Monday, June 08, 2015

A Translation of Thomas Bernhard's Correspondence with His Publisher, Siegfried Unseld. Part XIII: 1975.

Letter No. 307

St. Veit in Pongau, Salzburg Region

Dear Siegfried Unseld,

Exactly ten years ago today I came to Frankfurt from Bremen and buttonholed a rather cold-ridden publisher in his lodgings and haggled with him over the sum of forty-thousand marks, which he eventually handed over to me.  Do you remember that?  Then I continued on to Giessen and delivered a lecture and with the money, with the forty thousand and the ten thousand from Bremen, I founded Nathal, and it has brought me much good fortune.1

Today I am writing to remind you of our two-party “conversation about the hundred thousand,” which we carried on while scurrying up the mountain in the vicinity of the bemused art historian and his wife in the middle of a Föhn storm, the very same storm that probably triggered our shared infection, and now I am asking you to hand over to me the exigent hundred thousand as soon as possible.  I am having nightmares about interest fees, and it’s all quite unnecessary.  Neither of us will be putting himself at risk if you stick the hundred thousand into my coat pocket in, for example, Salzburg, by way of covering my bank debt (sixteen percent interest).  Think back to the forty thousand after Bremen; that was an audacious move on the part of the publisher!  At the time.  Today money and the flu are again the main topics.  Please personally bring the money to me in Salzburg and remember that we are going to have another premiere in that town in ’76.2  Etcetera.  This is at the same time an invitation to you to resume our conversation, which was so brutally cut short by the virus.  It’s a good thing that you are well again!  I have written Rach an important letter that is no less harsh than candid, and by now he surely will have briefed you on it.3

I myself am now in finest fettle after an inflammation of my lungs that was very trying but that has been quashed thanks to the administration of millions of units of penicillin at the hospital in Wels under the supervision of my brother, who is a member of the staff there, and to three weeks spent in the clean air of the mountains where Frost was written.  I am working on the comedy for Salzburg, then I’ll finish up with Atzbach and in March I shall be in Portugal.  I very much hope we meet up before the middle of February in Salzburg, because at this time we are both absolutely immune.

Where did the virus come from?  Sincerely
Thomas B.

  1. See n. 3 to Letter No. 5.

  1. Bernhard inadvertently wrote “’66.”  The premiere of the play Die Berühmten [The Celebrities] was scheduled for July 1976 at the Salzburg Festival.

  1. Bernhard’s letter to Rodolf Rach is dated January 20, 1975 and reads as follows:
“Your (own or the theatrical publications division’s) indiscretion vis-á-vis the director of the Burgtheater has occasioned me enormous embarrassment here and also in the press and has perhaps even brought to ruin my plans with the Burgtheater.  This when we had after all agreed to keep absolutely silent.  But this is not the point of my letter.

You write (and the newspapers also write) that the The President will probably not be receiving a May premiere in Vienna.  I must make it clear that by no means, and I repeat: by no means, will I tolerate a postponement in Vienna, because by all means, and again I repeat: by all means, the first performance in Stuttgart must take place before the summer holidays.

Precisely and uncountermandably, and I am drawing the firm’s attention to my uttermost consistency at this early date by way of forestalling any instance of non-compliance with my demand, although I naturally assume that the firm is acting in complete and total conformity with my intentions.

Regardless of the circumstances, if the Burgtheater fails to make the premiere happen in May (I couldn’t care less about this premiere as a specifically Viennese one: I only agreed to it because Klingenberg wouldn’t release me from the contract), a delay of the premiere to a post-May date is out of the question.  Stuttgart must take place.  And it most certainly must even if we lose all the money that was to come from Vienna, which is a possibility.  That makes no difference to me.

From now on please act in conformity with my intentions in compliance with this genuine ultimatum, and keep me promptly briefed.

After a fortnight’s stay in hospital (a severe inflammation of the lungs arising from a case of the flu) I have arrived in a single bound back in Ohlsdorf, and on account of the fog I shall be reachable through next Tuesday at the Sonnhof Hotel in St. Veit in Pongau, Salzburg Region A 5621.”

Both performances ensued as planned: the world premiere, directed by Ernst Wendt at the Academy Theater in Vienna, on March 17, 1975, and the German premiere, directed by Claus Peymann, at the Württemberg Regional Theater in Stuttgart on May 21, 1975.  

Letter No. 308   

[Handwritten on the stationery of the Hotel Belvédère, St. Moritz]

St. Moritz  

Dear S. U.,

It was for me a completely & utterly splendid sojourn & I thank you for idea & invitation--the day has had an excellent effect on my mind.  I am convinced that our future is good, it is so clear & consequently the best sort of one for the purposes of our motives!1

I wish you a luck- & [joy-filled] SKI-WEEK.
Th. B.

  1. In his Travel Journal, Zurich-St. Moritz-Poschiavo, September 9-16, 1975, Unseld noted:
“On Monday evening in Chur I met with Thomas Bernhard, who traveled with me to St. Moritz and stayed there for two days.  On the whole it was a very productive conversation.  Vis-à-vis further financial undertakings, we were granted the possibility of doing as we see fit with The President, and he promised to deliver the manuscript of Correction at the end of April; this is definite.”

In his Chronicle entry for February 7, 1975, Unseld gives an account of how this shared vacation came about: “Telephone conversation with Thomas Bernhard.  He bristled at the idea of my going on vacation at the very moment when decisions regarding The President were being made in Vienna.  He asked me to come to Salzburg; I declined to do this.  Minutes later he rang to tell me that he would visit me in St. Moritz instead.”


Letter No. 309

[Address: Ohlsdorf]

Frankfurt am Main
February 19, 1975

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

I still have to thank you for the lines you left behind for me in St. Moritz.  I too am under the impression--a lasting one--that we get the best results when we work together.

The negotiations with the bank have commenced.

I am once again recalling your promise to give us the manuscript of Correction by the end of April.  You gave me your word, and I am building on it.

Right now, though, I have a request that we did not discuss in St. Moritz.  It has to do with the collection First Reading Experiences that I am editing.  Would it not still be possible for you to write a short text for this.  This really should be possible, and it would be a shame if you were not included in this collection.  So leap over the shadow, go to your typewriter and write down your memory down.  I would be most delighted.

[Siegfried Unseld]

Letter No. 310


Dear Siegfried Unseld,

Today came your letter, in which you put me in mind of my first two books.

You cannot expect anything from me beyond this brief declaration.1

Kaut wrote today that he had firmly reserved my place for ’76 and I now have a title for the work: The Celebrities.

I myself am going to be at the Frankfurt airport at eight-o-five on Saturday morning and will have an hour of time; the machine takes off for Lisbon at nine-twenty-five; I am writing this only thus precisely because I would be very happy to chat with you during this free hour.2

Yours sincerely,
Thomas Bernhard  

  1. Bernhard evidently attached to this letter his contribution to Volume 250 of the suhrkamp taschenbücher, the collection Erste Lese-Erlebnisse [First Reading Experiences], edited by Unseld.  In this text Bernhard described Schopenhauer’s World as Will and Representation and Christian Wagner’s poems as his first “intellectually decisive” books.

  1. In the upper-right margin of the letter is a handwritten comment by Unseld: “done v[iva] v[oce].”  Therefore, Unseld agreed to the proposed meeting.  He wrote about the encounter in a note for his Chronicle:
“The month began rather inauspiciously.  I was scheduled to meet Thomas
Bernhard at 8:05 a.m. at the airport; admittedly he did not specify where.  So I
sacrificed 200 meters of swimming to him, sidled through the customs check, and met him at the gate, although his flight was ten minutes early.
He was accompanied by his brother, who is very likable.  Bernhard was in a remarkably unjocular mood; his brother trailed us at a distance of ten meters.  Then he stayed in the waiting room.  Bernhard and I went into the Senator Lounge.  No sooner had we sat down than he launched into his cannonade of abuse: Dr. Marré’s letter had received a false echo, both from the bank and from Thomas Bernhard.   I had of course promised him in St. Moritz that we would try gradually to take on his debt to the bank; but Marré tendered a surety (to say nothing of the absorption of interest and further obligations on our part).  The bank, perhaps at the inspiration of Bernhard, reacted huffily to this: Bernhard, it said, was a good customer, so why did we tender a surety?  The bank, as I said, got huffy; Bernhard himself was outraged.  Marré, he said, was like Rach: impossible, incompetent, and basically fit for nothing but to be fired.  After this latest catastrophe he again demanded to be given the DM 100,000.00 on the spot and without any endorsements.  I refused to comply and stuck to the terms of the proposal I had made in St. Moritz.  After 20 very rough minutes Bernhard was at least prepared to “permit” our tendering another offer to the bank.  He is of course always the same: he is ruthless, extortionate, and he has even raised this to the level of a personal artistic ideology.  And this is only going to keep getting worse.

He was content with Wendt as a director for the Vienna production and also with Dorn’s idea of casting a man (Holtzmann) as the first lady.  He wasn’t interested in anything but the DM 100,000.00.

He plans to come and see the matter settled on March 15.”              

Letter No. 311

[handwritten; picture postcard: “Lisboa--Praça de Touros do Campo Pequeno”--Lisbon, Campo Pequeno bullring]


--for your own ARENA! I shall get in touch on the 15th, at around 3:00; yours & your wife’s sincerely,
Thomas B.

Letter No. 312


Dear Siegfried Unseld,

My memories of my visit in Klettenbergstrasse are very fond ones.1

I have, however, given up hope on seeing the program of the tour2, and my desire for new books, especially books from the BS, is no longer being acknowledged.  Perhaps good things happen in ones.

Today Peymann is going to be here; everything looks as though it will turn out well.

Please talk to Rach about the videotaping for television and then work out a deal with the television network; what really matters for me is that the Stuttgart performance, and none of the other ones, should be broadcast.  For me this is all about keeping Vienna from coming to us with anything.

I believe The President is off to a good start.

At the moment all is good.

Thomas B.

  1. In a note on this Conversation on Saturday, March 15, 1975, in Frankfurt for his Chronicle, Unseld wrote:

“Thomas Bernhard arrived two hours late.  In Lisbon the passengers for his flight were understandably searched and required to show their papers several times.  This screening procedure lasted two hours, and even on board the plane some very young on-duty soldiers stood with machine guns in firing position.

Bernhard witnessed the new ‘revolution.’  Inwardly a drama, outwardly an operetta.  He said that Portugal is now a communist country ruled by a communist military regime; their goal is a socialist state patterned not on the the Soviet Union or China but rather on Cuba and the GDR.  Everything, he said, would develop in this direction; they were probably clever enough not to break with the other western-European countries, but the course had definitely been set, and now that Spinola had left another backlash against this development would probably no longer be possible.

Moreover, he was glad, and indeed, elated, to have escaped from this troublesome situation.  He listened almost cheerfully to my reflections on his
DM 100,00.00 demand.  He signed the loan contract and an additional agreement immediately; he was nonchalant in his acceptance of DM 25,000.00.

After that, everything went smoothly; he approved the performance of The Ignoramus in Brunswick, the performances of The Force of Habit in Rotterdam and Ljubljana, and took in my news about the planned production of The President with interest.  On May 20 in Vienna, with Ernst Wendt directing and Beck and Krottendorf as the two protagonists.  In Stuttgart Beckmann and Heedegen are slated to play the principal roles, and at the beginning or in the middle of June Dorn will put on The President and His Wife with two men (Held and Holtzmann).  He was pleased.  He especially found Wendt a very good choice.

He has definitively promised Correction for the end of April; this probably means he will give it to me in Vienna in the middle of May.

He had a very guilty conscience about his demeanor at the Senator Lounge a fortnight earlier.  I told him once again that he could make whatever moves he liked along with me, but not against me, and I told him that on that very day at the Senator Lounge I had come very close to walking out on him, that only my respect for his work had deterred me.

He is and remains a remarkable man.  Undoubtedly a genius but also saddled with all the perils of a genius.  Self-indulgence, an unrealistic outlook, and always ready to strong-arm his partner in material matters.  On the other hand he was amiable, chivalrous towards my wife, and he felt unbelievably comfortable in the setting of Klettenbergstraße, where the two Chinese vases he had given my wife were standing on the mantelpiece.”

2.     The Force of Habit toured the German-speaking countries in 1975; for more on the program see n. 1 to Letter No. 299.

Letter No. 313

[Address: Ohlsdorf]

Frankfurt am Main
March 24, 1975

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

Sincere thanks for your letter of March 18.  I also found our most recent encounter quite agreeable.  The vino tinto, by the way, was excellent, and even the candied greengages were and are exquisite.

In Vienna everything seems to be going normally; Wendt is rehearsing.

We will reserve the television rights for Peymann.1  

The tour continues to get rave reviews.  Minetti is visibly improving.

I am sending you the tour program by the same post, and I shall also try to send you a few volumes from the BS and from the new series.  

I would be really pleased if you could give just a few readings in the second half of September.  Shouldn’t we have a genuine go at this?  We are organizing a Suhrkamp book week for that period, and I would be pleased to see you there reading, chatting away.  I would be glad to be among those present then.

with warm regards,
[Siegfried Unseld]

  1. The production of The President that was ultimately recorded and broadcast by both the ZDF (July 11, 1978) and ORF was not Peymann’s but Wendt’s at the Bayrischen Staatsschauspiel (first performance: July 1976).  In this production the sets were designed by Michael Degen, the president was played by Kurt Meisel, and the first lady by Maria Becker.

  1. The enclosure cannot be identified.

Letter No. 314
[Address: Ohlsdorf]
Frankfurt am Main
April 25, 1975
Dear Thomas Bernhard,
Our deadline is approaching; we had of course agreed that I would receive the manuscript of Correction by the end of April.  I attach the greatest imaginable degree of importance to this.  Please send me a telegram whenever you mail it or have found some other way of dispatching it to Germany.
Where will you be on May 15 and 16?  On those two days I am going to be in Vienna; on the evening of the 15th I am giving a lecture at the Österreichische Gesellschaft für Literatur [Austrian Society for Literature]; on the morning of the 16th I shall be at the university, and in the afternoon and also in the evening of that day I shall be meeting with book-dealers.  In the event that you are in Vienna on Friday the 16th and wish to take part in a dinner with some book-dealers, that would be very nice.  I really would be delighted.
On May 17 I shall fly back to Frankfurt so that I can be in Vienna again on the 20th for the performance and stop over at Stuttgart Station on my way back.
I hope very much that we see each other.  Please drop me a line.
with sincere regards,
[Siegfried Unseld]

Letter No. 315



my flight with ms wednesday daytime or thursday next week which suits you better sincerely

Letter No. 316
[Address: Ohlsdorf; telegram-memorandum]
Frankfurt am Main
April 30, 1975
Meeting possible May 8.  Requesting you phone Ms. Zeeh.
Meeting likewise possible, 15, 16, or 20 in Vienna.
Letter on its way.1
v. sincerely, S.U.
1. The meeting took place in Vienna.  Unseld wrote of it in his Travel Journal Vienna, May 15-18, 1975:
“This was certainly an extremely tiring but also extremely successful and then again extremely enjoyable trip.  In Vienna the infrastructure for our activities really just keeps improving.  An important decision was made: the Vienna book-dealers fairly begged to be allowed to participate in the Suhrkamp book week, and I allowed myself to be persuaded to have the book week take place in Austria, and perhaps specifically right after the German book week, meaning that it would then begin on September 29; Thomas Bernhard is even prepared to read; we will also consider adding other readings and activities. […]
The […] most important thing: Thomas Bernhard gave me the manuscript of his Correction; I read 60 pages straight away, it is an utterly superlative thing, and there is absolutely no doubt about it: a pillar and centerpiece of our schedule for the second half of the year.
Thursday, May 15, 1975, 6 p.m.:
Thomas Bernhard visited me at the hotel; we had a very pleasant conversation; he handed over the manuscript to me, and I handed the banknotes over to him.  We hurried at the double to the Palais Palffy, where I was to give my lecture “The Vocation of a Literary Publisher Today.”  I arrived exhausted and bathed in sweat and was obliged to deliver the lecture under the auspices of this sweatiness.  But this lecture went down well.  I have seldom received so many compliments, let alone from so many competent people.  Dr. Kraus, Dr. Berger, some book-dealers, then Hilde Spiel, who had listened “with fascination,” Friederike Mayröcker, and the following day Thomas Bernhard told me that he had been “delighted” with his publisher.  So on the whole it seems to have been quite effective.
Sunday, May 17, 1975:
Lunch, a lengthy one, with Thomas Bernhard, his aunt, Ms. Hilde Spiel, and the book-dealer Christl Wagner.  A very congenial group; here we debated the establishment of an Austrian library at Suhrkamp Publications [see the attachment to Letter No. 87], the cultivation of new authors, towards which Bernhard naturally has a very skeptical attitude.  (He views ‘the remote resemblance’ of E.Y. Meyr to him as ‘a very close resemblance’; we ought, he thinks, to take note of this ‘instance of plagiarism’ and forbid Mr. Meyer to write in this manner, and under no circumstances should we print anything he writes in it!)  In the course of this conversation it once again became clear what a strong position is occupied by Bernhard and Handke; at the moment these two sum up Austrian literature, at least as far as the younger generation is concerned. […]
Bernhard and Hilde Spiel proposed the inclusion of Alexander Lernet-Holenia in the BS, and specifically with a volume called Mars in Aries.    

Thomas Bernhard quite rightly pointed out that the collection of texts about him, On Thomas Bernhard [see Letter No. 87, n. 114], was now hopelessly out-of-date; I promised him a new collection; Reinhard Urbach is under consideration as a possible editor.  At first Bernhard was against the idea, but then he assented to it; perhaps we should put out two books: one on Bernhard the prose-writer and the other on the dramatist.  Urbach and Ernst Wendt could be suitable as editors.

Bernhard was very confident on account of the forthcoming performance of  The President that evening; admittedly he was not planning to attend it; he was going to go to the cinema instead.  But Wendt, he said, had done an excellent, indeed, a perfect job.  His optimism seemed suspicious to me.     

My suspicion was destined to be borne out.  The performance scraped by, was greeted with approbation, obviously, that was to be expected; a few people walked out on the performance under protest, but somehow the overall effect was unsatisfying.  The first two acts were too long; the woman playing the president, Ida Krottendorf, was not up to the task, especially not vocally.  [President: Kurt Beck]  The fifth scene with the lying in state struck me as unsuccessful in every respect.  A small coffin that looked like a lunar rocket; embarrassing funereal pomp.  Peymann certainly would have directed the thing differently, with more severity.  But the set design, with the exception of the fifth scene, was perfect [Set designs: Rolf Glittenberg].  On the whole this performance gave one the impression that in virtue of his excessive fidelity to the text the director has done more harm than good.  But of course we are all making a mistake: we accept and adopt Bernhard’s work too precisely.  A half a year ago, after my first reading of the manuscript, I told him that the first two acts were too long.  Bernhard remembered this when we spoke about the performance after it.  I am anxious about the reviews.”

In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of May 20, 1975 Georg Hensel wrote under the headline “A First-Class Burial”: “Thomas Bernhard has an astonishing capacity to capitalize on his incapacity to write a dialogue.  Perhaps this time he has overrated this talent a little.”  Herbert Gamper’s review in the Weltwoche (“Geisteswitterung des Zeitalters” [“Intellectual Weather of the Age”], May 28, 1975) begins with the following sentences: “The latest play by the Austrian gloom-writer Thomas Bernhard was advertised as ‘an anarchists’ play.’  But it is much more of a play about anarchy and an anarchic play.  At its premiere in Vienna it was mislaid. [...]”

In a special note in his Chronicle headed Vienna, May 15-18, 1975, Conversations with Thomas Bernhard, Unseld remarked:

“Bernhard informed me that he was not only writing the play for the Salzburg Festival in July of 1976 [The Celebrities], but also another one for Vienna and in November 1976.  I was inwardly terrified because I am getting the jitters about the subject-matter on which Bernhard is basing these plays.  The Salzburg play is of course once again supposed to be devoted to the portrayal of successful and “celebrated” people, then the Vienna play will deal with “critics,” but there ought to be something else going into these plays.  “Ambition, hate, and fear and the like” [This is an approximate quotation of a recurring phrase from The President (DR).]--that is no longer enough.  After the premiere Bernhard had no interest in going to the actors’ premiere party; we met in the 13th district in a garden-café.  Present there were the Spiels, his aunt, and the architect Hufnagl with his wife; Hufnagl is one of Bernhard’s closest friends and advisers; Wolfgang Schaffler had repeatedly spoken to me about him, Bernhard’s evil spirit.  Hufnagl is an active, vital fellow, not without intelligence, and also not without respect for Suhrkamp, but he must be reckoned with.  Mrs. Maleta had a peculiar lot tonight: of course for a time her husband [as president of the national council] had been been acting president of Austria, and from her Bernhard had gleaned the details of princely splendor for the act set in the bedroom; her husband did not attend the premiere (allegedly he was with a lady friend in Venice, just as the president in the play was with a lady friend in Portugual).  Mrs. Maleta was with a male friend, a dentist (not, as in the play, with the chaplain or butcher), at the premiere.  The most remarkable thing: Ida Krottendorf as the first lady had a hairdo that resembled Mrs. Maleta’s, but these are obviously nuances for the cognoscenti alone.

Only a few days later Bernhard and Unseld met again; the record of this meeting in the publisher’s Travel Journal, Stuttgart, May 21-22, 1975 reads thus:

“That evening saw the German premiere of Thomas Bernhard’s play The President.  The exact antithesis of Vienna: the first two acts were outstanding, and it was easy to see how much depends on the performers.  Edith Heerdegen [as the first lady] and Doris Schade [as Mrs. Frölich] were outstanding; the hour-and-a-half slipped by effortlessly.  The part after the intermission, though, was the antithesis; the president--Horst Christian Beckmann--couldn’t cope with the role, and so there were some embarrassing longueurs.  If the play had been performed in two hours, it would have been a success.   The actress was played by Libgart Schwarz, Peter Handke’s wife.  She did a good job.  At the end the director was booed, perchance in lieu of the author?

A long premiere night.  But at least Thomas Bernhard had turned up.  It was impossible to tell whether he was in the house or not; Peter Handke had come; originally he did not plan to see the play.  But the evening with the two authors and with Peymann afterwards was quite pleasurable.  The most surprising thing: Thomas Bernhard and Peter Handke, who have of course been increasingly polarized by the Austrian environment, took a shine to each other.  I took advantage of this to propose the idea of having a joint reading by the two authors hosted by the Viennese book-dealers on September 29 in Vienna.  Neither of them objected.  Then Bernhard gave me his consent the next morning; I shall write to Handke and then obtain his confirmation.  This is an important piece of news I am bringing home with me. Next morning another very amiable conversation with Thomas Bernhard.  It centred on the future of his next two works.”

Letter No. 317


Dear Siegfried Unseld,

I have written for Minetti a dramatic text that he must perform, execute like an exercise, while he still exists, before he is irretrievably defunct; and yet it is an art/work, and I would like to know if we can put out a book entitled Minetti in the BS.  Minetti is supposed to make his entrance on New Year’s Eve at the Stuttgart Theater.

It is a text exclusively for Minetti and exclusively for that evening.  Why do I hear nothing from Frankfurt, the holy city?  For me, all other German cities, Hamburg, excepted, are utterly and absolutely unbearable; Frankfurt stands alone as a permanent majestic hideous gorgeous creation!  The others are lifeless, unbearable brainless, shameless, tawdry museum pieces.

Veritable lumber rooms of human deadwood in which feats of art come to term only while being veritably kicked up the backside.

The President was of course not intended for the assholes who slept through it.

Please see that a deal with the Poles (enclosed letter) is worked out and concluded.2.

I am in especially good form.

When will you be coming to this neck of the woods?

Thomas B.

  1. The letter bears a receipt-stamp date of June 23, 1975.

  1. In the enclosed May 28, 1975 letter from the Polish publishing firm of Wydawnitcwo Poznanskie, the editor Adela Skrentna asks if she may purchase the rights to a Polish translation of Frost from Bernhard or from Insel Publications and makes a concrete bid for a contract for the purchase.

  1. At the end of the letter there are an “x” and and arrow referring to a handwritten postscript on the back of the page; the postscript reads, “What is going on with the Salzburgers & Viennese?”

Letter No. 318

6.[between 10 and 30].75

requesting complete galley proofs “correction”

Letter No. 319

Frankfurt am Main
July 1, 1975

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

I am still going to write you a letter in reply to your latest one.

But today the following:

Today Suhrkamp publications turns 25.  We are not celebrating but rather putting out good books, for example the Salzburg Plays in the setting of the suhrkamp taschenbücher.  By the same post we are sending you a copy express; two more are on their way from us.1

We printed a run of 10,000 copies; retail price DM 6.00; the deduction of the honorarium will follow as usual.   Please let us know how many copies you would like to have.

very sincerely,
Siegfried Unseld

  1. The Salzburg Plays [Die Salzburger Stücke], Volume 257 of the suhrkamp taschenbücher, contains The Ignoramus and the Madman and The Force of Habit.

Letter No. 320


Dear Siegfried Unseld,

I will attempt once again to put in writing everything, apart from certain very basic things that I can now no longer formulate, that was disclosed in the letter I sent you about five weeks ago and that you say have not received.

I am writing a theatrical text which is entitled Minetti, and which will be performed on New Year’s Eve in Stuttgart, and only there and then and never again!!!, with Minetti in principal role and which is a text intended exclusively for Minetti, for I must exploit this magnificent actor for my theatrical purposes while he is at his peak, and that can’t last much longer.  My question was whether we could put out a BS volume in December.

In my letter there was enclosed another letter (now unfortunately lost) from a Polish publisher in Lodz, whose name I can’t recall, who complains that he wrote three or four letters to Suhrkamp entreating (!) you to grant him the rights to Frost, and that he received no reply and now thinks he can obtain the rights to publication in Polish from me, but I don’t have those rights.  Please try to find out which publisher in Lodz this is; there can hardly be hundreds of them.

An important point in the “lost” letter is devoted to my asking you whether it would be possible to extend the July deadline for the balance (the remaining half) of the loan to August 2.

I then wrote urging you to finalize the contracts with Salzburg and Vienna, which is now no longer possible, because the people are already on vacation, or, in the case of Salzburg, have something else on the brain; I have negotiated and finalized everything barring the issuing of the contract, because it is now firmly settled that I will be bringing out The Celebrities next summer in Salzburg and in Vienna in October/November a play at the Burg in honor of Klingenberg’s departure.  But I have already told you several times to draw up contracts with these two, Kaut and Klingenberg; in the end these plays are important things that have no precedent in these times and it would be essential to get behind them.

Unfortunately my oft-expressed wish for a couple of individual volumes of the BS to be sent to me has fallen on deaf ears; so far I have not received a single book; the wish was distinctly articulated in St. Moritz.  So I guess whatever I am interested in I will just have to buy.

Much else was divulged in this letter; none of it is coming to mind at the moment, but to move on: from Michel Demet, the translator of my plays into French, for Gallimard, who works at the Sorbonne, I hear that several good theaters wish to perform my plays, if Gallimard will publish them; Gallimard will publish them if the theaters will perform them and so I am asking you to communicate personally and explicitly with Erval from Gallimard about this business so that something will happen.  The fact is that there are so many possibilities that never get exploited because I myself do not have the time to do so, because I naturally must work without interruption on my intellectual work, which of course seems to me to be of the utmost importance; on the other hand the firm--and this is a genuine accusation--lets everything follow its own course and nothing follows its own course on its own!!!--and to whom am I reciting this sad old tale if not the firm?!   And what is going on with England and so on!  There have been so many times here in which I have been driven to the brink of despair  over the fact that quite simply nothing will get done unless I do it myself; the firm reacts only when it is given a good shove towards something, and even then only rarely and for the most part ineptly.

Yesterday I received the so-called Salzburg Plays, but my very first glance at it had to bump into an irresponsible misprint: the performance dates of the Ignoramus are immediately followed by Mr. Vince and one Ms. Gstrein, but the sets were by the magnificent Hermann and the costumes by Moidele Biekel!  This is quite simply irresponsible brainless feeble-mindedness on the part of the people who have been made responsible for such a book and it occasions me only anger and nausea, nothing else.  There is much to discuss and clarify, but I cannot content myself with your meeting with Schaffler on August 2 and perhaps also meeting with me afterwards; I find such an idea unbearable and the fundamental issues I once again have to discuss with you have nothing to do with the usual estival vacation-mania.  It is essential for you to set aside some time for me as soon as possible and to come here.  We cannot keep working together in this desultory fashion.

Regarding Correction: probably nobody will comprehend what it is; people never make the slightest effort to comprehend anything; this is not an age of effort, but this is something I really have no business even starting to care about; but still, I have never before received the galley proofs in such maddening, nerve-racking installments.  What a fine pass the firm has come to when it no longer sends me the whole package at once, as it always did until now.  Wherever one looks one is only ever dealing with incompetence, and slovenliness is the foundation from which this incompetence draws its by no means negligible wages.

My dear Siegfried Unseld, please treat these lines as a challenge, as in a challenge to a duel, and inform me by letter or telegram where and when we can meet as soon as possible either here at my house or at some place in the immediate vicinity; I cannot travel any farther.  We must speak with each other.

Yours sincerely,
Thomas Bernhard

Regarding Correction: as this has been a four year-long undertaking, it deserves to be literally bowed down to, but I fear that this book is going to be allowed to slip away like all those other books that have been printed so far but that now collectively amount to nothing but one big mindless rubbish heap!  It’s all stupidity, shamelessness, charlatanry!  I refuse to put up with it and I will have nothing to do with his now-blatant case of terminal degenerative dementia!
Letter No. 321

[Address: Ohlsdorf; handwritten telegram-memorandum]

Frankfurt am Main
July 11, 1975

Proposal for meeting Thursday evening July 31 Munich or August 3 from 3-5 p.m. in Ohlsdorf.  Letter follows.

Sincerely SU

Letter No. 322

[Address: Ohlsdorf; telegram-memorandum]
Frankfurt am Main
July 15, 1975

Re Galley Sheet 143: when you send back Correction please insert the missing part.  Regards Siegfried Unseld

Letter No. 323

[Address: Ohlsdorf]

Frankfurt am Main
July 15, 1975

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

A publisher, too, is only human.  So he also needs to be stroked.  If he is only beaten like a dog, then he obviously can only turn canine...I sent you a telegram with two dates for a meeting.  I hope one of them suits you.  I would then bring the third quarter of the loan to this meeting.

Regarding the contracts, I had decided from the outset not to start anything before the holidays.  Both Kaut and Klingenberg would have let things stall over the holidays; the contracts would then have been left sitting for weeks, and that is not good.  If a contract exists, it should be signed.  I shall send Kaut his contract at the end of July, and Klingenberg his in mid-August.

I cannot judge whether Minetti is makeable into a volume in the Bibliothek Suhrkamp; in order to do that I would actually have to be familiar with the text or have received some detailed information about it from you.  What is more, it is worth considering that we are probably going to try to include The Celebrities and also the following play in the BS, and an excessively large accumulation of titles by you in the Bibliothek Suhrkamp is not good for either party.

I don’t understand why you get so riled up about typographical errors; these things can be rectified in a partial second printing, and then the case is closed.  In a large company, one cannot do everything oneself, and typos are unfortunately bound to crop up.  Nobody is perfect--except for Thomas Bernhard, when he is ranting.

Ms. Borcher gave the galley proofs for Correction to our mailing department in two batches, and I was assured she was doing so for technical reasons relating to customs.  After all, you don’t wish to have to deal with customs duties when you collect the packages.  

That is also the reason why we haven’t sent you any books so far.  If we send you books, you have to pay customs duties and you rant; if we don’t send you any, you also rant.

Apart from that, I quite like, not to mention cherish, Correction.  I am gearing myself up for it, and we are going make the book our absolute focus.  And so during a function at the Suhrkamp book week in Frankfurt on Friday, September 19, in front of about 150 invited guests, from A ([Hermann Josef] Abs) to Z (Professor Zeller, Marbach), the most important people from the intellectual and economic sphere will be in attendance.  The centerpiece of this function is a 20-minute reading by you from Correction.

We negotiated a deal with the Poles quite some time ago!  The publishing firm made us an offer for Frost: 7% for 10,000 copies, payable on publication, half in forex, half in zloty.  We accepted this offer; since then we have been waiting for the signed contract.  We presumably still could arrange for everything to be paid in zloty; in that case, the honorarium would be non-transferrable.  Is this what you would like?

During Erval’s Frankfurt visit four weeks ago I spoke with him about an edition of the Plays.  He was planning to look into it.  Nothing follows its own course on its own!  We are doing our bit.

And not a word in acknowledgment of what we have accomplished with the productions of the plays!  Here a really solid foundation has been laid for you.

I hope we see each other soon.

[Siegfried Unseld]

Letter No. 324
on no account issue amras as suhrkamptaschenbuch
thomas bernhard
Letter No. 325
Dear Siegfried Unseld,
The main shortcoming of your letter of the 15th is that you quite simply wrote it and sent it off much too late, but it does contain the remark that you “cherish” Correction, a remark that you do not dare to utter directly, only indirectly; all the same, it makes me happy, because it has been a great many years since anybody said that he cherished anything I had done.  That makes up for the whole multi-year-old morass produced by all the critics.

The galley proofs have been corrected and will be sent back to Frankfurt along with this letter, and I would like you to send me two rough paginated copies.

One must possess a great many sterling qualities to go two months without comments!  But it’s all well and good that you have such robust faith in me.

Today I shan’t expatiate on all the more or less important points of your letter; we can discuss those here on August 3.  But I will touch on just one of them: please don’t send a contract of any sort either to Salzburg or to Vienna; we will do that in October or November!!1

That you are only human is clear, and what a human you are!  And what a human indeed! and what a publishing firm!

Regarding the galley proofs of Correction: I have never before seen such exquisite typesetting and I would like you to communicate to the typesetter  my admiration of this quite outstanding, and indeed well-nigh incredible, superhuman achievement!; because of course I am well-acquainted with the manuscript; it is a masterly performance.  And I would like you to have the compositor of Correction sent a bottle of champagne at my expense (hence via the debiting of my account!).  And please don’t forget this request of mine!!2

I naturally thought you would come when I asked you to, on the 3rd with the third and fourth installment.  But as always, come to Ohlsdorf in a good mood.

In excellent form, with sincere regards,
Thomas B.
  1. A letter from Bernhard to Josef Kaut, also dated July 22, sheds light on the background of the Salzburg Festival’s reticence vis-à-vis The Celebrities.  In this letter Bernhard asked Kaut why The Celebrities did not figure in the published program for the following year’s festival.  After some shilly-shallying on Kaut’s part, Bernhard wrote him another letter on August 20; in it he withdrew the play from consideration for performance in Salzburg and stated, “Theater history long ago decided who was more important to whom, Bernhard to the Festival or the Festival to Bernhard.”  

  1. On August 8, 1975, Burgel Zeeh sent Bernhard a letter informing him that a bottle of Veuve Cliqot Brut champagne had been sent to Rolf Kopf at the typesetting and bookbinding firm of Göbel.

Letter No. 326  
Frankfurt am Main
August 5, 1975

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

Apropos of our Salzburg conversation1 I would like to cite the following sentence penned by the 61-year-old Goethe: “Illness only preserves the healthy.”  The fact that this sentence hails from a controversial, erotic poem of Goethe’s, a poem that a few people have described as pornographic, does not diminish its truth in the slightest.2

I shall do my best to prevent the simultaneous publication of Correction and The Cause from working to your and our detriment.  So far we only have to deal with the possibility that the Fundamental Cause [Ur-Sache] is simply essential to a precise understanding of Correction.

But I am taking note of your pledge not to submit any further manuscripts to Residenz.  Should you ever contemplate licensing a work to a third party or even to Residenz again, I would like to be consulted about it before a decision is made.  This strikes me as the least we owe to our collaborative relationship.   

I am granting you your wish: Amras will be coming out in the Bibliothek Suhrkamp, and even at the very top of the new schedule--in other words, in May of 1976.  On September 19 you will receive the fourth installment of the loan.

On September 29 we were also planning to speak with Klingenberg in Vienna.

As far as the procedure for the new play goes, Mr. Kaut is supposed to receive the manuscript at the end of October.  Zurich will have the contract ready in time for it to reach Mr. Kaut on the same day.

I hope very much that by the time you receive this letter you will have sent off the corrections to Correction.  We are anxiously awaiting them.  Hopefully you have crossed out, modified, or at least put a question mark at the end of “public menace of a whoremongering State.”  For your sake.  For our sake.  Not for my sake.3

With this in mind,
Siegfried Unseld

P.S. Enclosed you will find the contract for Correction in duplicate.        

  1. Unseld wrote of this conversation in his Travel Journal, Salzburg--Munich--Salzburg, July 31-August 4, 1975:
“In Salzburg there were essentially three points to settle:
1. The placement of Thomas Bernhard’s new play The Celebrities at the 1976 Salzburg Festival.  The director of the festival, Mr. Kaut, had already hinted to me of difficulties.  His dramatic advisor, Professor Haeusserman, is adamantly opposed to Bernhard.  It must be said that the flock of Bernhardians has thinned quite a bit in the past six months (and even in the inner circle).  Bernhard knows that when push comes to shove he can’t count on anybody but the Austrian minister of culture and Mr. Kaut.  The governor of the state of Salzburg has wanted to “offload” him for a long time.  This makes it all the more astonishing that Bernhard is pressing to have a memoir of his early years in Salzburg published.  That is guaranteed to trigger yet another scandal.  It was now agreed that Mr. Kaut would receive the manuscript and the contract (one with the same conditions as pertained to The Force of Habit) together at the end of October.  Apart from this, the festival was very much in Suhrkamp’s bad books; the props and sets [from the tour of The Force of Habit] returned to Salzburg in catastrophic shape.
2. Conversation with Mr. Wolfgang Schaffler of Residenz Publications, Salzburg.
This was devoted exclusively to the timing of the release of Thomas Bernhard’s book Die Ursache [{An Indication of } The Cause]; as I said, it is a description of Bernhard’s early years in Salzburg, a highly critical settling of scores with the secondary school Bernhard attended, with the Church, and with Salzburg’s local institutions.  I knew that Bernhard had promised Schaffler a manuscript, but I had not been informed that this book was to be published at the same time as Correction.   I gave the two of them—Bernhard and Schaffler—a severe dressing-down and asked Shaffler to postpone the publication date, but that doesn’t suit him; ostensibly he has already sent off 50 galley sheets, the book is already half printed, and he has scheduled only a single shipment in mid-September.  I didn’t want to play my last card, and so we have agreed on a more or less simultaneous release.  Our argument will be this: the tendering of this book to Schaffler springs from an old promise; moreover, this text is a piece of the autobiography of the young Bernhard; by no means may this Cause be regarded as the cause of other texts, and therefore this author desires to have the two texts issued simultaneously.
In the light of this not very pleasant discussion, there will be no further pursuit of joint undertakings.
3. Conversation with Thomas Bernhard.
I spoke with him several times; naturally the publication of The Cause stood at the center of our conversations.  Bernhard really just expects the simultaneous publication to make the debate a bit livelier (whereas Mr. Schaffler is of the opinion that the flagging Bernhard debate is in urgent need of such a jab).
Bernhard will send us the corrections to Correction in three days.  He said that the cover that I showed him was “perfect.”  But the blurb has to be revised; I shall do this myself (Residenz Publications’ cover of The Cause strikes me as absolutely awful and totally inappropriate for Bernhard.)
A long discussion about Amras in the suhrkamp taschenbücher series.  He won’t have it.  Amras, he said, was one of his most important titles and had always been his favorite text, and it had to be in the BS.  I acquiesced.  So we will be introducing this title not via the st but rather in the context of the next schedule of the BS.

In the SLZ [see n. 1 to Letter No. 291] we have carte blanche with Verstörung or Amras.

He gave his word to give the reading in Frankfurt on Friday, September 20 (duration: 20 minutes), and a reading in Vienna (duration: 30-40 minutes).  On the other hand he has no interest in traveling to Linz.  We will negotiate a deal for the Viennese play with Mr. Klingenberg in Vienna on September 29.

On September 19 Bernhard would also like to receive the fourth installment of the loan.”

In a letter dated February 20, 1975, Bernhard consented to Wolfgang Schaffler’s publication of an autobiographical volume under the imprint of Residenz Publications.  The book originally had been given the working title Remembering (see Letters Nos. 244, 256, 271, and 283); later it was supposed to be called The Boarding School, and by June, when Bernhard sent Schaffler the manuscript, it bore its definitive title, The Cause.  For more on the genesis of The Cause see Volume 10, pp. 516ff. of Bernhard’s Works.

2. Johann Wolfgang Goethe, The Diary (1810).  

3. In the published novel, there is certainly longer any mention of a “public menace of a whoremongering State,” although two phrases that do occur in it--“completely dilapidated State” and “this perversity and prostitution in place of a State” (Bernhard, Works, Vol. 4, p. 26)-- are perhaps equally harsh.  Correction was delivered to the bookstores on September 10, 1975, with a retail price of
DM 28.00.

Letter No. 327

Frankfurt am Main
September 4, 1975

Dear Mr. Bernhard,

By the same post we are sending you two large-format printed items; one of them is a poster, and the other is a prospectus that is being printed in a run of 2 million copies.1  You are there in the middle of the first row, and somehow that really denotes to a turn your position here in the house.

with sincere regards,
Siegfried Unseld

  1. Neither the poster nor the prospectus survive in Bernhard’s posthumous papers.  The DIN-A4-sized (8.27” × 11.69”) poster bears the slogan “Man lives off his mind” and displays photographs of 25 of the firm’s authors.  Bernhard is third from the left in the first row.

Letter No. 328

[Address: (Ohlsdorf); telegram-memorandum]

Frankfurt am Main
September 4, 1975

Would you like to read in a church in Schaffhausen on the 21st/22nd?
Sincerely Unseld

Letter No. 329


arriving airport friday 8.25 a.m. requesting good hotel room1
sincerely thomas bernhard

  1. Bernhard came to Frankfurt for the opening function of the Suhrkamp book week (September 18-28 in Germany with over 100 functions) held in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the foundation of Suhrkamp on July 1, 1975.  Unseld wrote about the first day of the book week in his journal under the date of September 19, 1975:
“On my arrival in Klettenbergstraße from Bonn [The Suhrkamp book week opened on September 18 in the auditorium of the University of Bonn; Max Frisch read from his Montauk, which had been delivered to the bookstores on September 10, 1975], I encountered a very cheerful Thomas Bernhard.  We still had an hour to spare for a conversation; then the Suhrkamp reception began in Siesmayerstraße.

Approximately 250 invited guests; these were basically the firm’s friends in Frankfurt.  I delivered the Frankfurt-oriented version of my speech for the opening of the book week.  Then Bernhard read the final pages of the first part of Correction; he read magnificently, elatedly, alacritously, bringing to the forefront the musical structure of the book.  Afterwards conversations lasting till midnight.  It was a starting-point beautifully grounded in sympathy, and we were nurtured by many warm wishes.”

Under the headline “Neue Narrenburg,”[“New City of Fools”] the Frankfurter Neuen Presse of September 22, 1975 reported on the function as follows:

“Unseld celebrated the 25th anniversary of the foundation of Suhrkamp with radiant optimism and wished his red wine and Sekt-feted guests a ‘long night’ in the best of spirits.  He, the Man of Will, had managed to coax the despairingly lugubrious writer out of his Austrian sequestration and present him to the public.  A special attraction [...]

Bernhard writes and speaks in a controlled automatism; he enunciated his long sentences briskly and clearly.  Whether one is hearing him or reading him, one is somehow or other drawn into the undertow of his idiom.

The book seems to me to be consciously trying to follow in the footsteps of Stifter’s Narrenburg; here as there a fantastic architecture and biography, a biographical compulsion, is generated by the mutually interpenetrating and conterminous themes.”

Bernhard read one more time in connection with the Suhrkamp book week, at 8:00 p.m. on September 29 at the opening of the week’s Austrian segment (September 29-October 3, 1975) at the Haus der Begegnungen [House of Encounters] in the Kagram district of Vienna.  In the Travel Journal Vienna--Graz--Innsbruck, September 29-October 3, 1975, Unseld wrote:

“At 7:00 p.m. I met Thomas Bernhard at the Hotel Intercontinental.  He was furious and made the grave accusation that his appearance, our appearance, had been deliberately booked at an inappropriate venue.  He said that the House of Encounter (sic [DR]) was in a very remote spot, that it was almost impossible to get to and would never attract the sorts of people who were interested in such an evening.  Dr. Berger met up with us, and Bernhard immediately laid into him with this reproach.  Berger defended himself with the argument that this House of Encounter was sited in an up-and-coming neighborhood, in an outer suburb that would mobilize some quite advanced Bernhard readers.  But Bernhard didn’t really care to hear any of this.  What was more, he didn’t have a copy of Correction with him, and nobody knew if there would be one at the House of Encounter.  So I asked Dr. Berger to go back to his office to fetch it.  We took a taxi, 25 minutes, to the House of Encounters.  The hall itself wasn’t bad and acoustically quite pleasant, but it is totally unreasonable to expect a listener to make such a lengthy trip.

Bernhard was in a terrible funk.  I tried to make the best of the situation and address those people who had arrived so far.  Then Bernhard read; he took a while to warm up, and after ten minutes he was all there, and I am of the opinion that the evening went off quite well.  Afterwards a short pub-crawl.  Thomas Bernhard was satisfied.  Dr. Berger was less satisfied.  He felt misunderstood.  Nobody could talk him out of his trendy idea of having Bernhard read in the outer suburbs.

[...] Another conversation with Thomas Bernhard.  He filled me in on his conversation with Professor Klingenberg, the particulars of which are to be kept confidential.  The Celebrities is going to be staged at the Burgtheater or the Academietheater in a performance directed by Claus Peymann.  The rehearsals will begin in mid-May of 1976, with the performance taking place in the last days of the season.  The book version of  The Celebrities in the BS should be out by then as well.  In September of 1976 he will finish up Atzbach for the edition suhrkamp.”

In Die Presse (October 1, 1975) Rudolf U. Klaus wrote of the evening: “The hall, a space of rarified hideousness--its poisonous electric orange styrofoam-and-plastic construction literally stung one’s eyes (and one wondered what architect’s mad fling had been responsible for it! )--was about a third full when Siegfried Unseld, the head of Suhrkamp Publications, stepped up to the lectern. [...] Bernhard himself then read an approximately half-hour-long excerpt from this book [Correction], and what he read was truly the ‘monological torture’ as which it had been advertised beforehand: a monologue intérieur of endless, complicatedly turned sentences and phrases, only occasionally caesura’d by asides like ‘I thought’ or ‘he told me’; it was reflective, agonizing, full of manic-depressive humor --prayer-wheel prose.  But it was ‘authentic,’ unmistakable Bernhard.”

Letter No. 330
[Address: (Ohlsdorf)]
Frankfurt am Main
November 4, 1975

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

I am going to be in Vienna from the 10th through the 13th of November.  Have I got a chance of seeing you?1

[Siegfried Unseld]

  1. At Rilke All Over the World, an event at the Palais Palffy organized by the Austrian Society for Literature in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the poet’s birth, Unseld gave a talk entitled “Rilke and His Publisher” and met with Friederike Mayröcker among others.

Letter No. 331

[Address: Ohlsdorf]

Frankfurt am Main
November 26, 1975

Dear Thomas Bernhard,

You sounded pretty angry on the telephone the other day.  I am sorry that we couldn’t see each other, but my Vienna schedule was so tightly booked that I couldn’t make a side trip to Ohlsdorf, and of course unfortunately the AUA from Vienna to Frankfurt doesn’t stop at Salzburg Station.

Here everything is going quite well so far, with the usual vicissitudes.

On the Bernhardian front, though, things are going very well indeed.  I am certain we are going to finish what we have set out to do.

The Dutch performance of The Force of Habit is in January 1976 at the Stadtoneel in Amsterdam.  Will you be going to it?  

I was in Paris.  People there are now more receptive to German-language plays than they used to be.  I also noticed there was some interest in The Force of Habit.  Incidentally, at our insistence Gallimard has accepted Correction.

The Dutch version of The Lime Works will be coming out in the fall of 1976.  The publisher has asked to be allowed to postpone making a decision about Correction.  Sweden has turned us down “with a bleeding heart”; they said that only 200 copies of The Lime Works had been sold, but they think they might be able to put out Correction at some point.

In the schedule of the Bibliothek Suhrkamp Amras figures in the first half of the year in April and then The Celebrities at the time of the performance.  It is now the end of November.  I assume you will be sending the manuscript to Klingenberg as agreed and hopefully to me as well.

By the way, I ran into Klingenberg in Vienna at the (to my mind) disastrous Strehler premiere.  Klingenberg and I are in accord about the procedure.1.

I am writing you these lines by way of keeping open a connection with you in case we don’t see each other again this year.  Will you be spending the last days or weeks of the year in Ohlsdorf, or are you traveling?  Perchance you will even be in some latitude where someone might see you “at the bridge between the two years”?
with sincere regards as ever,
Siegfried Unseld
P.S. It really is quite remarkable: no sooner did I mention Klingenberg than he got in touch with me. |by telephone from Vienna:| Peymann will not be free until the end of June, which would be too late for the festival.  But recently Dorn got in touch with him to let him know that by a fluke he would be free in the spring and to ask him for something to direct.  So provided you agreed to it—and I don’t doubt that you would—Klingenberg could engage Dorn.  But for Klingenberg everything is contingent on whether and how he can cast your play.  He must come to a decision about this in the first week of December.    
1. On November 12 Unseld attended the world premiere1a. of The Game of the Powerful, based on Shakespeare’s Henry VI plays, at the Burgtheater in Vienna.  Under the heading Vienna, November 10-13, 1975, the Chronicle records of the encounter with Klingenberg: “Conversation with the general manager of the Burg, Mr. Klingenberg.  Duration: one minute.
For budgetary reasons the minister of culture has vetoed two major projects: a series of performances of Faust and the new Bernhard play [The Celebrities].
After reading the play and deciding in its favor, he might be able to say that we had already come to a verbal agreement about it.”   
1a. From Letter No. 257 and its fifth note one gathers that The Game of the Powerful received an earlier performance at the 1973 Salzburg Festival. [DR]


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. 456-491. 

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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