Friday, June 14, 2019

A Translation of Ein Jahr mit Thomas Bernhard by Karl Ignaz Hennetmair. Part II: February

A Year with Thomas Bernhard: The Sealed 1972 Diary


February 1, 1972

At 2:15 p.m. Thomas comes to my house to collect me for a walk.  He’s brought along a large green 15 x 18 cm marble slab with a fist-sized piece of quartz glued onto it.  A metal plate reads: Rauris Literary Conference 2/14-2/17/1971.  He gives the slab to me and says: I did some tidying up today; I’m giving you this.  I say, this makes me very happy, because you just got it from Rauris and not from Thomas Bernhard, like me.  For me it’s valuable because it belonged to you.  We set off on our usual circuit—to Ohlsdorf, then the forester’s lodge, Aupointen, Sandhäuslberg, and back to Weinberg.  Today I’ve received no congratulations; yesterday I got some more from just one person, Herberts (the head of production at IFAGE Cologne).  But I might hear something from Radax, says Thomas.  I say: I’ve been expecting news from him by today at the latest.  Thomas would like to speak with Radax at all costs.  He would like to tell him what he must do.  He must try making Frost in Germany if the ORF doesn’t agree to take it on immediately.  Thomas says he’s going to write to his publishing firm to tell them to withdraw his consent if a contract with the ORF doesn’t materialize immediately.  I say, you’ve got to give them a grace period of, say, eight days.  By law there’s got to be a grace period; otherwise you can’t back out.  Thomas also tells me that as he was tidying up he came across Dr. Klaus’s invitation to Salzburg and that that actually wasn’t all that long ago.  It was in 1968.  Zuckmayer is actually a very nice guy; he’s very effective.  I remind Thomas how nicely Zuckmayer pronounced “Jew boy” in talking on television about how people had shouted that at him when he was a young man.
Next come the usual war anecdotes.  Thomas tells me that when his foster-father arrived home on foot from Yugoslavia in June of 1945, he was lying in the sun on a hot tin roof in Traunstein.  When he saw his foster-father coming, he ran down from the roof as fast as he could to give him a rousing welcome.  But the man walked right past him without even looking at him and lifted his son, Peter, Thomas’s half-brother, up into the air with both hands and took no notice of Thomas even afterwards.  Once you’ve taken something like that in, you can never get it out of your mind.  I was fourteen years old at the time.  Just imagine how something like that affects you at that age.  Thomas said this just before we went into my house, and I made a mental note of it.  I’m frantically trying to remember what I had wanted to make sure not to forget. It was so good and it’s slipped my mind.  We covered so many topics in the course of our two-hour walk.  At 5:00 Thomas leaves, and I start writing immediately afterwards, because he’s planning to come back towards half-past seven.

Yes, I still recall that Thomas said that at home he had found a Grimme Prize winner in a list in which some authors were quoted.  He’s the author who wrote the play In the Matter of Oppenheimer [Heinar Kipphardt, In the Matter of Robert Oppenheimer].  I’ve seen this play on German and Austrian television; Thomas hasn’t, so I tell him a bit about what it’s about.  Thomas says that this writer received four prizes for this play, including a Polish prize.  His Italian will certainly also be broadcast in foreign countries, because the translations won’t present any difficulties, because there’s no dialogue.  Even in North Germany nobody understands hoibafünfi [probably an Austro-Bavarian pronunciation of halb fünf, meaning half-past four (DR)] etc. anymore, and in the end there isn’t much to translate.  That could be a big plus for screenings in foreign countries.  What’s more, most outstanding plays are also shown in foreign countries.

February 2, 1972

Thomas ended up not coming again yesterday evening.  This morning I received a written reply from Governor Wenzel in the matter of Thomas Bernhard [Wenzl confirms receipt of Hennetmair’s letter, promises to seek further information, and says he plans to get in touch with him again].

In the Oberösterreichische Nachrichten there’s an announcement: Reading by Thomas Bernhard, Thursday, 8:00 p.m., Jägermayrhof.  As I had invited Thomas to have pheasant for dinner with us on Thursday but I want to go to the reading at the Jägermayrhof, at 10:00 in the morning, I drive to Thomas’s house at Nathal and tell him that today, Wednesday, I’ll be skipping my gym lesson so that we have can have our pheasant dinner today, and that I’d like to set out on a walk at 4:00 in the afternoon so that we’ll have a hearty appetite by 4:30. My proposals are fine by Thomas.  He also tells me that this article about the reading at the Jägermayrhof is shameless.  I clearly and curtly cancelled back in December.  He knows perfectly well that I won’t be coming.  I say: Yes, of course, I obviously know that; that’s why I plan to be there tomorrow no matter what.  I’d like to hear all the nonsense that’s going to be said about you there.

At 4:00 Thomas steps in.  I’ve already been the victim of another screw-up.  Can you believe it, the names of all the winners of the Grimme prize have been made public; they’ve been printed really big in all the newspapers, but my name isn’t there.  I’ve brought along the Frankfurter Allgemeine so that you can see for yourself.  Thomas wants to show me the article; he can’t find it and realizes that in his agitation he brought Tuesday’s paper; in other words, the one from the day before.  It doesn’t matter, he says, and he tells me that such and such names are listed, and that there are precise descriptions of what the prize was awarded for.  But that it doesn’t bother him. Because some girl in an office made the mistake, and now he’ll just have to be announced on his own.  We set off on our walk from Ohlsdorf to the forester’s lodge to Aupointen to Sandhäuslberg to Weinberg.  By the time we’re passing the forester’s lodge it’s already dark, it’s 3:45, but the road is marvelous, and we decide not to take any short cuts and to walk the full length of the route.  We talk again about the prizes and about the screw-up he suffered in connection with the Grimme Prize.  But Thomas hopes that his publisher or Höfer from WDR, who have of course already wired congratulations, or Falkenberg in Marl, will call and demand the announcement.  Because of course that’s publicity and business for them; they’ll already be reacting against the omission.

At 6:30 we have pheasant and red cabbage for dinner and drink red wine with it.  After an hour we take the two-liter bottle into Granny’s living room and watch the news.  After the end of the German news magazine show, Thomas asks if we can turn off the television and talk amongst ourselves.  Among other things Thomas says that really so far almost all the prizes he’s received have been awarded to him only reluctantly.  And because of this he really needn’t decline them, I say.  We laugh almost to the point of tears when we start talking about his accident, and my mother says Thomas could have very easily wound up dead.  My spouse, my daughter Reinhild, and son Wolfgang are also present.  Everybody laughs loudly when Thomas says, OK, now you’re going to have do all your laughing on your own.  We talk about fancy coffins, etc.  An undertaker’s is one of the best businesses, says Thomas.  Because some of the customers spend lots of money on the dead person because they actually loved him, and the rest also do because they’ve got a guilty conscience.  In every case there’s an outlay.

Thomas tells some downright silly stories.  Something always pops into his head.  He tells us that he once attended a writers’ conference in Luxembourg.  Writers from all the nations of the world were gathered there; each of them had an earphone at his seat.  Suddenly he had to pay a visit to the toilet.  A bit later, when he was back in the conference room, he noticed they were talking about something completely different now.  He looked around and realized he was sitting next to [Walter] Hallstein.  You see, at the same time in the same building, a meeting of the European council was being held, and he had wandered into the wrong room.  Because the room looked exactly the same and “his” seat was empty, it took him a while to realize that he was attending the wrong conference.

Then Thomas starts talking about Lassl again and says that twenty years ago in Salzburg he had written a scathing review of Dr. Lassl’s and his girlfriend’s poetry.  Thomas had written of Lassl: He makes poems the way someone else would make a pantry box.  As a result, Dr. Lassl and his girlfriend invited Thomas to pay them a visit.  They thought Bernhard would be a strange character but came to the conclusion that he was really just a nice young man.  And they proceeded to “soft-soap” him.  He was still very young then, and he let himself be “coopted.”  The two of them did it very adroitly.  And now Lassl’s bragging about how he’s known me for 20 years, which he has, but it’s all owing to how things were way back then.

Now that he’s on the subject of his youth, he goes on to tell us about how in 1945 at the age of 14 he spent a fortnight hunkered down in a four-room apartment to keep it from being occupied.  He did this pending the arrival of his stepfather and mother from Traunstein.  Once they had acknowledged their Austrian citizenship, they were required to leave Traunstein within a fortnight. Thomas therefore located the vacated apartment of a German who complementarily had to leave Austria within a fortnight.  He had to stay in the barricaded apartment round the clock for a fortnight, because otherwise the apartment would have been immediately occupied by some foreigner.  Relatives looked after him by bringing him bread, and then he would have to clear everything away from the door because he had piled up everything against it as a barricade out of fear.  After his parents arrived from Traunstein, more and more relatives moved into this apartment, so that eventually thirteen people were living in four rooms.  And meanwhile his bed had ended up in the hallway.  Because his uncle [Uncle Farald] would get up as early as four in the morning and he’d never got any peace and quiet in the hallway otherwise, he had never gotten a good night’s sleep.  One fine morning he told his mother that he wouldn’t be going to school anymore, that instead he was going to start a commercial apprenticeship right away to quiet his hunger.  That very day he started working as an apprentice at a grocery store.  Whereupon his family and all his relatives started constantly nagging him “to bring something home with him.”  They would explicitly nag him to do this.  They didn’t give a hoot about the trouble they would be getting him into by making him do them this favor.  Then Thomas talked in detail about how ridiculously small the inventory of the store had been, and about how as a result “nothing much had happened.”  There had scarcely been a morsel even for him.

Then Thomas tells more silly stories, and since I’m avoiding pouring him too much wine, every time his glass is empty, Thomas asks: You got any more?  Only once he had started asking for it did I pour him more several times. If I kept pouring him more wine automatically and forcing wine on him, he would be cross with me for a good while afterwards for having made him tipsy.  So I prefer to be asked to pour and then I’m safe from an attack of ill humor if he “ties one on.” It sounds paradoxical but in the interest of friendship I’ve got to offend against the laws of hospitality.  Thomas is such a strong personality that he can even control how tipsy he gets.  By just before midnight we had drunk the second two-liter bottle dry, but he drove home just fine.

February 3, 1972
At 9:30 this morning Thomas brought my mother the knitted trousers and blue work trousers he was wearing during the accident in order to have them patched.  Yesterday Thomas said he was going to bring the trousers to his cleaning-woman, Mrs. Braun.  I had immediately suggested that my mother would like to do it.  I had done this because I wanted to save the torn-up part of the trousers as a memento.  My mother got the picture and immediately declared that she was ready for the job.  Thomas immediately consented, saying he would naturally be honored by this.




At 1:00 in the afternoon I myself showed up at Thomas’s house in Nathal to give him 800 schillings’ worth of groceries from my shopping spree in Wels.  Thomas had just finished writing his letters and gave me two to read.  The first one was to Mr. Donnepp in Marl and read more or less as follows:

Dearest Mr. Donnepp!
In your letter you notified me of my receipt of the Adolf Grimme Prize.  Via the card enclosed with your letter I have declared my intention to participate in the events of March 9 and 10.  But you entreated me to put this news exclusively to my own personal use, because you were planning to wait until 1/31/1972 to give an announcement about my receipt of this award to the press.  Why should I keep this a secret?  To my astonishment, while the names of the Grimme Prize recipients have indeed been announced in the newspapers, my own name does not figure among them.

The whole thing reminds me of an experience I had at school, when my name had been written on a blackboard along with those of other recipients of a college scholarship.  When I subsequently showed up and stood in line in my brand-new suit to receive the scholarship, all the envelopes with their money had already been handed out when I was just about to receive my own.  I had to admit to myself that merely having had my name up on the blackboard really wasn’t enough.  My name had apparently slipped into the list by mistake.  It seems to me that to act on your invitation would be ill-advised.    
This matter is especially embarrassing to me in the light of the many expressions of congratulations that I have been receiving via telegram.

Yours very respectfully,
Thomas Bernhard

The second letter Thomas snatched out of my hand and loudly read out himself.

Dear Mr. Siegfried Unseld:

It’s been two months since I last heard any news from you.  In the meantime, I’ve decided not to write about Holl. In preparing the new edition of Frost, you should make sure that the typos in the old INSEL edition aren’t repeated.  You should assign the completion of this task to a conscientious, diligent person, to the extent that you have such a person near you; otherwise the publication of the new edition won’t be doing me any favors.  I find myself to be in the finest fettle.

Yours,
Thomas Bernhard
P.S. [1]

I’ve still got to write a sentence about the Grimme Prize after this P.S., says Thomas.  But I didn’t wait for that. Because I’m tired and want to take a good long nap before this evening’s event at the Jägermayrhof in Linz, I leave right away.  You’ll have to take the walk alone.  I’ll come with the mail at 8:30 tomorrow morning and brief you on the Jägermayrhof, I say.  Fine, thanks, goodbye!

This afternoon’s Salzkammergutzeitung includes an article with the headline: Thomas Bernhard, Eight-Time Prizewinner.  I coordinated the inclusion of this article with Mr. Kihs.  From 7:45 to 11:15 p.m. I am at the Jägermayrhof in Linz with my mother, spouse, and daughter Elfriede.  As we’re leaving I pick up two posters as souvenirs.  My daughter and I take notes on the reading.

February 4, 1972
At 8:15 a.m., I’m at Thomas’s house with the mail.  He’s received a thick letter from Radax.  Thomas would like to read the letter from Radax before I brief him on the Jägermayrhof.  As he’s doing so, I read my own mail.  It also includes a letter from Radax.
Thomas gives me the gist of Radax’s letter and says that he’s not going to get belligerent about it, because he’s staking everything on the videotaping at the Salzburg Festival, on his making a big noise at the ORF.  Then I brief him on the reading at the Jägermayrhof in Linz.
We sat by the table where Dr. Lassl was sitting with his fellow-speakers, Herbert Baum and Pervulesko.  Before the reading, my daughter Elfriede could hear Herbert Baum saying: I’ve taken the liberty of stealing a word from Bernhard; I can’t manage to get the sentence right.  Nobody notices this, not even the man himself.

Then Dr. Josef Lassl starts by excusing Bernhard’s absence, saying it’s for reasons of health.  A writer must write and not work, he says.  Bernhard’s poetic arc is wide, but his world is damaged.  Bernhard is standing way up high; nobody knows when the air will get too thin for him, etc.

I’ve got to brief Thomas very thoroughly on everything mentioned in the program.  I told him that Herbert Baum had read better than he himself did (I was referring to an audiotape recording of Thomas).  When Dr. Lassl had finished, I went up to him and said: Thomas Bernhard has once again received a prize, the Grimme Prize.  I then handed him the article from that day’s Salzkammergutzeitung.  Dr. Lassl says furiously: What, another prize already?  Well, after all, he still needs a third house.  Because Dr. Lassl was being thronged by members of audience, I waited until he was alone in the lobby with his girlfriend to continue.  I say: Do you really begrudge him the Krucka?  All right, all right, says Lassl, he obviously needs the prizes; they’re his livelihood.  He obviously can’t get by on seventeen-hundred schillings a month.  I said, I’m a neighbor of Bernhard’s.  He invests everything in his houses.  I also happen to know for a fact that Bernhard cancelled his participation in this reading way back in December.  Lassl was highly irritable from the start, and now he was getting more and more hot-tempered.  I don’t know anything about any cancellation, I don’t about anything.  As I just smile at this, he adds, look, what the hell am I supposed to do; what the hell do you want; I only sang hosannas to him in any case.  I didn’t say anything unkind about him.  To which I said: Bernhard very much jokingly asked me to give you his regards.  Perhaps you aren’t at all aware that Bernhard likes you; I was lying, because he never lets on to anyone if he likes him.  O-o-o-h, I could tell that, said Dr. Lassl’s escort.  O-o-o-h, we know he likes us.  Please give him some very sincere regards.  She offered me her hand, and as she observed that I was cutting her an inquisitive look, she added: Bernhard knows full well who they’re from.  Lassl also said his goodbyes in a friendly tone, asked me to give some regards.




The evening of February 3, 1972 at the Jägermayrhof in Linz, from a manuscript page retained by Karl Ignaz Hennetmair

Thomas kept wanting to learn further news and details.  By then it was 11:00 a.m.  I consoled him with the prospect of a continuation of the briefing in the afternoon, as we were planning to meet at the Krucka at 2:00 p.m.  Next I gave him his mail and a telegram from Radax.  At 2:00 I reach the Krucka on foot.  It’s a ten-minute walk from the street to the house; the only way to drive there is by tractor.  Thomas has heated the house well.  He shows me the lumps of ice from the frozen bucket.  Thomas entreats me to let the place continue warming up for another hour before we set off on our walk.  He says he wants to warm the Krucka up properly, because he’d like to move back into it for a few days starting tomorrow.  So we don’t set out on our uphill march from the top of Grasberg to Neukirchen to Reindlmühl until 3:00 p.m.  We have our cars parked at Reindlmühl.  We get there at 5:00.  On the way Thomas instructed me to purchase Asamer’s woods for him.  I’m supposed to speak with Asamer later today.  He’s supposed to come see me at 7:00 p.m., because he’d like to know for sure whether or not the woods are acquirable.
At 7:00 p.m. I can report to Thomas that I’ve proposed a price.  I tell him Asamer wants to have until Monday to think about the sale.  He’d like to speak with his wife first too.  Because Asamer was making some quite major investments in his guesthouse, I opted to approach Asamer right now.  Not in a pushy way, to be sure, but like this: Bernhard wants to buy something now; he’d also like to get a patch of woods in Reindlmühl, but it makes no difference to him, it could also be in Ohlsdorf, I said to Asamer.  After I’d briefed him about Asamer, Thomas handed me a telegram, saying: Look, from the hypocrite.  The telegram read as follows:

EVEN IF THE GREAT WRITER WASN’T PRESENT HE WAS UBIQUITOUS.  SINCERE REGARDS FROM YOUR VISITORS IN MAY. STRIEGL(?) LASSL

Thomas stayed till 10:00. He said he wasn’t going to bother going to Marl for the Adolf-Grimme Prize.  My briefing on the reading at the Jägermayrhof was giving him the creeps about such things. You never know what people you’re going to run into there.  He loathes the film people, he hates all these functions, etc.  Because he’s planning to pillory all these “things,” he doesn’t want to get too deeply involved in them by participating in them.
Thomas shows me the Salzburger Nachrichten, an article about the French translation of Verstörung.  Other countries are much more important to me.  What’s written in other countries means more than what’s written about me in Austria or even right here.


 February 8, 1972

Thomas comes at 1:00 p.m.  As he still hasn’t eaten, I invite him to join us for lunch.  During after-lunch mocha my spouse hands Thomas a linzertorte with the number 41 baked onto it and congratulates him on his 41st birthday, which is tomorrow, on having completed his 41st year.  Thomas is very surprised.  He tells us that on the morning of Saturday, 2/5, he acted on a sudden whim by driving to Vienna and that he only got back home about an hour ago.  That he only quickly looked through his mail and came over right away.  He says thatthere I’ve got to come with him, that he wants to show me a piece of mail he’s received from Donnepp [Dr. Bert Donnepp, founder of the Adolf Grimme Institute].  It’s an insolent letter with a ton of leaflets attached to it.  Those leaflets from Marl horrify him so much that he isn’t going to go there.  In Vienna Thomas met with Radax.  From him he’s learned who all is going to be in Marl.  Nothing but fat-faces, impossible, execrable people, all of them characters he dislikes, etc.  Thomas said his aunt in Vienna was going to have to have nine teeth pulled.  She can’t chew well, feels bad health-wise, bad in general.  He said he couldn’t bear being there for more than an hour straight, because that was always more than long enough.  His aunt couldn’t understand that; she said that she wanted to spend more time with him, but that he was always roaming about.   He said that he couldn’t have stood to stay a day longer in Vienna.  That now he’s astonished that he was able to live in Vienna for so long.  The snow is muddy, the parked cars covered in filthy snow; the parking spaces couldn’t be cleared.  Because lots of cars weren’t being used; it looked awful.

Radax was very reasonable this time.  To be sure, he only spent an hour with him, but this time he was very pleasant.  He really made a good impression on me then, said Thomas.
After two hours, at 3:00, Thomas says I’ve got to come along with him and bring a bottle of cider and a bucket for nuts.  He also wants to show me his letters.  At his house at Nathal he shows me the letters; one of them is from Agi, and there’s also a card from Agi’s mother, Baroness Handl, a birthday card.  Regarding these, Thomas says he’s going to go to Almegg again.  But he emphasizes that he’ll only be visiting Agi’s mother, because she’s actually just a simple old woman.  I say: then you’re really going to have to shout at her.  During my last visit there, two years ago, I already had to shout at her so that she could understand me.
I read the letter from the Grimme Prize Foundation and glance at the leaflet.  It’s an adult education center and calls itself “The Island.”  I show Thomas the photo of the lecture hall and say: That looks exactly like the sort of thing you hate most of all.  Yes of course, says Thomas; in about sixty years the entire town will be put on display as an example of what impossibly awful buildings architects used to design.  With these words, he began furiously tearing up the leaflets.  They’re no good as anything but kindling.  Then he drew my attention to several sentences in Donnepp’s letter and read them out to me: You see that I’ve been very busy; otherwise I would have replied to you a couple of hours earlier, writes Donnepp, and he continues: We haven’t got a bulletin board; we don’t understand in what way the telegram of congratulations was supposedly embarrassing, etc.  What incredibly trashy behavior, says Thomas, as if it were all my fault.  A couple of hours, he writes, and we haven’t got a bulletin board.  But the Germans are all like that; they’ve got no sense of humor.  They’ve got such a wretched sense of humor that they think it’s funny if somebody pinches somebody else’s bum.  But in any case I’m not going there; I don’t want to see those execrable people.  I say: Radax will have to accept the prize for you.  Sure, for him it’s important to be there.  Because he’ll meet all the movers and shakers there; he’ll have an opportunity to initiate something there.  For him it’s something like a film and television business convention, says Thomas.

By now it’s 6:15 and I ask Thomas to come round for a mug of mulled cider at about 7:00.
At 7:00 Thomas shows up at my house.  As we discuss Schranz’s homecoming reception, Thomas gets more and more miffed.  He says he’s going to write an article about how stupid that all is, about what an enormity it is to organize such a party.  He says that it’s just popularity-mongering of the worst possible sort, that he’s going to give it a proper tongue-lashing.  That in general he should take up his pen and speak his mind in full more often. That he could no longer keep mum about such enormities.  People have just turned into total zombies.  When we’re sitting in front of the television and watching the hurly-burly at the Ballhausplatz, I say: It’s no different than when they celebrate a prizewinning bull in Ried.  Because of course Schranz is just an overbred athlete, every bit as overbred as the cattle-breeding association’s bulls.  There’s nothing having anything to do with brains for miles around.  So why should anybody celebrate him by seriously comparing him to people who have accomplished great things with their minds?  Thomas is livid with anger about this Schranz reception, so that I don’t tell him what I’d really also like to say: that here a guilty man is being celebrated as innocent by other guilty people.

Perhaps there was also another reason why Thomas was in a bad mood.  This morning my wife and I were planning to visit Thomas at Nathal.  Of course we didn’t know that he’d gone to Vienna.  We thought he’d been at the Krucka for two days and hoped the mail had lured him back down here and that we’d find him at home.  An official car was parked in front of Thomas’s farmhouse at Nathal.  I asked the driver whether anybody from his office was at Bernhard’s place.  Yes, he said.  Are you from the BH [Bezirkhauptsmannschaft {i.e., something like a county commission or county council (DR)]?  No.  Has your boss got much more to do?  No, he’s already been in there for a quarter of an hour.  Well, then, I don’t want to disturb him, and we’ll wait until the visit is over.  Then I notice that the key of the gate isn’t in the keyhole.  So I reach for the place where the key is “stuck,” and it’s completely stuck, frozen, in its stowing space.  Then I say to the driver, it’s simply not true that your boss is in there.  He most certainly is, says the man.  No, I say, he most certainly is not in the house, I’m sure of that.  What’s more, Bernhard obviously hasn’t opened the gate.  We know that, says the driver, but he’s most certainly in there; he’s been in there for over a quarter of an hour.  We’re from the agricultural commission.  Ah, I say, I’m very well informed about this; it’s about the survey for the property-tax exemption.  Yes, that’s it, says the driver.  Since I’m sure Thomas isn’t in, I’m about to drive off right away when Panholzer the graduate engineer returns to the car via the gap between the two farmhouses.  I stop, and Panholzer says he’s obtained the necessary information from the next-door neighbor, “Haumer.”  He says an exemption from the property tax is out of the question, because Bernhard would have to have a family, and the preponderance of the acquired property would have to be devoted to the maintenance of a family via an agricultural enterprise.  Whereupon I open the gate with the stowed key and show the engineer the agricultural machines and the newly built stable.  Panholzer is surprised that everything is so neat, and I explain that Bernhard would like to buy a few heads of cattle in the spring.  That what’s more, he’s gone so far as to fit out a self-contained, secluded apartment with a bathroom in case he’s ever in a position to hire a married couple as agricultural workers.  But then Panholzer immediately states that he’s going to have to give a negative opinion.  Because this negative opinion means that Thomas is going to have to pay about 20,000 schillings in property taxes, he’s in a really foul mood.

Unfortunately I must also report on the subject of the sale of Asamer’s woods that Asamer is demanding 170,000 schillings, and the offer of 120,000 schillings was described as adequate to the value of the property by Asamer himself.  For all that, Asamer said that Bernhard would have to pay a “collector’s price” if he wanted to get hold of the woods.
Thomas once again gets indignant about the Schranz reception and says: we’ll be a laughing stock abroad; this is something that just can’t be done.  How is somebody who actually brings home a gold medal supposed to be honored now?  Or how are people who actually do something for Austria supposed to be honored?  Then I say to Thomas that I’d like to show him something that I’ve kept a secret from him until now.  I was hoping to soothe his spleen by doing this, and now if ever was an auspicious moment for pulling out a carbon copy of my letter to Governor Wenzel.  So as to avoid “cutting straight to the chase,” I say: I wrote to the governor; I have his reply here, and I first hand him the governor’s written reply of 1/28/1972.  He obviously can’t make head or tail of it, and I give him my letter to Dr. Wenzel from 1/24/1972.  He reads it, then says: You shouldn’t do things like this; you know I don’t want any honors.  They can’t give you any more honors; they can only honor themselves if they give you the Stifter Prize, I say.  Let’s go upstairs and watch television; it’s already five minutes past half-past seven.  We sit in front of the TV until 10:00.  We watch the press conference with Schranz.  I top off Thomas’s glass of mulled wine, make remarks and comments several times, but Thomas maintains his icy silence for 2 ½ hours.  I can’t believe it’s impossible to dispel his sullenness; I’m intent on at least getting a peep out of him.  When the announcer on the television says that Karl Schranz is going to be flying to Innsbruck, I say: Schranz should have a fatal crash tomorrow; he reached his high point now; that would be the finest exit for him. Because in the future things can only go downhill for him.  I was expecting at least a nod from Thomas, because death is his pet topic, and Thomas smiles or smirks like a shot at everything that has to do with death or has some connection with death.  He remained icy.  At 10:00 he stood up, said “Good night” to my family.  I accompanied him to the front door.  Ordinarily I walk with him to his parking space as we chat; this time I stayed put at the front door and said “Good night” only belatedly.  You see, he left without making any kind of salutation.

I can hardly sleep and ponder how to go about reestablishing contact in about a fortnight, for I’m counting on Thomas’s not coming over for rather a long time.  But for my part, I assume it’ll be pointless for me to show up at his place before this fortnight has elapsed.  I hope I can come up with a good excuse within a fortnight… and I think through all the possible excuses I could make.  I mustn’t go chasing after him in less than a fortnight; that would put him off.  I’m now reproaching myself most severely for having shown him my letter to the governor, especially since I’d resolved not to show him this letter until it had met with success.


February 9, 1972

Thomas not here at all today; my apprehensions were well founded; am really devastated.


February 10, 1972

At 1:30 p.m. I’m just about to set out with my wife to do some shopping when in walks Thomas.  With a friendly smile he says, if you want to go on a walk with me you’ll have to be quick; I’ve come on foot from Nathal; I can’t interrupt my march.  I’m already warmed up; you know how that is.  When you’re warmed up you just want to keep going.  I say, I can only postpone my departure for an hour at most.  Sure, that’ll be enough, says Thomas; I’ve been on the road for 15 minutes so far; after an hour I’ll spend another 15 minutes walking home; by then I’ll have walked a total of an hour and a half, which is enough for me.  Naturally I’m overjoyed that Thomas is here.  He acts as though nothing had happened, and so do I.  Naturally we don’t speak much; neither of us knows where to begin.  We’re headed towards the forester’s lodge; I keep looking at my watch, so that I don’t forget to turn around after 30 minutes, because my wife is waiting to leave back at the house.  Only tense, plodding conversations develop.  After an hour we’re back, and I get the impression that this hour has lasted longer than the typical two-and-a-half hour walk with Thomas.  As we’re parting I invite him to come over in the evening.  Purely out of courtesy, he accepts: Perhaps, if my visit doesn’t last too long.  He’s got to receive a visitor at 5:00.  But for visitors he’s never yet shown any consideration, as little consideration as he sometimes shows for me.

February 11, 1972

At 12:30 I get back home from a round of inspections and meetings.  My spouse informs me that Thomas was here at noon and that he plans to stop by at 1:00 to set out on a walk with me then.

At 1:00 Thomas arrives.  He tells me about his meetings at the agricultural commission and the farmers’ association this morning.  Thomas struck the following bargain there: if he can produce written confirmation from Ohlsdorf Town Hall that he is running his farm personally, the farmers’ association will recommend his exemption from the property tax, and the agricultural authorities will endorse the recommendation.  In short, he’ll save 20,000 schillings.  The big question now is: Will Thomas receive written confirmation to that effect from Ohlsdorf Town Hall?  You see, this morning Meindl, the secretary of the farmers’ association, had phoned Ohlsdorf Town Hall in Bernhard’s presence, and Moser, the secretary of the town government, told him that according to their records, the grounds of Bernhard’s farm were being rented out.  This statement was obviously inaccurate, because Thomas has never rented out his farm but rather given feed to one of his neighbors or other every now and then.

Thomas asked me to divide up our walk in such a way that we could also stop by Ohlsdorf Town Hall and the post office so that he could take care of a few things.  I’m supposed to come with him to the town hall and help him to obtain the required written confirmation.  Before setting off on our walk, a walk that this time was a “walk” in quotation marks, we discussed what we were going to do at the town hall.  Thomas kept wanting to know what to do if the desired confirmation ended up not being written out.  Each time I cut him off and said: There’s no point in mulling over a situation we’re not involved in; what we’ve really got to do is concentrate on our visit to the town hall.  We bandy back and forth whether and he or I should begin stating the case and how to begin the conversation.

Thomas allays my misgivings.  He even says: My brother could do something like that.  Obviously a man can only write such a letter if he knows the person. In any case, you don’t praise me, but simply write what’s only fair.  Not even somebody from the cultural office could have done it better; it’s really nothing like patronage.  It would only be like that if you introduced exaggerations, but somebody’s got to be the one who makes the initial suggestion.  What you’ve done is completely right and proper.  I had a bad day three days ago.  I was in such a foul mood that I didn’t notice at all how good your letter is.  Whereupon I say: Thank god, in a letter in 1965 you wrote to me that you hadn’t received such a rational letter in quite a number of years; I’m still proud of that today.  And that simply forced me to write the letter to the governor; I couldn’t hold myself back anymore.  Now there’s a file labeled “LH.Tgb.Nr.3278/72-Sp/sch”; what they’re doing now is all the same to me.  But as I sent off such a letter in January, I can’t imagine that anybody else could receive the Stifter Prize, and if somebody did it would be an enormity.  But I’m not going to let such an enormity happen.  Wenzl has already written to me that he’ll keep me posted.  I’ll wait until the end of April; then I’ll send my school friend Hillinger, the mayor of Linz, who’s answerable to the cultural office, a photo where you’re seen with my schoolmates at a class reunion.  Since you were the only person in attendance who wasn’t a school chum, he’d have to remember you, just as you remember his bowtie.  I’ll inform him that you were “up and coming” back then and that if I had introduced you as a writer then, you would have run away immediately.  In any case, I’ll bring in Hillinger before an enormity happens.  Because of course most of the time it’s already been established who’s going to receive the prize a few months before the ceremony.  So I’m going to ask for clarification in May at the latest.  I’ve been considering writing to Salzburg, but I don’t have such good arguments for Salzburg, apart from the fact that you’ve deserved to receive the prize for years.  What’s more I say, if I obtain the Stifter Prize in Upper Austria, they’ll also have to move in with a prize, they’ll be practically forced to then.  Yes, says Thomas, but then I’ll decline it.  I’ve been planning to decline a prize for a long time, but until now that wouldn’t have been very smart.  But if Salzburg comes forward with a prize so late, I’ll decline it.  But of course in order to decline a prize, you’ve got to be offered it first.

I’m very glad that my unauthorized step with regard to the Stifter Prize is no longer a cause of any misunderstanding between Thomas and me, and we walk past the forester’s lodge and onto Ohlsdorf.

On the way, Thomas makes up his mind to be the one to start the conversation with Moser.  Moser is the man he loathes so much that he called his secretary in Gargoyles Moser.  Back then, the mayor of Ohlsdorf asked his secretary to sue Bernhard because this execrable character was based on him.  Which it indeed was.  Then Bernhard asked me to smooth things over with Moser.  It wasn’t easy for me.  Only when Moser saw to his delight that the book was a novel did he abandon his plan to sue.  I said that a novel was just a novel, that there was no point in saying anything against it.  That it would be going too far to attribute the execrable traits of this Secretary Moser to the real Moser.  But I was reckoning on having to deal with his execrableness as we were forming our “plan,” and so I declined to get involved in any discussion about what would happen if Moser didn’t write out the desired confirmation.  Before we stepped into the town government office, I informed Thomas that yesterday Moser had declared to the “Haumer” in Nathal, Maxwald, that Bernhard had registered a protest against the enclosure as a single individual.  I told him that I had kept this to myself until then to avoid making him angry unnecessarily, because I know that he hasn’t registered a protest, because otherwise he obviously would have told me about it.  I simply didn’t think it was necessary to ask him whether the secretary’s assertion was correct.   Because it isn’t possible for Thomas not to tell me something like that. 
When we stepped into the office, Moser was present; as we had prearranged, Thomas said that this morning the district farmer’s association had phoned the town hall and had been wrongly notified, indeed emphatically misinformed, that Bernhard had rented out the tillable portion of his property.  That this piece of misinformation had allegedly been imparted by Secretary Moser.  Moser categorically refuted this, hypocritically asked a clerk whether this piece of misinformation had ever been delivered, and said: Obviously nobody can ever have asserted that, because it isn’t true that the land has been rented out.  Thomas now asked for a confirmation from the town government that he was running his farm personally; he wanted to present this confirmation to the district farmers’ association.  Moreover, said Thomas, he had not registered a protest against the proceedings towards an enclosure as this Moser fellow had maintained to Haumer.  In the meantime Moser had already inserted a piece of paper into his typewriter and typed this out like a machinegun.  Like a shot, Moser pulled the sheet out of the typewriter and stamped it.  He handed it to Thomas.  The latter only skimmed it and pocketed it.  Give it to me, I say, let me see it.  I wanted to be sure that this confirmation was adequate.  Thomas gives me the slip of paper and I read:



The Municipal Government of Ohlsdorf,
Gmunden District_                                                             Ohlsdorf, February 10, 1972.


To Whom It May Concern!

The municipal government of Ohlsdorf confirms that the landowner Thomas Bernhard personally runs his farm at Obernathal No. 2, the 1.19 hectare (now 2.5 hectare) plot of land purchased by him.

The Mayor:
[stamped signature]



Obernathal 2, bulldozing operations, 1968

As I could only make out the words “personally runs his farm,” which were underlined, I was content.  But I was thinking about how I could come into possession of this confirmation so that I could add a photocopy to my notes.

In a buoyant mood we go to the post office; Thomas mails two letters.  We walk back through the woods via the forester’s lodge of the Puchheim estate.  Thomas was delighted about this confirmation and said: at no point in my whole writing life have I ever aimed at anything like becoming that sort of hardscrabble farmer.  My writing came much easier to me than being a farmer.  I said: Yes, that’s a valuable confirmation; you shouldn’t let it out of your sight without making a photocopy.  I’ve already introduced you to my tax accountant Tausch, so you can wait for him.  Thomas agrees with me; he says he’ll do that.  Moser isn’t any better on account of this, I say; he’s corroborated his execrableness.  Without asking a lot questions, he started typing at this typewriter.  He knew exactly what it was all about, and underlined the words “personally farms.”  If the thing is mentioned, he’ll say he’d seen you in your work clothes all along or that he didn’t know what the confirmation was needed for, and so he didn’t ask.  But at the same moment I realize that this view of Bernhard could count as a strike against him, and I now maintain that Moser wrote out this confirmation with good reason.  And specifically because now everything will have to be seen in the context of the running of a farm, if the farm is put into working condition, if a stable and a manure shed are built, the roof, etc., is repaired.  Because of course until that’s done nobody can demand to have the animals moved in.  From this point of view it would be downright wrong to maintain that you’re not running the farm personally, because in the eyes of all 0ther farmers these work-projects are regarded as part of “running a farm.”  In this respect, the written confirmation is justified.





Wieland Schmied, Thomas Bernhard


Then Thomas tells me that the day before yesterday, the ninth, he was in Salzburg.  And then I feel better, because that was the day we didn’t see each other and I believed this was on purpose. On the way to Schaffler’s, which he’d been invited to for lunch, he ran into Kaut (president of the Salzburg Festival).  He was evidently very happy about the Grillparzer and Grimme Prizes.  He said he wanted to interview Bernhard for television before the festival.  Thomas consented on condition that only “the old days” would be discussed, that there would be no talk about his current work or his recent works, but only about the preceding ten years.  Then I say: Kaut’s really landed himself in the soup.  Because of course those were the days when you had quite a few choice words for him.  Knowing you, you’ll ruthlessly talk trash about those days then.  Thomas refuses to admit this, but I stick to my guns.  He won’t show Kaut any mercy whatsoever; after all, I say, at the Grillparzer Prize award ceremony he said he only knew as much Grillparzer as he’d read in school.  Kihs’s wife thought that this was outrageous.  That a prize-winner couldn’t get away with saying something like that.  But he said it, without any mercy for his own personal reputation.  And so he won’t show any mercy towards other people either.  He says what’s true, even if it doesn’t even boost his own reputation.  He can’t act like a hypocrite.  Since I’m expecting him to, he actually won’t dish all that much dirt on Kaut.  Because Thomas also always likes to do what other people aren’t expecting him to do in a specific instance.

Thomas says that he received from Schaffler a silver leg as a birthday present; it’s the kind people used to hang in church as a votive offering.  It’s meant as a souvenir of his accident and his fortunate recovery from it.  His tax return for 1970 has turned out well; he’s already sent off the amount due (you see, Schaffler is quite helpful to him when he’s sorting out his tax returns).  From Schaffler he’s also learned that Suhrkamp Publications would like to buy the publication rights for a paperback edition from Residenz Publications.  I say to this: these are of course the ones that Schaffler’s already sold for 30,000 schillings.  Yes, says Thomas.   Yes, I say.  (Since I started taking notes, I’ve been keeping better track of this sort of thing.)  He’s also received a letter from Martin Wiebel (the head of drama at West German Channel 3), says Thomas.  He hopes that I won’t misunderstand Donepp’s letter and that I’ll still come to the award ceremony.  Today I wrote a letter to Unseld.  At the beginning of the letter I advise him to read the French newspaper [sic] the Nouvel Observateur of 1/31.  Moreover, I wrote to him: You’ve mentioned the ridiculous Grimme Prize, probably because it comes from Germany; the Grillparzer Prize you completely ignored, because it comes from Austria.  I wrote to Unseld about everything that wasn’t to my liking.  I only wrote to him because a payment that he’s got to remit to me is due.  Otherwise I wouldn’t have written to him.  I also wrote that he should only reply to my letter if he had a sense of humor.  In my last sentence I wrote: Think of me whatever you like, Thomas Bernhard.  This was followed by an orgy of abuse directed at his publishing firm, but I was going over the gist of the letter in my head, because later on in my own missive I will have to match the original at least in its essentials, and so I stopped listening.  I just know that some more very good sentences came out of this rant.  But I thought it was more important to retain the gist of the letter.

Immediately afterwards, Thomas says that this morning on his way from the bathroom to the kitchen he got the idea for his new novel.  The beginning, the plot, and the end, the entire gist of the thing was suddenly there.  The kind of thing you sometimes wait for for months or years was there in a flash.  Of course it’s now standing right in front of him like a skeleton.  But it isn’t at all difficult to fill in the details when the skeleton is there.  It’s now just a matter of time and patience and his being in the mood to flesh out the individual sections of the thing.  In the individual sections, you can fill things in a more or less detailed sort of way.  So he’ll end up doing that in the way that strikes him as most appropriate; he’ll flesh out the individual sections in greater or lesser detail.  He says that the most important thing is for him to have an exact idea of the main gist of the book, that he’ll work out the individual details in the way that suits his fancy at that particular moment.  He’s not tied down to anything in that area.  Because there’s so much stuff still to be added to this skeleton that you can’t say anything at all about that now; that that comes automatically as you’re working, when you know what you want; when you know how the novel is supposed to look overall.  Sure, I say, it’s like when you’re standing right in front of the shell of a house.  The house, its overall structure, is something you can’t change, but in the execution of the shell there are also lots of variations, from bargain to luxury models.  You can stick whatever you like into such a shell; it’ll always end up being the house it was supposed to be from the beginning.

Despite the long march, at 4:00 at my house Thomas can’t quite manage to polish off his Linzertorte over coffee.  As long as I’ve known him, this is only the second time that he hasn’t managed to clean his plate!  For eight years I was wondering if I’d ever witness this, and it’s just now happened for the second time in no time flat.  When Thomas leaves at 4:00, he says he’ll come back again today, and I can see he means it.  I just hope I manage to get enough down on paper between now and then.  And as I’m “getting enough down on paper,” I suddenly remember something else that’s important.  Among other things, Thomas said that he wasn’t going to present the written confirmation to the farmers’ association until Tuesday, because when he did that he would also have to speak with Stadlmayr, the chairman of the local chapter of the association.  He still wants to try to get him to recommend his exemption from the property tax.  I jumped in immediately and said that I had some things to do in Gmunden on Monday, that I could make a photocopy for him then.  Thomas gives me the document, and so now I can make a photocopy of it.

As I’m in the midst of writing, the doorbell rings.  The ringer can only be Thomas.  I quickly fled into the office while carrying the typewriter.  The room isn’t heated.  Thomas never goes there.  Since I started writing about Thomas, I’ve been ready to flee at a second’s notice, because if he were to catch me in the act, it would all be over.  We’ve known each other for seven years; five years ago we swam buck naked together in the Alm, but it’s only in the last few weeks that our acquaintanceship has reached a stage where we fart out loud in each other’s presence.

Sometimes I get the feeling that he knows what I’m up to.  But at the same time I get the impression that he actually expects it of me.  I would unhesitatingly credit him with the ability to have gathered what I’m up to, to be slyly egging me on, and to have been constantly discussing his letters with me as a way of doing that.  But he most certainly doesn’t credit me with any great abilities, because I’m certainly writing more than him right now.  When on our way to Ohlsdorf today he showed me a telegram from Werner Höfer, a telegram that he suddenly pulled out of his coat-pocket and asked me to read, I got the feeling that he guessed that something was up.  In any case he is has been keenly struck by my keen interest in everything.   But of course that’s no reason to bring along a telegram for me to see when he could just as easily have told me about it.  In a telegram as long as a letter Werner Höfer, the director or head of West German Channel 3, says that he would be very sorry if the misunderstanding with Donepp, the blackboard, etc., were to keep him from seeing Bernhard at the award ceremony, etc.  The usual soft soap, says Thomas, like every time Höfer’s being talked about.  This is the man who said he didn’t want to hear my name anymore after he saw The Italian.  And now look how hard he’s trying get on my good side.  I say: Perhaps he’d be the only person you could enjoy yourself with there, perhaps he’s genuine.  No, he’s a monster.  Do you know him personally?  No, only from international Sunday champagne brunches on German television, says Thomas; that’s enough for me.
As he walks in at 6:00, Thomas says: I’m a bit early today.  You see, I got a feeling something bad was going to happen; I was worried that the Hufnagls were about to pay me a visit.  The light from the headlights of a car had already fallen on my neighbor Hoffmann’s house; I thought it was Hufnagel; I might have driven away just barely in time.  I don’t want to see them today; I don’t want any visits.  Then I thought I’d drive straight to your house; I can get away with that, I can get away with staying there.  Yes, but they’ll see your car and follow you here, I say.  But that’s fine, no problem; I’ll invite them in, and you’ll have the advantage of being able to leave whenever it suits you, whereas you can’t throw them out when they’re at your house.  Thomas gave me a bottle of red wine for Granny and asked me to make sure to keep the bottle warm.  Then I ask him if I shouldn’t bring us one of my own bottles of wine at room temperature.  Because whenever we drain one of Granny’s bottles off the bat, as we’ve done more than once, she’s unhappy.  Granny will surely treasure this bottle as a keepsake and souvenir for ten or twenty years, because it came from him.  She’s already let some chocolates get moldy because she was keeping them as a souvenir of the person who had given them to her.  Then Thomas emphatically states that he won’t be drinking any wine today.  That it’ll be better for him not to drink, that for this reason alone it would be a mistake to open this bottle.  We eat some mini-bratwursts and drink a beer with them.  We come to an agreement to have peppermint tea later on, because we’ll obviously have to drink something between now and 10 or 11 o’clock.  In the course of our debate about beverages, I learn from my wife that upstairs in Granny’s apartment an unopened bottle of red wine has been sitting beside the stove for several days.  By now it’s 7:00; the doorbell rings, and the Hufnagls, a divorced couple (Mr. Hufnagl’s an architect in the Blutgasse in Vienna), come in.  I tell my son to put a second bottle of red wine by the stove.  From the Hufnagls Thomas receives hearty congratulations on his birthday.  Whereupon I say: I’m proud that I didn’t congratulate him, that I made that happen.  Of course he won’t have any of it.  After the congratulations, it transpires during our conversation that Thomas was supposed to meet the Hufnagls at the Brandl in Gmunden today.  They waited for him for two hours.  Thomas says he stuck his head in and didn’t see the Hufnagels.  Finally Thomas says: All right, you’ve found me out.  Let’s go upstairs and watch the evening news.  Immediately afterwards comes Mainz, How it Sings and Laughs.  I drank two liters of red wine with the Hufnagls; Thomas stubbornly sticks to peppermint tea.  Now it’s also becoming clear to me why Thomas didn’t want to let the Hufnagls into his house.  Hufnagl is a chain-smoker; he devours cigarettes.  After two hours the room is so stinky that it may take days to get the smell out of the curtains etc.  At 10:15 Thomas and the Hufnagls say their goodbyes.  Naturally Granny accepted the bottle of red wine from Thomas.  On the label I wrote that Granny had received this bottle from Thomas Bernhard on 2/11/1972.   I’m writing that for you on it to make it a keepsake, I say to Granny.  I’m planning to drink the bottle dry with Thomas and Granny.  Then I’ll write the date we drain it; then Granny will have two fine keepsakes of Thomas Bernhard.  If Granny gets indignant, I’ll simply say that she can show this bottle to her acquaintances.  To show guests a full bottle as a memento and not offer them its contents obviously wouldn’t be good manners.

February 13, 1972

At 11 a.m. Thomas comes and asks me if I’d like to take a walk with him after 1:00.  At 1:45 Thomas turns up with Mrs. Hufnagl.  Her ex-husband, Hufnagl the architect, comes a few minutes later.  Thomas bluntly tells me that he wanted to ditch the Hufnagls.  That he explained to them that he had already agreed to take a walk with me, but that he couldn’t shake them off and now they wanted to tag along with us on the walk.  But I just say: “The usual route.”  And so we take the roughest path via the grotto at the forester’s lodge; from there we walk uphill all the way up to the Eybls’ house and then take the same path back downhill.  We soon get started talking about shoes.  Whereas Thomas and I have strong shoes on our feet, the Hufnagls’ footwear isn’t up to the demands of the path.  To their veiled reproaches Thomas says: you obviously can’t set off on a walk like that.  I don’t travel to Vienna in rubber boots either.  On our way back, by which point I’d just thought up a detour, my son Wolfi rode up on his moped.  A prospective customer has been waiting for me for a whole hour.  I ride the moped home; my son walks back with the group in my place.  When I get back from a few tours of houses and lots with Mr. Lamberty from Styria, the Hufnagls and Thomas are just leaving my house.  Mrs. Hufnagl had to take a hot footbath and change her stockings.  Granny had placed a pair at her disposal.  Hufnagl says it’s been a year since he walked so far.  But Thomas didn’t even take the detour through Aupointen and Sandäuslberg with them.  He said that once I’d left he didn’t want to walk anymore.  It just wasn’t any fun.  We couldn’t keep up the usual fast tempo, and the conversation was worse than the walk.

February 14, 1972

When at 8:30 a.m. I ask the postman for Thomas’s mail, he says: Bernhard took it himself at 8:00.  I take care of several errands in Gmunden and also have the confirmation from the Ohlsdorf Town Hall photocopied. 

At 1:45 Thomas comes by, says I’ve got to go on a walk with him.  There’s a storm raging outside.  It’s raining and snowing cats and dogs.  I say: I’d rather not today.  Thomas browses my newspaper.  After ten minutes, he says: You sissy, because there’s a storm, you won’t come along, but I’m still going.  There’s nothing I enjoy more than storms and wetness.  In the meantime I had woken up a bit more from my midday nap and said: I’ll come along.  Despite the storm I put on a cardigan under my coat and a scarf over my open shirt-collar.   The idea was that this would force me to keep up a fairly fast tempo in the cold.  I wanted to give Thomas something to look at.  As we were heading towards Ohlsdorf and nearing Peiskam on a path running through a field, a tractor with the rag-clad Ohlsdorf village band is driving into the village.  It was Shrove Tuesday, when the village band drives from house to house.  To avoid this hustle and bustle, we cut a broad arc across fields and meadows.  From the west the wind hit us hard in the face, and when we got to the fork in the road at the forester’s lodge, Thomas said today he wanted to walk even farther, to Unterthalam.  You see, he could tell that I didn’t like having the wind in my face, that slushy snow in the right half of my face, and that if we had turned off at the forester’s lodge, we would have had the wind at our backs at first, and hardly felt it at all in the forest later on.  I agreed to go on the walk on the condition that it wouldn’t be broken off before two hours had passed.  If that’s the way he wants it, okey- dokey.  You see, Thomas thought we might take a short cut in the forest, skip Autpointen and Sandhäuslberg.  I just said: we’ll see.  If we need two hours to do that, then yes.  Then I increased my tempo even more, and it was only once we were entering the forest at Unterhaltham near the mouth of the Traun that we were able to speak again, which had hardly been possible on account of the storm.
Then I told Thomas about my countermarch in my first winter in Russia, when in contrast to today nothing was weighing me down but my haversack.  I still remember this quite vividly, because I had to carry it slung diagonally over my chest and back and really sweat like a pig.
Thomas told me again that he had been in Brussels a year ago on his birthday.  Unseld visited him there and congratulated him.  He said that he was glad that he had written the most necessary letters.  That he still had to write a couple of lines to Falkenberg. That he was going to ask him to give his regards to Werner Höfer.  Then I’ll be spared the trouble of replying to Höfer’s telegram.

At the fork in the road past Aupointen, I veered to the right so that Thomas could finally get a proper enough beating from the storm as he walked.   He followed me without making a peep, and after two hours and twenty minutes we had arrived at my house soaked to the skin.  There Thomas said: I’m not coming in with you today; on account of my wet clothes I’m driving straight home.  So we certainly both got our jollies; first he got his, then I got mine.

February 15, 1972

At 10:00 a.m. I learn from the postman that Thomas already took his mail at 8:00.  Shortly afterwards, Thomas runs into me in Ohlsdorf on his way back from Gmunden.  He tells me that he’s been at the farmer’s association and at the agricultural commission and that he sneaked through Gmunden like a thief so that he wouldn’t cross paths with any acquaintances: He didn’t even go into the coffeehouse; he doesn’t want to see anybody.  I’m supposed to come to his house for a walk in the afternoon; once again he’d like to walk towards Desselbrunn.  Since I’m expecting clients in the afternoon, I say: it’s impossible.  But I’m going to pick up some cider from him.  If I can get away before 4:00, I’ll also take a walk with him.  Thomas firmly says: Sure, fine, no pressure at all; if you’re there, you’re there.  We won’t set a time.

Right afterwards I run into Mrs. Hufnagl in Gmunden.  Where is Thomas?  I’ve been looking for him; he isn’t at the Brandl.  But he definitely had things to do in Gmunden today.  He could at least have lunch with me, she says.  He was already heading back home at 10:00.  He’s got so much work.  A half an hour ago I ran into him and reminded him that he had been invited to have a Valentine’s Day drink with Mrs. von Levetzow in Salzuburg yesterday.  He says that he hasn’t forgotten about it but that he’s got no time; that he’s got so many tasks to attend to.  (In preference to having a Valentine’s Day drink, he chose to take a walk in a snowstorm.)

I now recall that during our walk yesterday Thomas told me that at 9 p.m. last Saturday Mrs. Hufnagl had arrived at Thomas’s house in Nathal in a taxi she’d taken from the Attnang-Puchheim train station.  But O’Donell was still visiting with Thomas then, and so he couldn’t go with her to Gmunden.  The next day Thomas thanked O’Donell for having paid him such a long visit because that had allowed him to get rid of Mrs, Hufnagl.  O’Donell wanted to do his friend Hufnagl a “friendly turn” and told him why Thomas had thanked him.  Hufnagl confronted his ex-wife with this, and she told everything to Thomas.  Thomas said: you’ve just got to find the strength to fess up to something like that once it’s been passed on that far.  But you can easily imagine how tired I am of being dragged into these squabbles over and over again.  Because every time one of them says, “he or she said this,” “what do you think of that?”; I don’t know what sort of position I’m supposed to take, because if I tell one of them they’re right, the two of them join forces against me.

After ten minutes I’ve convinced Mrs. Hufnagl that Thomas has no time, and she sets off on her way again.  She’s got a terrible cold!

At five in the afternoon I drive into the courtyard at Thomas’s.  I don’t even check to see if he’s in the house.  Of course he might have just gone for a short walk since he’s left the gate open so invitingly.  So I go straight down into the cider cellar, fill my two bottles and reflect that if he’s there, he’ll have come in through the courtyard door in the meantime.  As I’m coming back from the cellar, Thomas is standing in the doorway of the courtyard.  He tells me he was just briefly out in the sun before.  He says he had a high temperature, 37.5 degrees Celsius and a cold.  I laugh and say: the day before yesterday we helped Mrs. Hufnagl catch a cold; yesterday it caught you.  Thomas disputes this.  His cold isn’t from yesterday; rather, Mrs. Hufnagl gave it to him.  During our walk with her, she was already coming down with a cold, etc.

Then I tell Thomas that my son Wolfi marveled at his wine collection when he was fetching cider on Saturday.  I say, I’ve only ever seen such a large heap of bottles in Frankfurt.  In 1940 a vintner in Alsace poured me some fifty-year-old wine.  He had come from southern France; I had brought him home from the Sélestat train station and in his delight that his house was undamaged and his cellar hadn’t been plundered he uncorked a fifty-year-old bottle.  But it was obvious that nothing was being plundered.  The French wouldn’t do that in their own country, and the Nazis wanted “the Alsatians to speak Alsatian German.”  So everyone was taking great pains to make sure that nothing was plundered.  But every last one of the Alsatians told me, Even when we’re speaking German we’re acting like Frenchmen.  And so when we started talking about his wine collection and the colossal value of such collections, Thomas told me that Deutsch the Jew, who was being investigated for embezzling millions from West Germany, ordered two bottles of sekt at 600 francs apiece for him (Thomas) and the leading lady in A Party for Boris.  He said that the allegations couldn’t be proved; that everything was in order and Deutsch was going to found a cultural center on Lake Geneva.

I was at Thomas’s until 7:00.  He’s planning on not leaving the house tomorrow; he wants to nurse his cold; I’m supposed to bring him newspapers.  I’m also supposed to rustle up a piece of property or woods for him, either here or in Reindlmühl.  I’m supposed to sound out the neighbors.  He’s got to buy something; he needs something to force him to write.  As long as he knows that a fairly large sum of money isn’t necessary again, he can’t write well.  When everything was in place, when no desires were unsatisfied–those were always the worst times for him.  So he’s got to place new demands on himself and buy something else; then everything will be back in order with his writing as well.

Then I told Thomas that I had been at Dr. Erasmus Schneditz Bolfras’s house and that he was very sorry that he wasn’t personally acquainted with him.  Schneditz found Thomas a very interesting man.  He said he would very much like to meet him.  I told Thomas that I told Schneditz that he ought to be glad that that had never happened.  That Bernhard spent enormous sums of money on lawyers; in Gmunden he’s already lavished money on Dr. Buchberger, Dr. Ornter, and Dr. Meingast, and one of them in Vöcklabruck has already kicked the bucket.  Among the things he asked me about was Bernhard’s wife.  So he hasn’t got a wife?  Here Thomas interrupted me and said: From now on if anybody asks you anything like that, tell him he can kiss my ass.  Feel free to deliver that message to such snoopers.  I said to Thomas: This time I remembered my prefabricated answer, and I told him that you only ever approached very decently married women, so that nothing would be seen on the surface.  You even beat your good friends about the haunches.
Thomas declared to me that he’d get himself a wife at the drop of a hat, but that she would have to be like a farm-girl.  For more than ten minutes straight, and as he had so often done before, he listed all the things a wife of his wouldn’t be allowed to be or do.  A wife like the one his grandfather had; that’s the kind of wife he would need.  She used to scrub the floorboards (wooden ones, every week); she could receive guests, paid unpleasant visits to the authorities, wrote good letters, was patient enough to put up with his grandfather not saying a word to her for a week and not ask him why, and on top of that the two of them had three children together.  Of course I’d like to have that too, a woman for my bed, but then I’d have to let her down so much in every other department that I’d drive her out of the house on the second day.  The right woman for me doesn’t exist.  And if she did it would all be over.  I wouldn’t be able to write anything anymore then.

Thomas goes on to say: This is why I’m going to put some livestock in that stall soon.  He says he can’t take looking at the empty stall anymore.  I advise him to get some steers, because they’re easier to look after.  He’ll have to buy the livestock from a stingy, sloppy farmer; that would feel pretty much OK even if the deal were shady.  On top of that, he says, he doesn’t feel tied to a particularly regular work routine here.  That’s exactly what I’ve got to force myself to get into.  Into a regular daily schedule filled with work.  So far Thomas has finished all his works under duress, either temporal duress or financial duress.  He’s hoping to obtain this sort of duress from day-to-day “forced labor.”  It’s only one day at a time, over and over again, through temporal duress, that he can compress his thoughts and write well.  That’s why he only ever writes letters at the last minute.  When he has letters to reply to, he discusses the contents of each reply with me.  At first there’s a great deal of detail; he says he’s going to add this and that bit, etc. and I do exactly the same thing; I say this and that’s also got to be included, etc.   But Thomas doesn’t write the reply.  Day after day he keeps abridging it in his mind, and then, when it’s almost too late, he replies to a letter in one or two trenchant lines.  I made it really terse, he tells me, so nothing can be wrong with it, because of course it’s so terse and what’s most important has been said.

So in order to be able to write under pressure again he charged me with purchasing property from the neighbors.  But because he doesn’t want to be constantly hassled by financial pressure, he wants to get himself some time pressure by dealing in livestock.  So he’s really got quite a lot planned.  For this reason I’ve held off telling about an article about literary stipends that the Oberösterreichische Nachrichten ran today.  The education minister is awarding 5,000 schillings a month for a year to eight writers.  When I start telling him about it, Thomas thunders against them even longer than usual.  Because such a stipend would stop him from keeping his eye on achieving good results, and he’s surely right.  If I were to get 5,000 shillings a month for my scribblings, I’d sometimes stop working at one in the morning instead of at five in the morning.  But I work of my own accord, and because something new is always occurring to me, I keep writing, because it spurs me on.  If I were getting 5,000 schillings, perhaps nothing would occur to me; my memory would weaken.  That sum of money might irritate me; the amount seems too high for just writing down incidents in the usual way.  Or the sum might seem ridiculously small to me, when I consider that I could earn that amount in a fortnight in fresh air and mindlessly at a construction site.  But I simply write for myself.  What Thomas maintains about himself seems to be even much truer of me.  For years Thomas has been saying that he would write even if his books were never going to be read.  That he really couldn’t care less if his books aren’t being read.  Or about how many are being sold.  That’s why he’s always declined invitations to go on tours from town to town signing books in bookstores.  Even at the Frankfurt Book Fair, where all the authors hog the cameras, he just makes a brief appearance.

Regarding February 13, 1972 and our walk with the Hufnagls that day, I’d like to add that on the subject of recently built buildings Thomas and I maintained that we could only hope for a war in which all those buildings would be destroyed.  Thomas himself would issue orders to have them blown up, and at the first sight of the ruins he would start using “positive words” like splendid, magnificent, wonderful, etc.  We even discussed the particulars of the attachment of the explosive charges.  In the case of tall buildings the charges would have to be attached to just one side so that they would fall over and get smashed to pieces that way.  We discuss how to blow up these buildings with small charges.  (Thomas would like to destroy Hufnagl the architect’s buildings.)  We also ended up talking about why Thomas is against christening ceremonies.  Because you don’t whether you’re holding a future mass murderer over the basin, of course.  I said probably Thomas won’t procreate for the same reason, because he’d be anxious about how his offspring might turn out.  But Thomas answered that to the contrary if he had a guarantee of siring a mass murderer he’d do it.  I said that in his case anything better would hardly be likely to happen.  Yes, says Thomas, but I’d have to have a guarantee.

February 16, 1972

When I show up at Thomas’s with his newspapers at 10:30 a.m., he also asks me for his mail.  But I wasn’t there yet at 8:00, when the postman left Ohlsdorf, and I didn’t run into the postman on my way.  Since I’m supposed to bring him his newspapers tomorrow, I promise him to bring his mail as well.  But since I won’t be in Ohlsdorf by 8:00 a.m., I’ll take his mail from the postman when he’s at my house.
Thomas has his grandfather’s book Jodok Fink open in front of him, and he tells me that his cold has its good side.  That he hasn’t read his grandfather’s book in 20 years, and that he’s just now realizing that since back when his grandfather was publishing books, no prose as good as his has come out.  I’ve just now realized that I’m carrying on my grandfather’s work in a modern form.  Everything that was published between my grandfather’s time and mine should be chucked into the trash.  It’s good that Schaffler’s coming; I’m going to discuss a new edition with him.  That’s got to come out.  Of course my grandfather was a Salzburger; the novel takes place in the Flachgau.  My grandfather describes the way everything was in the countryside before mechanization, so Residenz Publications can’t very well say no.  What’s more I might benefit from the fact that a student at the University of Salzburg is now writing a doctoral dissertation on my grandfather [Georg Unterberger, Johannes Freumbichler, 1977].  I learned this from Neuhuber (an academic painter who used to live in Gmunden).  He heard it by chance at the coffeehouse in Ischl.  But do you think my foster-father would tell me something like that?  When I was there recently, I told Fabjian (his foster-father) that a student was writing a doctoral dissertation about my grandfather.  Then he said to me: Yes, he’s already been to see me twice and asked me about your grandfather; he didn’t have the courage to approach you.

There are five books, continues Thomas, which ought to be republished.  The best one is Philomena.  It’s about his grandmother.  Of course she had a different name; that’s an alias for her.  So that I can say something of my own, I interject that I had an aunt who was actually called Philomena and that we just called her Meny.  Thomas says: Mena’s the only right short form of that name.  But I stand by Meny, because we actually did call my aunt that.  And so we bicker about Mena and Meny for a while.  Then I changed the subject and say: Jodok Fink is a good title; there’s an actual Jodok Fink in Vorarlberg; he’s an MP or something like that.  He was even chancellor, says Thomas.  He died only a couple of years ago.  I say: Mr. Freumbichler came up with a good title, Jodok Fink, I like the name.  Surely you’ll furnish the new edition with a good preface.  Then Thomas says he doesn’t want to wire Schaffler not to come.  If I do, he’ll think I’m not willing to give him any cider.  You see, he’s going to give him a large bottle of cider.  But he’ll have to drive back right away; of course I can’t hang out with him.   I don’t even want to shake hands with him for fear of his catching my cold, just as I caught my cold from none other than Mrs. Hufnagl.
After a good hour, shortly before noon, I leave Thomas.  I’ve got things to do in Wels in the afternoon, and because Schaffler’s coming in the evening, I don’t want to disturb him.  Thomas adds that he’ll lie down soon and take a sleeping pill, so that at least during the night he won’t be troubled by sniffles and a sore throat.  He really doesn’t want to lie awake with these unpleasant symptoms.  I add: your cider is at the peak of perfection; it’s so good that Schaffler won’t have cause to complain even if he brings the worst of it home with him.  This is because his cellar is so cold.  Because of this his cider lasts longer and is as in fine condition as that of the other cellars at the beginning of the year.

February 17, 1972

At 9:30 a.m. my wife collects from the postman Bernhard’s mail along with our own, and because his mail includes a telegram, I stop by Thomas’s house on my way to Gmunden.  I don’t stick around long.  In addition to the newspapers, I am supposed to bring Thomas a loaf of burebrot and two quarter[-kilo? (DR)]s of butter.  At 11:00 a.m. I’m back at Thomas’s with bread, butter, and newspapers in hand.  Right off the bat he asks me if he might ask me to do him yet another favor.  Yes, of course, whatever you like, I say.  Then Thomas tells me that the telegram is from Suhrkamp Publications, that in it Rudolf Rach asks if can come on Saturday.  I’d like to ask you to do me the favor of going to Ohlsdorf and sending him a telegram saying that I’m expecting him on Saturday.  Did he say “Saturday” or “Sunday Eve” in his telegram? I ask.  Saturday, says Thomas; Wieland (Dr. Wieland Schmied) is the man who says Sunday Eve instead of Saturday.  All perfectly fine; Rach goes with the flow.  Then Thomas writes the text of the telegram on the back of an invitation to the Austrian book week in the context of Austria Week in Vienna, which he received today from the Austrian Society for Literature.  Hopefully I can read it, I say when he hands it to me.   Then I notice that he’s written very neatly.  I wouldn’t be able to read your usual handwriting.  But take a look at my signature, says Thomas.  He says this because it’s in his usual handwriting.  I immediately drove to Ohlsdorf, put carbon paper under the telegram sheet, and took the pad of telegram forms away with me, so that in future Thomas can write telegrams even at home, possibly using his typewriter.  I’ve got some of these forms at home myself, I said to him.
Thomas also tells me that he has received a letter from somebody named Foelske at 37 Grüner Hof in Cologne.  Then Thomas leads me into his little old farmer’s nook.  He’s got the tiled stove there burning.  It’s very warm there.  And they wanted to take this stove away from me, says Thomas.  How nice that he’s only legally required to have the stove caulked round the edges.  But I would do that myself, though.  You can do that better than anybody else; you don’t need anybody else to do that.  You can caulk by just sticking your fingers into the joins.  Yes, I’ve loaded up on loam and fireclay.  I’ll do that myself, says Thomas.  Then I step up to the stove, inspect it more closely, and even take the lid off the copper pot on top of it.  You’re just like hundreds of thousands of other people.  They all think a writer’s a lummox who starts a fire in a stove without filling the pot on top with water.  I was just making sure you had water in it now.  I wouldn’t dream of accusing you of not having put any water in it to begin with.  But soon it’s going to boil and overflow.  I go on to ask, So what did Schaffler think of the idea of the new edition?  He hasn’t come yet; he’s coming today, says Thomas.  What do you mean, I ask; wasn’t he supposed to come yesterday?  No, and I said nothing of the sort.  Then I misunderstood you, I say; I thought he was supposed to come yesterday; otherwise I would have paid you another visit in the evening.  But I didn’t want to disturb you when he was here.  That would have been really stupid.  I went to bed early and took a pill so that I could sleep through the night and be completely insensible of all the rubbish.  Today I’m substantially better, but I don’t dare go outside yet.  Tomorrow if I feel the same, I’ll briefly go to Gmunden to stop by the café.  Ah, I say, and I was so curious to find out what Schaffler thought of the idea of a new edition.  Ah, says Thomas, as I read more I detected some weak passages.  Everything is much too beautiful, is represented as much too beautiful.  Everything that I experience as execrable my grandfather finds beautiful.  As he said this, Thomas got a bit softer, a bit shamefaced, as if he were speaking more to himself than to me.  But oh well, we’ll see.

You shouldn’t just see everything with your eyes, I say.  When you’re healthy again, we could schedule a tour for next week.  Perhaps for Tuesday, but tentatively with no commitment yet.  But if nothing comes my way in the meantime, we could stick to Tuesday.  I would propose a departure time of seven in the morning, so that we can buy the wooden rings for your curtain rods in Stadl-Paura.  Then visit your brother’s house in Wels.  He wants you to do that; you’re supposed to give him some advice.  Afterwards we should visit the antique shop in Eferding your brother recommended to us.  Then I’d like to go to Ottensheim via Aschach.  There’s also an antique store there, one that we haven’t been to yet.  Then we could have coffee with my Aunt Camepstrini if we’ve got enough time for that.  Because at 11:30 we’ve got to be at the Dorotheum in Linz, so that I can get a few more things done at the office.  We’ll have to take Granny with us as far as Ottensheim, because she wants to spend a few days with her sister.  Yes, sure, says Thomas, but will we be able to find the antique store in Eferding?  That’s quite a task in Eferding; it’s difficult to find a place there if you don’t know exactly where it is.  Well, just as I took it for granted that you didn’t have any water in the pot on your stovetop, you need to take it for granted that I don’t know where the antique dealer is, I say.  Well, then, where is he; who is he? says Thomas.  I’ve written down the address; I haven’t memorized it.  Hörsdorf is the name of the place; that just popped into my head, but it’s even more important for me to know where Hörsdorf is.  It’s on the way to Eferding, and as you know, I don’t drive into the unknown, I say.  Yes, says Thomas, I really should know that.

Then from his little old farmer’s nook we go back into his living room.  I’ll also wheel and deal with Schaffler and Rach in the old farmer’s nook.  That’s the best room in the entire house, Thomas says and pours me a glass of schnapps.  You see, Rach is my man at the publishing firm, who’s written that they’ve received a ton of inquiries about my play The Ignoramus and the Madman, and he doesn’t know who he’s supposed to allow to stage it.  Of course you know that as I told you I wrote back to him that he should regard our situation like a bowling alley.  The theaters are the pins, and we, the publishing firm and I, have got the ball in our hands.  And now we’ve got to bowl this ball straight down the middle of the lane and into the pins, into the theaters.  This is why Rach is coming to see me; he’s coming here to talk about this.

That it would be silly to keep the play “hidden” any longer when so many theaters are vying with one another to see it.  Because later on maybe they won’t want it anymore.  We’ve got to take advantage of this now.  I’ve held onto the play long enough.  But the publishing firm is really stupid and can’t make up its mind about which theaters to give the play to.  What’s more they need my explicit consent, and I’m going to discuss all this with Rach.




The old farmer’s nook in the farmhouse at Obernathal 2, the “best room in the house” in Thomas Bernhard’s opinion

By the way, today I received a very polite letter from Unseld.  It’s impossible for me to offend that man.  He replied to my letter very politely.  Here I interject: Of course you wrote to him that he should only reply to you if he had a sense of humor, and that he could think whatever he liked.  Now during Carnival season he found it easier to understand that you didn’t seriously mean to offend him.  Of course you left it up to him in what spirit to take your letter.  For a change he reacted appropriately to your joking and understood it.  He also writes to me that they, Unseld and Rach, spent a long time debating which of the two of them should come.  In the end they agreed that Rach would come.
I get the feeling that either in his head or on paper Thomas has already progressed pretty far in the comedy he’s planning.  But I don’t dare ask about it.  Only if I manage not to ask him about it will I learn something about it.  Because it’s simply unthinkable to “interrogate” him about it.  With a single word I could touch off a fit of sulking.  What’s more, in asking a question like that I’d be cutting him off “in mid-flight.”  If I didn’t have this sense of tact, I’d learn next to nothing from Thomas.  But I’m sure that as a sharp thinker and observer he knows perfectly well that I’m deliberately not asking such things and that he also appreciates this about me.  The expression “Let sleeping dogs lie” probably originated in criminal slang.  After a while Thomas picked up this expression from me.  It’s an expression that often hits the mark, and I believe that in this situation I can get away with “letting sleeping dogs lie.”  I glance at my watch.  By now it’s 12:30, and I say: “When will we see each other again?  Today Schaffler’s coming; tomorrow you yourself are going to Gmunden.  Come have dinner with me at 4:45 tomorrow afternoon.  So if we don’t run into each other earlier, let’s make it 4:45 so that we don’t have to do any rushing around until the evening TV news.  Thomas also asks me if I hadn’t seen Mrs. Hufnagl in Gmunden.  If I had seen her, I would have acted as if I hadn’t seen her.  I just find it impossible to speak with her.  Then I should tell her about your illness.  She’d think she’d have to visit you right away, and your bad spell would be over.

A few hours later, at 4:00, Mrs. Hufnagl stops by my house in a taxi.  She brings back Granny’s stockings and wants to say her goodbyes, because tomorrow she’ll be traveling back to Vienna.  She’s planning to drive straight on to Thomas’s.  Then I tell her that Thomas is ill and that for the past two days I’ve been supplying him with newspapers, because he can’t leave the house.  I go on to tell her that Thomas is expecting Schaffler.  He’s planning to send the man straight back home, because he’s doing his best to recover.  It’s easy to see that Mrs. Hufnagl realizes that she’s picked a bad time to pay Thomas a visit.  I’m already curious [neugierig] about what I’m going to learn tomorrow. 
Whenever I hear or write the word gierig [greedy] or neugierig, I remember that I once told Thomas that Regierung [government] is spelled with a long ie because it is supposedly derived from gierig.

Meanwhile I’ve switched back to spacing my lines more widely.  When I saw that Thomas always used this spacing, I started using this spacing.  Later I asked Thomas if this spacing was required by his publishing firm, and he said: No, it’s not required.  But I space them that widely anyway.  Because I’ve got to make a ton of corrections, make big changes to entire sentences, etc., I think it’s better to stick to this wide spacing, because it lets you find room for the corrections between the lines.

February 21, 1972

Because on Friday the 18th Thomas didn’t come to my house as scheduled, I pay him a visit at 10:00 a.m.  Why haven’t you come to see me in such a long time? Thomas asks me.  You’re the one who hasn’t come to see me.  Right, I didn’t know whether it was set in stone.  I thought you’d come by at least once beforehand, says Thomas.  No, on Thursday you were expecting Schaffler; on Saturday you were expecting Dr. Rudolf Rach from Suhrkamp; on Friday you were supposed to come to my house.  That was the only day you were free, and if I know you’ve got a visitor, I don’t want to disturb you.  You never disturb me.  If you’d come you would have lightened the mood of the whole thing.

Mrs. Hufnagl came to see you Thursday afternoon.  I didn’t let her in, says Thomas.  I saw the taxi, and then I heard her knocking.  But she rode off again very quickly, and so then I could say I had put on a record upstairs, and when I heard her and was about to open the front door, the taxi had already driven off.  Unfortunately I got there too late.  You know, on Saturday I ran into the Hufnagels, and Mrs. Hufnagl told me that you wanted to keep her away from me.  Not at all, I say, I didn’t say anything about her staying away.  No, of course not, says Thomas, but she told me that you said Schaffler was coming and I wouldn’t shake hands with you because I was so sniffly.  It’s quite good that you told her that.  At least the business about the visit was cleared up a bit.  I was really still pretty unwell, and Mrs. Schaffler had to go into the cellar herself and fill the ten two-liter bottles.  She had quite a long job to do.

Meanwhile, Ferdl, his bricklayer, has shown up, and we discussed the demolition of the tower of the fire station.  The fire station has been in Thomas’s possession for quite a number of years, ever since the disbandment of Nathal’s local fire brigade.  Thomas would prefer to demolish the tower piecemeal; Ferdl would prefer to loosen up the earth underneath one side of the tower and bring the whole thing crashing down on that side.  For months, Thomas says, Ferdl has been mulling over how he’s going to knock down the tower; but because he’d get an incredible kick out of that and so many things can go kaput in an operation like that, I won’t let him do it.  In any case, it’s better to postpone the job till spring, when we can count on longer spells of good weather.

Obernathal 2: the cider press in a disused pigsty

So how did things go with the “bowling-pin boy?” I ask Thomas, because Dr. Rach’s name happens to have slipped my mind just then.  Well, can you believe it?, he was supposed to show up at two o’clock Saturday afternoon; he actually got here at six.  He had, however, notified me of his arrival time in an express letter.  I received that letter today, Monday.  Rach was about to see my play Boris in Zurich; people were already queued up at the box office; then suddenly somebody hung up a sign reading Cancelled.  The leading lady was nowhere to be found, and after an hour she came into the bar completely plastered.  And so the show had to be cancelled.  Incidentally, the play A Party for Boris isn’t going to be performed at the Burgtheater in Vienna.  It’s out of the question for Judith Holzmeister, who hasn’t acted at all well in performances of my play, to ride my play to success in Vienna.  Rach told me that the director was supposed to be really lousy.  You can imagine how bad he must actually be if even the “bowling-pin boy” is saying this.  No, I’d rather pay 2,000 marks in fines for breach of contract, but in Vienna I won’t be fined for that.  You know, what’s more, a first-class director has already been hired for the job.  I told Rach, I’m glad I won’t have to see Unseld’s face when you share this with him for me.  But of course it needn’t affect him personally at all.  It’ll be personally unpleasant for me, of course, but he’s not personally involved in the thing at all.  And the only places that will get the Salzburg play are Zurich, Hamburg…Thomas mentioned two more German theaters that I’ve since forgotten.  I actually said my proper goodbyes to the “bowling-pin boy” on Saturday, as if we weren’t going to see each other after that.  He was planning to catch the train at half-past ten on Sunday morning.  But then on Sunday I felt quite a bit better and drove to Gmunden to meet him for breakfast at the Swan.  Then I ran into Hufnagl, and I made the following proposal: if Hufnagl gives us a ride to Salzburg, he can go to Salzburg with us.  I myself was feeling too weak to drive.  You see, in Salzburg, Peymann was staging the dress rehearsal, and I wanted to see it.  But in Salzburg it turned out that the dress rehearsal had been staged the night before, after midnight, after Saturday’s performance had taken place.  Peymann was quite satisfied.  He said that the crew of about thirty workers had worked well, and that the costume designer Moidele Bicker had also immediately established a good rapport with her Salzburg colleague [Magda Gstrein].  You know, in the theater you’ve really got to be prepared for everything.  Because sometimes really tremendous rivalries develop, and then the one person often wants to ruin everything completely for the other person.  So you’ve really got to keep your fingers crossed for a good collaborative effort.  Incidentally, Peymann would like to get hold of a house for his entire commune; it can be old and thirty to forty kilometers from Salzburg.  It can be quite old and dilapidated, but they’ve got to have fairly warm running water and somewhere to do their cooking.  They’ll also have two small children with them.  They’d like to have the house for just two months; they’ll pay for everything as a group.  Perhaps you could get hold of something; it could be an old “Joe Bloggs’ cabin,” as you’re always saying.

An hour later, at 11:00 a.m., I left Thomas, and at 3:00 I was back at his house to trim his living fence with my large pair of shears.  Last year Thomas cut the spruce saplings himself, and cut too much off on the topside, and his neighbor must have scattered some sort of caustic fertilizer or other sort of poisonous powder next to the row of trees.  He probably emptied out whole bags of the stuff.  This poison almost killed off the saplings.  I was soon finished with this job, and Thomas once again told me about his publishing firm, Suhrkamp.  Dr. Rudolf Rach’s secretary there pushed the panic button when she read through Thomas’s letter to Dr. Rach.  Usually they review their huge pile of mail as slowly as can be, but she shared Thomas Bernhard’s letter with Rach immediately.  The latter immediately consulted his boss, Unseld, and the latter said he had received a letter from Bernhard at the same time.  Whereupon letters from other people were also read and commented upon, because it really was quite an unusual subject they were dealing with.  But eventually Unseld singled out a few sentences and declared: These are really quite good too.  Whereupon it was resolved that Dr. Rach should go to see Bernhard at Nathal.
I was at Thomas’s almost until 5:00, and towards 7:00 he paid me a return visit.  After “Zeit im Bild” [the Austrian nightly TV news] and “Tagesschau” [the West-German nightly TV news] there was a lousy program, and so we could resume our chat.  Thomas said inter alia that his play certainly won’t be taken on by the Burgtheater yet, that somebody doesn’t want to have the play staged yet.  But I said to the “bowling-pin boy” that Klingenberg (the general manager of the Burgtheater) had said: After the Grillparzer Prize this is “a sho’ thang” [“a gmahte Wiesn,” which I tentatively read as a dialectal variant of “ein gemachtes Wesen,” for which “a sure thing” seems a reasonable rendition (DR)].  I first had to explain to the “bowling-pin boy” what “a sho’ thang” means.  Granny gazed inquisitively at us for a good long while.  She didn’t know what a “bowling-pin boy” is.  So I said to her, Dr. Rach from his publishing firm has set up a bowling pin, a contract, at the Burgtheater, and Thomas has knocked the bowling pin down.  At 11:30 Thomas went home.  His cold has gotten a bit worse.  He’s going to take a valium to help him get to sleep.

February 22, 1972

Towards noon I bring Thomas his newspapers.  He had asked me to do this yesterday, because he’s planning not to leave the house today.   He’s trying to take it easy and recuperate.  Because I’ve got things to do in the afternoon, I don’t stay long and invite Thomas to come to my house at 7:00.  On the way back from Wels I look in on Thomas with my wife to ascertain if he’ll come.  When he hears me knocking, I hear him say, “Aha.”  It’s a fairly long time before he drowsily opens the door.  In the absence of our agreed-upon knocking pattern he certainly wouldn’t have budged.  I apologized for disturbing his sleep, but he said that now was just the right time for him to stop sleeping.  Then I say to my wife: Mrs. Hufnagl really was right when she said that Thomas can be the most perfect, most polite human being.  When he wants to be, I added at the time.  I continued: But he rarely shows that.  Turning to Thomas, I said: But I hope that you’re not “declining”; it would really be terrible if you were constantly running around with good manners.  I’ve even sent back the suit I wore at the Grimme Prize [sic, and evidently a slip by Hennetmair; presumably Bernhard actually said Grillparzer Prize (DR)].  It didn’t fit me.  The man who’s wearing it now has no idea of how richly his suit has already been honored, Thomas said suddenly.
Thomas asks us into the utility room, saying it’s well-heated there and extremely cozy there.  We go on to discuss what color he’s going to choose for the paint for the doors, and the colors of the curtains.  But there’s no longer any possibility of our making a shopping trip this week, because his cold keeps refusing to go away.  After about an hour we leave; Thomas follows us an hour later. 

During supper Thomas asks me what I would do in his situation.  He is about to explain this to me.  During Peymann’s first visit it so happened that Thomas was coerced into lending him 2,000 schillings.  He’s met with Peymann several times since, but the latter has never made the slightest move to repay him.  He’s really annoying me; there’s always a bill at the tavern, but Peymann never makes the slightest move.  What would you do in my shoes; what would you do to get the 2,000 schillings?  Then I say to him: It’s quite simple; when you’re meeting with him next time, I’m sure you remember the words he used when he broached the subject of money with you; I’d use exactly the same words to ask him to help you out with a quick loan of 2,000 schillings.  I’ve already thought of doing that, said Thomas, but I wanted to know what you would do. Then we talk about the fact that Peymann would like to rent an entire house for his commune, that Moidele Bickel, Karl-Ernst Hermann, the set-designer, and two small children would all like to live together in one house.  But Thomas can’t give me exact details, and so we agree that tomorrow I’ll come to Thomas’s with the mail and he’ll then give me Peymann’s address so that I can inquire as to the minimum number of rooms that’ll be needed.  Thomas also tells me that in Salzburg he ran into his former boss from his commercial apprenticeship [Karl Podlaha] and that the latter said to him: at least one of us has amounted to something.  Moreover, tomorrow he’s going to write to Falkenberg that he won’t be coming to the award ceremony for the Grimme Prize.  He’s going to write, “it isn’t possible for me to come,” and nothing else, with absolutely no explanation.  This expression, “not possible to come,” is very propitious.  It can mean anything, it can mean that I’m ill, but it can just easily mean that I’ll find the people there revolting, because that’s also a reason why you can’t come.  “It isn’t possible for me” always hits the mark, and you don’t need to substantiate it.  At 10:30 Thomas drives home.

February 23, 1972

From 8:15 to 8:45 a.m. today I was at Thomas’s house.  He has received from London a postcard with Erika Schmied’s congratulations on the Grimme Prize.  She asks what he’s going to do with so much money.  She doesn’t know that this time there’s no money attached to the prize for a change, I say.  Thomas feels ill and enfeebled.  He doesn’t want to admit it, but I tell him straight out: You don’t need to put on a show for me; I know what it’s like.  You’re weak, and you couldn’t care less about a lot of things.  So then he finally admits it.  Because he can’t leave the house, he asks me to bring him back seven newspapers in the event that I go to Gmunden later on today.  Then I say to him: so between one and two I’ll bring them to you. 

Then I wrote a letter to Peymann; I had gotten the address, 1 Berlin 31, 44 Landstrasse, from Thomas.

I bring Thomas the newspapers at about one o’clock.  He feels weak and miserable and immediately asks me to call his brother Peter in Wels.  He says he’s absolutely got to come as soon as possible.  The doctor’s sample pills that he’s been gulping down so far will only last for three days.  He’s already gulped down three packs of samples.  He says that this has got to stop, that he wants proper medicine and not constant sample pills, even if they don’t cost anything.  That Peter must come soon enough to pick up something from the pharmacy as well if need be.  In Wels a certain Sister Annemaria answers the telephone.  She said that Dr. Fabjan wouldn’t be reporting for duty until four, but that she would most certainly pass the message on to him.  She was aware that Thomas Bernhard is his brother, etc.  I told Thomas this later.  He reckoned that Peter might show up at any time after 6:30, because he went off duty at six.  And so Thomas left both sides of the gate open and the lights on in the courtyard when I left him to spend my regular hour at the gym.  I have promised to stop by with his mail at 8:15 tomorrow morning.

February 24, 1972

When I stepped into Thomas’s house with the mail at 8:15 this morning, I was planning to set off again immediately.  But Thomas immediately demanded that I take off my coat.  He said that something horrible had happened, something that he had to tell me about. 
You know, Thomas said, that yesterday I was expecting Peter and kept the courtyard lit so that when he came he could see that he was expected.  I was expecting him by 7:00 at the latest.  Because in Vienna when a doctor has to make a house call on a patient in Floridsdorf, he’s also got to drive half an hour, so it’s really no big deal for Peter to drive from Wels to my house in his Volvo.  And at 9:00 I was still sitting there waiting for him.  By then I was beginning to find the whole thing too pointless for words.  I thought, there’s no way he’s coming this late; I took a sleeping pill, opened all the windows to air the house out, then I shut the gate and the windows and went to bed.  When I was just tired enough to start falling asleep and was already halfway there, I heard Peter calling me, calling me when I was half asleep.  Just picture it: at 9:30 at night I’ve got to get dressed when I’m still half asleep, open the gate, which involves crossing the cold courtyard; I’d already turned off the stove.  If he’d come a half an hour earlier, fine, but now!  Without so much as a by your leave he came into the house.  Already with a certain bad feeling about what was coming next, I asked him, why have you come so late?  I was just now in Linz, he said, sit down.  He said this “sit down” in the kind of tone they use in the hospital when they say it to the local yokels.  You know what I’m talking about, sit down, open wide, etc.   Then I say, what the hell did you have to do in Linz that was so important that you had to come here so late and snatch me out of an excellent snooze?  Well, you see, said Peter, I took my Hungarian friend to the theater.  Well, I didn’t need to hear any more than that.  If he’d at least not said it to my face; if he’d come in looking sad and said that he was sorry, that he’d been planning to come earlier, etc., but since he’d put it that way, I simply exploded.  What, I asked, is your friend more important to you than I am?  The sisters (the Sisters of Mercy) knew full well why they voted against your appointment.  They could clearly see how undependable you are.  You must have treated people at the hospital they way you’re treating me.  I don’t want to have anything more to do with you; I don’t want to see you anymore; you’ll always be more like your father in all his execrableness.  Put your coat on and get the hell out and don’t you ever set foot in my house again.  That’s right, don’t give me that look…put your coat on and get the hell out right now.  Without saying a word, he put on his coat, and walked across the courtyard and out of the gate.  There he paused for a bit beside his car and hoped I would perhaps say that he should come back.  But then I pointedly closed the gate loudly and loudly bolted it, which I normally don’t ever do, because of course I lock it with the key.  After this incident Peter really should keep out of my sight for the rest of his life.  If something like what happened to him had happened to me, I’d be through with him for a lifetime.  But I’m not in the least bit sorry.  This time I’m going to stick to my guns.  I can’t summon up any sympathy for him, nor can I…excuse the way he behaves with his fellow-Fabjans.  I’m just surprised that he’s so popular in certain circles and has even entertained an entire room full of people with his accordion many times.  And that he even sings and can be very clubbable.  But the Peter I know is simply awful and out of my life for good.  I’m really serious this time; I’m sticking to my guns.  Now that I’ve treated him so terribly and execrably he’ll have to keep out of my sight from now on.  Now I know for sure that I can’t deal with him as a doctor, and of course he’s never shown any sign of understanding my works.  But so far I’ve always forgiven him, over and over again, and…blamed that on the Fabjans.  But you know, of course I mostly hate him.  But today I feel so fine and fresh and healthy that I look like a bit of a monster in my own eyes, because I called him just on account of a cold.  But I’m still not in the least bit sorry, because of course no matter what had been wrong with me, even if just a matter of minutes might have made a life-or-death difference, he would have acted in exactly the same way.  I’ve got to find myself another doctor, because not even the worst doctor from around here would have done what Peter dared to do.  I’m sure I’d be able to get hold of one of them faster. Then I gave Thomas the regards of Dean Kern, the parish priest of Ohlsdorf.  I ran into the dean at the post office, and as I was asking for your mail, I told Kern that you were ill.  Dean Kern asked: Who’s taking care of Bernhard anyway?  Then I said: Just as he doesn’t want to have anyone else around at other times, he can’t stand having anyone taking care of him now.  Yes, said Thomas, that’s right, it’s good that you told it like it is.  Give him my warm regards in turn.  Then I said to Thomas: now I’ve still got to give him the Dean’s regards a second time belatedly.  It’s already been about a year since he also asked me to give you his regards.  But because about three years earlier I had given you his regards and at the time you didn’t tell me to give him your regards in turn, I didn’t give him your regards a year ago.  Now I’ll give him your regards three times.  (I run into Kern on the street at least every other day or during my tarot game, and every time he asks me how the tarot game is going.  He himself is a passionate tarot player and used to play nightlong games of it with me.)  Yes, said Thomas, I can recall that you gave me his regards a couple of years ago, so by all means give him my regards three times.  He surely won’t bless you, because of course you want to be buried in Neukirche, I say, but nevertheless it’s important to keep on the right side of Dean Kern.  Well, you know, nobody knows what’s going to happen.  I haven’t made a will.  But that’s bad, I say.  Then Fabjan will show up and prescribe arrangements and savor your glory.  Then at least a minister will show up, along with lots of people from the publishing houses, from the film world, from the academies of sciences, etc.  Only then would Fabjan properly come to appreciate who you are.  Nobody will come, says Thomas, not a soul.  Obviously there’s nobody here who would take charge of the thing properly.  Who the hell would notify the people and institutions; there’s obviously nobody here.  The only person who could do that is my aunt (Stavianicek).  Nobody more famous would be at my funeral; obviously nobody would know about it.  But of course news of it would leak out right away, I say.  Yes, of course you know it wouldn’t travel very far.  That’s why I’m glad, I say, that I wrote to the governor.  Because if I nominate you as early as January, they can’t maintain that the nomination came too late for this year.  Even if they’ve already got their eye on somebody else for the Stifter Prize, with my letter, which has earned a “reference number,” I’ve thrown down a mighty boxing glove of a gauntlet at the feet of another candidate, and nobody will be able to get over having had that boxing glove thrown at him.  I’m sure that now that I’ve done this, you’ll get the Stifter Prize.  Yes, says Thomas, and then no matter what, I’ll decline that Salzburg prize; that’ll be more useful to me than if I accept it.

It’s already getting on for 10 o’clock when I leave Thomas.  At about six in the evening I visit Thomas again in order to bring him back with me to my house for supper right away.  But Thomas has got a ton of brochures about electrical heating and shows me every single place in the house where he’ll have an auxiliary electric fire installed.  There are to be 11 electric fires for overnight heating.  It was thanks to his being ill that it occurred to him that he had to stop heating with oil; it occurred to him then that he was in no fit state to be constantly crossing the cold courtyard to fetch oil.  Instead of spending money on an extra piece of property or a bit of woods, he’s planning to invest 100,000 or 150,000 schillings in a new heating system.  It takes us a full two hours to inspect and discuss all eleven of the stove’s vents, and so we don’t get back to my place for supper until 10 o’clock. 

Later on, Thomas is in a very merry mood, and he tells me that he’s written to Unseld a letter ordering him not to allow any of his plays to be staged anywhere in Vienna.  In this letter he says that the time for such performances hasn’t yet come.  Even if the contract with the Burgtheater is irreproachable and there’s no longer anything I can do to stop such a performance, I’ll make sure to inform the newspapers that I as an author never agreed to the staging of the plays in Vienna.  But hopefully in the letter to Unseld you haven’t written that you have that in mind, because he’ll drop you if you have.  Well of course I haven’t, Thomas said, I’m only telling you this, that I’ll do that if it eventually becomes impossible to stop a performance.  I’ve also written to Unseld that he’s at least got to answer one of my questions concretely for a change.  His replies are charming but exasperating.  Then once again the entire office will come together and confer about this letter.  But you know, they won't able to do a damn thing to me if I write: charming but exasperating.  [2]

After 10:00 I bring Thomas home with me.  I warn him against going right back outside tomorrow even if he feels better.  This winter is very dangerous.  You think it’s nice and healthy outside, but in our neighborhood mothers have been confining their children to their rooms and warning them that they’ll catch the “March calf” [“Märzenkalbl”] out there.  By this they mean colds and flulike illnesses that are easy to catch this winter.  Thomas wasn’t yet familiar with this expression.  He liked it very much.  I told him that tomorrow, for which I’ve got a lot planned, I’d come round to his house at about five in the afternoon.

February 25, 1972

At 5:00 p.m., when I came to see Thomas, he was very much out of sorts.  Physically he felt well, but Stadlbauer the electrician from Laakirchen had promised to come and give him an estimate for the electric heating at 1:00 p.m., and he hadn’t yet shown up.  But he wants the work to get started right away.  Because whenever he’s decided in favor of something, he wants it right away.  Then I say to Thomas: At 5:00 the workers at Stadlbauer’s shop will be going home for the day, so he can hit the road now.  I can phone Wels, and I’d also be happy to summon Stadlbauer by phone if he likes.  Thomas is fine with that, and Stadlbauer is on the spot in a few minutes.  During their final discussion of financial terms at 7:30, I had invited Thomas to come to my house at 7:30 [(sic) on the repetition of the time (DR)]; Thomas asked me to set out by myself and told me he’d be heading over right behind me.  But shortly after I drove off, I suddenly realized I was in no mood to watch the news by myself, and so I turned around and waited for Thomas at the entrance to the courtyard.  After a half an hour I saw that Stadlbauer was already in his car and ready to drive off but still chatting with Thomas.  So I went in and said that in the interval I’d gone for a walk and that we could leave now.  Thomas was glad that I’d brought an end to that and left with me immediately.  He had already worked up an appetite for the apple strudel that I’d announced we’d be having.  Thomas went on to tell me that the whole thing including the connection fee for 50kW would come to about 150,000 schillings and that Stadlbauer was going to install the heaters where we had discussed putting them.  In the kitchen, where Thomas and I had not been of one mind about the spot, Stadlbauer determined that the place I had proposed was a better spot, and so it will be put in the spot I proposed.

Afterwards Thomas was very funny; he imitated the speakers and commentators on the television.  Even his impression of Zhou Enlai’s Chinese was marvelously successful.  We got so engrossed by our own conversation that we soon switched off the set.  Towards midnight Thomas asked me to drive him home.

But then we also ended up talking about his Italian, which was going to be broadcast on television on March 22.  Schaffler from Residenz Publications has sent him some reviews of The Italian the book from Dutch and Rumanian newspapers and journals.  They were very positive.  The screenplay was very highly praised, and the reviewers maintained that Bernhard could make a good film out of it.  This led us to talk about the fact that The Italian the film contains very little dialogue and is therefore very easy to dub into other languages.  He said that Radax absolutely had to speak with him before going to the Grimme Prize award ceremony.  This because he would have to be persuaded to take advantage of the general good mood at the ceremony to work out a deal with the bigwigs to have the film dubbed into several languages.  I said to Thomas that Radax would have an easier time bringing these favorable reviews from abroad to people’s attention.  That Thomas couldn’t very well blow his own horn.  But such a talk with Radax would have to take place immediately, because it’s already the 25th; the ceremony is a fortnight from now.  Radax might be going out there a bit beforehand, either because he’s got some other reason for going there or because he wants to savor the whole thing a few days in advance. And so I propose to Thomas my phoning Radax at 8:00 a.m. to ask him to see Thomas and also to tell him what is going on.  Thomas immediately accepted my proposal.  But I said that I might not call until 10:00, because Radax might not even have gone to bed by 8:00.  Radax hardly ever goes to bed before three or four or five in the morning.  At 10:00 he still needs a minute to figure out what’s what, because he’s still half-asleep.  So I’ll call Radax tomorrow.  But because I’ve got so many other things to do, I told Thomas I wouldn’t be visiting him until 6:00 in the evening.

February 26, 1972

At ten in the morning I try to phone Radax.  At other end of the line at the Rotenturmstrasse Mr. Tamare answers and says that Radax moved out about four weeks ago.  He say that Mrs. Hedi Richter, the principal dancer in the ballet, who lives at 1-3 Untere Augartenstrasse, knows where he is.  Hedi Richter answers the phone and says that at the moment Radax can be reached at 366-306, the phone number of his wife’s house in the Chimanigasse.  Radax says he’ll come see Bernhard on Saturday, March 3, at 2:00 in the afternoon.  I’m planning to share this news with Thomas at 6:00 p.m., but he ends up not being at home then; the key is in its hole.

February 28, 1972

Our neighbor Auinger tells me that at 12:15 p.m. Thomas rang our doorbell for about ten minutes and didn’t come into the house to see me, even though my car was there and I was at home.  At that time we were all watching the coverage of Nixon’s visit from Peking, and so we happened not to have heard Thomas’s doorbell-ringing.

END OF PART II

Translation unauthorized but Copyright ©2019 by Douglas Robertson .  Source: Karl Ignaz Hennetmair,Ein Jahr mit Thomas Bernhard.  Das versiegelte Tagebuch 1972.  Sankt Pölten: Residenz Verlag, 2014.

[1] Cf. the actual letter (No. 181 in DR’s translation of the Bernhard-Unseld correspondence), which reads in full as follows:
                                                                                                                                                       
Dear Siegfried Unseld,

Two months ago I wrote you a letter to which I never received a reply.

In answer to your most recent lines: I am not going to write about Hohl.1

Here and especially in my brain a great deal of animosity towards the hair-raising brainlessness of your employees’ correspondences pertaining to me has been accumulating; more on this preferably or exclusively viva voce.

When Frost is being prepared for reprinting, please see that the original Insel edition is reviewed with both great care and absolute precision and that the task is entrusted to a person capable of great concentration (if there is any such person still left in your vicinity), lest the house should be inundated by a deluge of typographical errors.  Nobody will have done me any favors if that happens; the whole thing will have been pointless, and so if it can’t be done with extreme precision, it would be quite better if it weren’t done at all.

I myself haven’t the merest scintilla of time to devote to comparing variant readings.

I am in very fine fettle.

Sincerely,
Thomas Bernhard

P.S. Four times over the past few days I have received an unvarying specimen of printed matter; to be punctiliously specific, a three-line announcement that the new play is going to be performed in Salzburg (there have been hundreds of such announcements)3, and in the accompanying “Press Kit No. 1” it is stated that I received the Grimme Prize for The Italian (the screenplay) based on the novel of the same name.



[2] Cf. the corresponding passage in the actual letter (No. 184 in DR’s translation of the Bernhard-Unseld correspondence):

Now, an addendum doing duty as a confirmation: please do not under any circumstances allow a performance of my Boris at the Burgtheater in Vienna to take place; I am dreading the worst and the worst is something I refuse to get involved with.  Retract all offers if they have not been put in writing, and even if they have been put in writing, to the extent that such retraction is still possible.

I attach precious little value to having anything performed at this theater under current circumstances.  The time for putting on my play at the Burgtheater (or anywhere else in Vienna) has not yet come.  Who knows whether it will ever come.  Nothing but the thought that I am not being staged in Vienna can put my mind at ease.

Tomorrow, after an accident and a spell of the flu, I shall be getting back to work.
As you can see, I am back in my element.

If only you would concretely respond just once to one of the points raised in one of my letters!

Your letters are charming and exasperating.