Friday, March 25, 2016

A Translation of "Ebene," a Short Story or Fragment by Thomas Bernhard

Lowlands


If we had ever been informed of and thereby enlightened in a tremendous fashion about the fact that our life-process is in truth nothing but a process of illness—we say to ourselves and ask ourselves, what, or rather, who has not informed us of it and not enlightened us about it to any extent whatsoever, time and again and specifically with the same allegations against our parents as well as against our entire environment, in which we, as we now see, were compelled to exist for decades without ever actually seeing and hence for decades without ever actually thinking; above all, we ask ourselves why our parents never informed us and therefore enlightened us, when it was after all their duty, as we now believe, as we are well within our rights to do, to inform us and enlighten us and, as we know full well, above all regarding the fact that our life-process is nothing but a process of illness and consequently has always been nothing but a process of illness, a fact that is immediately recognizable as a fact of nature—we would in those informed and enlightened circumstances have relinquished everything and abandoned everything much earlier and in point of fact would have left behind everything for ever; many decades ago we would have been gone—and gone under—and also have let ourselves go—we would have gone under and would have relinquished and abandoned and left behind and extinguished everything.  Now we see, to our horror, the ruthlessness and the vulgarity and the dimwittedness of our parents, by whom we, because they are our parents, were never enlightened to any extent whatsoever about the fact that our life-process is in truth a process of illness, because our parents always hid their understanding from us, as we are now learning all too late.  In such a case we would, we think, have let ourselves go and gone under and have abandoned everything and left behind everything; in that case, we would have been obliged to do what we are doing now many decades ago; obliged to go away, to abandon, to leave behind, to extinguish, such that what we have now been straining and overtaxing ourselves to accomplish in the most acute and in the most humiliating fashion we would have been able to put up with and get over with effortlessly decades ago; what we now regard as an enormity and not only an enormity against everything, but also quite simply an enormity against nature in its entirety; what we now regard as lies, we would have regarded as nothing but our development, our education; we would have regarded as thought what we now find nothing but lethal.  In that case we would not in full knowledge of our causes been at the mercy of our effects  in the most degrading fashion; in that case we would not have done what we have done and would not be what we are.  Decades ago we would have let ourselves go and gone away and gone under and would have abandoned everything and left behind everything: our walls and our furniture and the air in these walls and in these pieces of furniture and our books and our papers and the air in these books and in these papers, which have always been our books and our papers and also, as we now see, have always been lethal walls and lethal furniture and a lethal air.  Our lethal parents, we think and we think many decades ago we should have relinquished everything and abandoned everything and left behind everything and extinguished everything in which we have been imprisoned for whole decades and not been imprisoned in this horrible state, but rather have been exhausted from the very beginning and as we now see, thanks to our lethal parents in uninterrupted and persistent and ultimately insistent exhaustion.  Many decades ago we should have relinquished what even if we go away and if we abandon and leave behind and extinguish, we now no longer can relinquish and abandon and leave behind and no longer can extinguish, because we no longer have the strength to do so, because our exhaustion is a total exhaustion.  Decades ago we should have calmly abandoned these walls and these pieces of furniture and these books and papers and shut these doors and patiently exhaled this air in order to avoid having to inhale a single breath ever again and to be able to forget everything, as we can now no longer do.  We have relinquished and abandoned and left behind and forgotten what we believed we had to relinquish, abandon and leave behind and ultimately forget; we have let ourselves go and we have gone away and we have gone under, but we have relinquished nothing and abandoned nothing and left behind nothing and forgotten nothing; we have in reality extinguished nothing whatsoever, because our parents did not inform us of or enlighten us about the fact that our life-process is in reality nothing but a process of illness.  We were up above, in the company of our parents, locked up in our walls and in our rooms and in our books and papers and everything around us and in us was nothing but lethal and we are down below, without our parents, again locked up in these walls and in our rooms and in our books and papers and everything around us and in us is nothing but lethal.  
THE END


Source: Thomas Bernhard, Werke 14, herausgegeben von [Works, Vol. 14, edited by] Hans Höller, Martin Huber und Manfred Mittermayer (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2003), pp. 395-397. Originally published in Walter Pichler: 111 Zeichnungen [111 Sketches]. Mit einem Essay von Max Peintner und einem Prosatext von Thomas Bernhard. Salzburg: Residenz 1973, pp. 245-247.

Translation unauthorized but Copyright ©2016 by Douglas Robertson   

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