate by DM 1,000.00 to DM 1,250.00 effective 1 January ’74.  Please bear in mind that these twelve payments for 1974 on their own will amount to a sum of DM 15,000.00.

I hope I have represented things as we discussed them.  Your wishes for the sentences and colors and dedications of both plays have been noted.

There is much else besides that is firmly enshrined in my mind.  My encounter with you was again unusual, memorable, with undertones of friendship, of trust and mistrust.  On the whole I think we understood each other.  If this letter has not been entirely in a major key, it is only because I can’t get over your bad decision regarding the publication date of Correction.

Yours
with warm regards,
Siegfried Unseld
    
P.S. Had a very good conversation with Schaffler; we shall get to know each other better at some point this winter during a ski trip.

  1. For his Chronicle Unseld wrote a Thomas Bernhard Travel Journal, November 8-9, 1974 [he misnumbered the year], Salzburg:
“Rudolf Rach accompanied me to the airport, he briefed me on the latest state of the situation: Bernhard’s play The Force of Habit will receive its premiere run in Salzburg and then under the auspices of the new Suhrkamp theatrical productions organization it will be sent on tour in a series of guest productions.  Suhrkamp, Inc., Zurich is purchasing the rights directly from Bernhard and ceding them to Frankfurt; on Monday, November 8 Suhrkamp, Inc., Zurich issued its first payment: DM 20,000 from Zurich to Thomas Bernhard.

Rach told me that Dorn, the director, had made clear to him that he would certainly be able to direct the premiere run but would never be able to find any actors in a position to travel afterwards for six weeks, let alone for two or three months.

Equipped with this intelligence, I boarded the plane.  My reading material during the flight was The Force of Habit, the new Thomas Bernhard play.  The text was pure Bernhard.  The theme: the sensicality and nonsensicality of the concept of art in a world approaching its end, a world that is of course ruled solely by invalids and cripples.  Bernhard’s handling of his theme is lucid and austere; and yet he has managed to give it a light, almost genial turn and implement it in a comedy.  There is obviously no ‘plot’; five characters; a sixty-year-old circus director, who is attempting to rehearse for a performance of the ‘Trout’ Quintet  with a group of fellow-chamber players consisting of his devoted 20-year-old granddaughter, a juggler, an animal tamer, and a jester.  They never manage to get through a rehearsal; something or other always gets in the way; the juggler receives a generous offer from the ‘Sarasini’ Circus (‘even genius / turns megalomaniacal every time / money is at stake’); the animal tamer has a piece of flesh torn out of him by Max the lion, but he must keep playing Schubert on the piano, eventually the piano is smashed; the juggler is the intellectual adversary, a kind of Super-Thomas Bernhard; the jester tries to execute intricate pranks.  At the end the jester destroys the piano; once again the rehearsal of the ‘Trout’ Quartet comes to nothing; everything collapses; the circus director leans back in his chair in exhaustion; in an attempt to relax he turns on the radio, and it blares out some measures of a perfect performance of the ‘Trout’ Quartet.    

The dialogue is completely staccato; no full-length sentences; nothing but exclamations; very trenchant.  The jester ‘hasn’t got to laugh.  He hasn’t got anything to laugh about.’

A play that Bernhard--certainly basing his work in some fashion on Stravinsky’s Histoire du soldat--has written for the circus of the Salzburg Festival, and he wants to send it through the German states as a wandering circus; this play is not intended for performance at a theater; I can imagine this artistically well-made play perhaps turning out to be the most successful of all of Bernhard’s plays.

He picked me up in Salzburg; he was in a jovial mood; we booked rooms for the night at the ‘Österreichischen Hof,’ ate well at midday, drank copious amounts of wine and were then in each other’s company until 5 p.m.  He was charming, loveable, treated me as his guest; then at 3 p.m. we went to my room and had a go at tackling the ‘awkward issues’: his debt-level of DM 94,500.00 (not counting the payment of DM 20,000.00 from Zurich); then he asked for an augmentation of his monthly remittances; he was pleased that I was able to inform him that the balance on Account I [see Letter No. 215], the one for all his works up to the Ignoramus, had been paid off!  It had taken years.  If the thing had not been paid off by then we would have had to cancel it.  I reached the very same kind of agreement with him regarding the DM 74,500.00; the DM 20,000.00 will remain in place as an option; either the DM 74,500.00 will be paid off by 12.31.1974 (surplus honorarium money is being remitted to him) or it will be written off at our expense.  I can imagine our recouping these DM 74,000.00 via publications but mostly via the performance rights and associated television rights for The Hunting Party.  Then he wanted to see the monthly remittance rate raised
to DM 1,500, I turned down this request; I said that beginning on 1.1.1974 I was prepared to issue a monthly sum of DM 1,250.00.  He initially assented to this.  The ensuing altercations over the publication date of the novel Correction got pretty rough.  The novel is finished, but he doesn’t want to issue it now.  For one thing he would prefer not to have a ‘concentration’ of two plays and the novel, for another I get the impression that now (after he writes a short ballet libretto) he would like to write a fairly long novel, and he will need the next few months for this.  Only once the new novel is finished will he hand over Correction to us.

Finally the subject of The Force of Habit: the amount of the honorarium for Salzburg and the tour.  He wanted me to negotiate an agreement for a sum of
DM 50,000.00 with the festival president, Kaut.  I declined to do this.  I said that for four performances this sum was simply unreasonable.  I told him I planned to ask for DM 40,00.00 and obtained his consent to specify these DM 40,000.00 as our final condition.   Bernhard wanted to have the tour unconditionally.  [...]  We then took a long walk through Salzburg, repeatedly debating our problems; we had dinner; afterwards he wanted to retire for the evening, but the red wine from Meran seduced him into telling some anecdotes.  I spend two wonderful hours with him; he told me about his background, about his childhood and youth, about his utterly impossible family, in which everything was muddled and nothing made sense; inbreeding and criminality were the norm.  He began writing as a theater critic and court reporter; eventually, out of veneration of Thomas Wolfe and Faulkner, he began writing.  In 1960 he submitted a manuscript, The Forest in the Street, to Suhrkamp Publications.  He received it back in the mail along with a multifarious card [see n. 3 to Letter No. 1].  Today he is glad that Suhrkamp rejected the manuscript; there is also a second manuscript, Schwarzach St. Veit, which neither of the firms ever accepted.  He is glad about this too.  He still has both manuscripts.  He may show them to me for the Reader.  On the whole he was glad that I was going to edit the Reader for him.  Once I was working on it he would also point me to a manuscript that he thought was very interesting: The Lunatics and the Prisoners had been printed in a Klagenfurt newspaper.  [The Lunatics.  The Prisoners was first published in 1962 in a private edition issued by the Klagenfurt-based firm of Ferdinand Kleinmayr.]

Then we agreed to meet up the next morning at 9:00.  When I came into the room where we were to have breakfast, Bernhard had already been up for two hours; he had slept badly, he had regrets about everything we had discussed; he demanded 1,500.00 a month, which I refused to grant him; he rejected the handful of corrections to the manuscript of The Force of Habit that I either had already made or had proposed to him; what he saw yesterday as errors introduced during transcription he now regarded as fine and accurate; he had no wish to change a single full stop, a single comma, a single word, a single line.   Renewed outbursts against Rach; they were so loud that the other breakfasters looked up in surprise.  I could barely calm him down.  He was extremely nervous; he must have had an awful night.

He then accompanied me to the Festspielhaus; then he took his leave and drove to Vienna.

My conversation with Mr. Kaut was amicable.  I told him that Bernhard was expecting DM 50,000.00 for the run of performances, but he said that for him that would mean dropping the whole thing right away, and in fact even now the decision may still be made that quickly.  I told him what I had in mind: DM 40,000.00; he flatly rejected it.  But he was not obliged to reject the condition linking the premiere run to the tour.  He averred to me yet again that Dorn had not told him that the tour was infeasible.  He might be willing to put up the DM 40,000.00, but if he does he will require the theatrical productions organization to contribute more to the production and the set design.  DM 40,000.00 in exchange for DM 40,000.00; then we could save ourselves the bank charges for transferring the money.

We parted intending to give it one more try; everything would have to be decided before November 23, because on that date he is sending his season program to the press.”

2. Kulturer.  A Film Scenario was published by Residenz Publications in 1974 (see n. 1 to Letter No. 332).
         

Letter No. 272

[Address: Ohlsdorf]

Frankfurt am Main
November 28, 1973

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

Enclosed is the publishing contract for The Hunting Party.  Please pay particular attention to §3: “The firm will commission performances of The Hunting Party only with the author’s consent.”  I believe that this sentence is unambiguous.  Please send back both forms with your signature affixed to them. You will then receive a copy with my signature.

This is merely an interim communication.  You will be separately informed about the other things.

Yours
with warm regards,
Siegfried Unseld

Enclosure


Letter No. 273

[Address: Ohlsdorf]

Frankfurt am Main
December 3, 1973

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

I have forsaken the scenery of Frankfurt for eight days to go on a short ski holiday in Arosa with my wife.  Once again I can only send you an interim notice; our performance contract containing the stipulation of DM 40,000.00  has been sent to President Kaut; an accompanying letter maintains the offers through December 4.  If by this date the contract has not been signed or no reaction has been received, we will remind him one more time.  In other news, the executive committee of the Festival is diligently working on the contracts for the director and the actor; this business will smoothly fall into place.

But there has been a change in the casting of the principal role; Bernhard Minetti will be taking on this role instead of Martin Benrath; he is keen on the role, indeed, he is fascinated by it and is delighted to be playing it.  As soon as we have received Kaut’s signature or definitive reaction, we will conclude the contracts with the actors for the tour.  It is looking now as though the tour can take place in January, February, and March.  So things are in good shape.

As I said, this is only an interim notice.  I will get in touch again when there is something new to report after my return.

Yours
with sincere regards,
signed [Dr. Siegfried Unseld]

(Typed from dictation by Burgel Zeeh, secretary, during his absence)

   
Letter No. 274

Frankfurt am Main
December 10, 1973

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

Today I received the contract with Salzburg dealing with the premiere run of The Force of Habit; Mr. Kaut wanted to insert a clause requiring reimbursement from the firm if the performances do not materialize “through the fault or at the request of the author.”  I refused to admit this clause, but I declared to Mr. Kaut that Suhrkamp Publications is a party to this contract and that we--i.e., the firm--can prohibit performances if need be.  I hope you had something along these lines in mind.

Can you drop me a line letting me know where you are going to be “during the year”?  I am going to be out of town for a few more days and so I cannot sign this letter.  Beginning this weekend I shall be in Frankfurt throughout the admittedly short remainder of the year.

So we are getting very close indeed to 1974, the Year of Thomas Bernhard.

Yours
sincerely,
signed Dr. Siegfried Unseld

(Typed from dictation by Burgel Zeeh, secretary, during his absence)


Letter No. 275

Frankfurt am Main
December 17, 1973

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

You wanted to see our contract with the Festspielhaus.  Here it is.  It certainly doesn’t contain any secrets.  As of now we are still corresponding over a certain clause, but it is not one of a contractual character.  Kaut wanted to be sure that the firm would not demand any withdrawals or undertake to prevent any performances.  That can certainly be done; but we naturally must see that the quality of the performance is being attended to.1

Yours
with warm regards,
Siegfried Unseld

  1. §14 of the performance contract for The Force of Habit contains the following “special agreements”:
“The publishing firm guarantees the Salzburg Festival the first run of performances of the above-mentioned plays through August 10, 1974.

The Salzburg Festival will remit a one-time originator’s fee of DM 40,000.00 (forty thousand).  This fee is to be issued independently of the performance run and the number of performances.  The first DM 20,000.00 of the fee will be issued upon the conclusion of the contract, through which the contract will first take legal effect; and the remaining DM 20,000.00 will be issued on July 1, 1974.

Should performance of the play not be achieved in the context of the Salzburg Festival, moneys already remitted are not to be refunded, and all moneys still owed must be remitted.

The Salzburg Festival will engage Mr. Dieter Dorn as director of the first run of performances.  Should this not be possible, the engagement of another director will require the assent of the publishing firm.  Moreover, the casting must receive the publishing firm’s express approval.

The rehearsal period must amount to at least six weeks.”


Letter No. 276

[Ohlsdorf]

Frankfurt am Main
December 18, 1973

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

A pressing request: before this year is over I need the signed contract for The Force of Habit; otherwise my agreement with Salzburg will be invalid.

I deliberately kept the wording of the contract with Suhrkamp, Inc. Zurich1 somewhat vague; we can fill in the details later; in any case they concern things agreed upon by the two of us; the main points are firmly in place.

Please have both copies sent back to me without delay.

Yours
with sincere regards,
Siegfried Unseld

  1. The contracts securing the establishment of Suhrkamp Publications, Inc. Zurich, a subsidiary of Suhrkamp Publications Frankfurt am Main, were signed on December 27, 1973.


Letter No. 277

[Telegram]

Gmunden
12.21.73

its not pressing for me no further action before new discussion1
very sincerely bernhard

  1. On the same day Bernhard wrote in a letter to Rudolf Rach, “From Unseld came a ‘vaguely worded’ contract regarding The Force of Habit, but I don’t sign ‘vague’ contracts.  I am not going to sign anything until I have spoken with Unseld again and everything has been clarified to the greatest possible extent.”  In the same letter he reacted to an inquiry by the ORF about a live broadcast of The Force of Habit: “a live broadcast from the Regional Theater is something so fascinating that I will not under any circumstances forgo it. [...] Therefore the firm shall or must assent to the live broadcast of my comedy.  The financial terms are inalterable; it is a rock-bottom price.”  


Letter No. 278

Ohlsdorf
12.27.73

Dear Siegfried Unseld,

As I listen to some good music at six in the morning I reflect that we are inseparable and are doing something that other people cannot do.

We should not forget that we are dealing with a godsend and there are difficulties, an ever-recurring exigency of such an astonishing history of a body of art, difficulties with which, thanks to a conversation that has had to be regularly repeated at not excessively lengthy intervals, one’s mind is forever brimming over.  The year is coming to an end; that is reason enough to write this single letter.  A couple of lines whose gist is this: with the greatest attentiveness, by all possible means, I would love to walk with you.

Yours
Thomas Bernhard

P.S. I am waiting for the rough collated copy of The Hunting Party.




END OF PART XI.


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. 340-413. 

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 these notes into line with what he believes to be mainstream editorial practice in the Anglosphere, most signally by moving most instances of the historical present into the simple past. 

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