Friday, June 29, 2012

From Bosley's New Dictionary of Received Ideas

Kafkaesque.  adj. Involving a document that requires more than one signature.  (I can't take this piece of company equipment valued at $180,000 outside the building without showing the security guard this form signed by my boss and my boss's boss.  How Kafkaesque! ) [f. Franz Kafka, that guy who wrote that story about the guy that turns into a cockroach.]

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Translation of Claus Peymann kauft sich eine Hose und geht mit mir essen by Thomas Bernhard

Claus Peymann Buys Himself a Pair of Trousers and Dines with Me
Three Minidramas

Claus Peymann Leaves Bochum and Goes to Vienna as Director of the Burgtheater

Scene I

Bochum, Director’s Office at the Playhouse

PEYMANN to Christiane Schneider, his secretary, who is packing his suitcases
Bochum will have to kiss
my ass
Once we’re away from here
we’ll be able to breathe freely
Sitting down at his desk and signing some documents
On the other hand
If I had my druthers I’d take the Bochum playhouse
with me to Vienna
but obviously there’s no room for it in these suitcases
And naturally also the applause
that we have always received in Bochum
but an applause-suitcase has yet to be designed
by the designers of suitcases
We mustn’t take too much stuff with us to Vienna
you might as well throw out a pair of dramaturges
and a pair of actors

SCHNEIDER throws a pair of actors and a pair of dramaturges out of the suitcases

The best arrangement would be one dramaturge
and one actor
or no dramaturge at all
and no actor
It is indeed a piece of hard luck
that we always need at least one actor
at least one dramaturge

I’m sticking the dramaturges in the sock-suitcase

Yes of course the dramaturges in the sock-suitcase

And the actors in the trouser-suitcase

Whatever you like Miss Schneider
I know you’ll put everything to rights
I’m putting the dramaturges into the suitcase first
On top of them I’m carefully setting your undershirts
With your white waistcoat at the very top

By all means Miss Schneider
When we swap the Ruhr
for the Danube
we will of course only be swapping one sewer
for another

I’ve heard
the Danube stinks even more abominably
than the Ruhr

You’re right about that
the stench of the Danube
is superlatively abominable
To say nothing of the people there

The charm of the Viennese
is world-renowned

I’ve gotten to know the charm of the Viennese quite well
on my own thank you
Hey why don’t you pack in a pair
of northern German critics
You might as well throw out another pair of actors
And pack in a pair of critics from here

SCHNEIDER inquiringly
And what about the plays

What sort of plays

Well obviously all the plays
that we were still planning to put on here in Bochum

Throw them into the dumpster
Into the wastepaper dumpster

SCHNEIDER inquiringly
All of them

Naturally all of them

SCHNEIDER inquiringly
Even the new one by Bernhard

Naturally even the new one by Bernhard
Miss Schneider
You’re getting on my nerves
You’re supposed to be packing
and not constantly asking questions

So shall I throw out even the new one by Achternbusch

Throw all the plays out
I said
all of them
We are after all going to make a completely fresh start in Vienna

SCHNEIDER inquiringly
With what

Please leave me alone
Miss Schneider

SCHNEIDER inquiringly
With Bernhard

Definitely not

SCHNEIDER inquiringly
With Shakespeare

Definitely not

Perhaps with William Tell

You’re getting on my nerves, Miss Schneider

SCHNEIDER takes out of the suitcases all the plays that she has packed and throws them on to the floor.

PEYMANN rising and contemplating the pile of objects thrown out of the suitcases
A dreadful muddle
Dramaturges plays socks
Actors shirts ideas
it’s nothing short of appalling
How will order ever be established in these suitcases

I warned you didn’t I
I wouldn’t have packed a third as much if it had been up to me

Fair enough
I’ll leave what we take with us to Vienna
entirely up to you
I’ll leave everything up to you Miss Schneider
But don’t forget
That no matter what I want to take with me
The Battle of Teutoburg Forest
and Nathan the Wise and The Winter’s Tale
and all the other plays I have ever staged in Bochum
and in Stuttgart
no matter what Miss Schneider
I’d rather be without the trousers of my tail suit
As for the actors
we’ll take along only the good ones
leave the bad ones here
the expensive ones we’ll leave here
the modest ones we’ll take
the megalomaniacal ones we’ll leave here
the simple-minded ones we’ll take
As for the dramaturges
we could leave behind all of them but one
but we do need that single dramaturge
he is the mainstay of our existence do you understand Miss Schneider
pack him in tightly very tightly
and don’t stick him in with the underwear
Clutching his head and raising his voice to a shout
Everything that Stuttgart and Bochum have made out of me
would be basically appalling
if it weren’t so abysmally ridiculous at the same time
The director of a playhouse is always
an incorrigible asshole
Christiane Schneider I beseech you
to pack only what is most necessitous
only what is absolutely necessitous

Well then I shan’t pack anything whatsoever
Well then you’ll quite simply go to Vienna just as you are
you’ll quite simply go to Vienna stark naked

You’re making a fool of me Miss Schneider
Exhausted he sits down at his desk

Travelers always take too much stuff with them
basically you don’t need any dramaturges at all
or any actors
you don’t need anybody at all
not even me
you might as well go to Vienna a completely stark naked individual
that’s the best scheme

You’re right Miss Schneider
how right you are
I would be the happiest man alive
if I could go stark naked to Vienna
But reality is no joke
So pack everything
that I mentioned to you
Above all a pair of the German critics
who are well-disposed to us
and the colossal applause
that I have always received in Bochum
and above all a top-of-the-line Solingen knife
for pricking these Austrian swine
that I’ve gotten to know quite well on my own
Sharpen this knife over and over again day and night
incessantly for me Miss Schneider
sharpen it


Scene II

Vienna, the office of the director of the Burgtheater
Eleven in the morning

PEYMANN to Christiane Schneider, who is unpacking his suitcases
If I had my druthers I wouldn’t even start unpacking
and I’d head straight back to Bochum

That would be a really stupid thing to do

Of course it would be a stupid thing to do
Director of the Burgtheater
could anything be more idiotic
what kind of a job have I saddled myself with here
The director of the main playhouse in a city
that is nothing but one big engine of intrigue and slander
Every day I hear the saws
sawing away at the branch
on which I have perched myself
in my avian idiocy
But I’ve signed the contract
and I shall get to work
Keep unpacking
unpack every last item
in these suitcases

A pair of actors died of asphyxiation during the trip
Two dramaturges turned moldy during the trip

There’s nothing we can do about that
theater is after all a lethal process Miss Schneider

SCHNEIDER holding an actor up to the light
This one’s head seems to be half frozen

I knew that would happen
but we still need him
thaw him gradually outside later on

SCHNEIDER laying the actor on the floor
All the actors are desiccated

Who cares
I’ll have them up and running soon enough

A pair of the Burg’s repertory actors are waiting outside

Ah yes
the people it’s now our job to keep busy
I’ve yet to figure out how
Most likely I’ll stuff them all into a big Shakespeare production
of course they’re all just basically old prunes
that could do with a good soak
Schneider whispers something into his ear
Out of all these desiccated mummies
we shall make actors
first human beings
then actors
That I promise you Miss Schneider
Send them to the Landtmann Café
in a one-horse carriage

SCHNEIDER rises, goes to the door, opens it and says to the three actors standing outside
Please go to the Landtmann Café
in a one-horse carriage

PEYMANN after Schneider has returned to unpacking suitcases and said, “They have quite calmly left for the Landtmann”
We shall completely extricate them from their
Burgtheater lethargy
I knew full well
what I was getting myself into
when I signed the contract for the position of Director of the Burgtheater
I know how to instill life
into a flock of sheep
I have learned this in the greatest playhouses in Germany
First we must make human beings out of all these sheep
so that we can make actors out of them
Until now all these Burgtheatrical sheep
have been paid for their moronic bleating
that’s all over now
Day after day and year after year they’ve been
lounging about the Burgtheatrical pasture
that’s all history now
After their one-horse carriage trip to the Landtmann
they’ll all be receiving a mild electric shock in the buttocks
that will make them come to life for the first time ever
they’ll get an artificial prick in the buttocks so to speak
before they rehearse for me for the first time

SCHNEIDER after suddenly crying out and holding a corpse up to the light
The dramaturge’s stone dead!

PEYMANN quite calm and composed
That’s all to the good Miss Schneider
lay him alongside the others
You find this every bit as distasteful as I do
this Burgtheater place is certainly gruesome enough
Everybody who has ever gone into it
has had his head removed in his dressing room
sitting down at his desk and writing a letter while Miss Schneider returns to unpacking
We have signed the contract
now we must suffer the consequences
suffer them Miss Schneider suffer them

The actors have suffered a great deal of damage
in consequence of their displacement

As was foreseeable
As was completely natural Miss Schneider

The dramaturges have aged more than ten years
and so have the actors
she holds an actor and a dramaturge up to the light

Exactly as if they’d all become senile
that’s what happens in the course of time
nothing ages faster than an actor or a dramaturge

The displacement from Bochum to Vienna
has been injurious to all of them


SCHNEIDER holding a pair of long johns up to the light and sniffing at them
Your underwear Mr. Peymann
has a peculiar smell
on the one hand it still smells of  Bochum
on the other hand it already smells of Vienna
dropping the long johns on to the floor
far be it from me to say that’s it’s a bad smell
Mr. Peymann

We will of course secure the approval of the public
of that I have no doubt
rising with the letter in hand and moving towards Miss Scheinder
Cabinet ministers in every country are vomit-inducing bacilli
but the most vomit-inducing of all are in the cabinet of the Austrian government
have this letter delivered to the Ministry
I do not expect to receive a reply
I have swotted up on what to expect from idiots

SCHNEIDER takes the letter and makes as if to leave

I’ve written the whole lesson down on a flashcard
on the Peymann flashcard

Good Lord though how lovely Bochum was

We are in Vienna Miss Schneider
and will deal with it
either we shall stay a year
or ten years
or we shall go straight back

SCHNEIDER makes as if to leave

Just a moment Miss Schneider
Before you deliver the letter to the Ministry
send at least twenty of the forty Burg actors
who are now sitting at the Landtmann Café in my one-horse carriage
and tell the Minister that he can kiss my ass
and tell the press
that they can kiss my ass
and tell the public
that they can basically kiss my ass

SCHNEIDER makes as if to leave

Just a moment
are you really going to say what I just said to you
of course not
of course not
on the contrary tell the Minister
that I await his reply with the utmost eagerness
and tell the press that I am at their disposal
and tell the public
that I love them
and one more thing Miss Schneider
tell the dramaturges
provided they’re not still completely moldy or desiccated
that I need them like the bread that feeds me
and that the actors are my everything
my everything my everything my everything do you understand
Good Lord Miss Schneider
Where ever have we ended up
Vienna is hell I tell you
The Burgtheater is a tragicomic meat-grinder
If I had my druthers I would creep back to Bochum on all fours
and henceforth pay my exclusive obeisance
to German feeblemindedness
But now we’re stuck in this appalling Austria
And in the most horrible of all horrible cities
namely in Vienna Miss Schneider
where even the most wonderful and most perfect human being
is shorn of his honor as a man condemned to death is shorn of his beard
and can never grow it back
loudly and pathetically
our death-sentence is being carried out

SCHNEIDER is appalled

PEYMANN clapping his hands
Now please go
please go
I am anxious to see what happens next


Claus Peymann Buys Himself a Pair of Trousers and Dines with Me

In Vienna

PEYMANN after trying on six pairs of Zegna summer trousers at an upmarket boutique in the Graben and eventually buying the sixth pair and not taking them off, heading at a brisk but not thoughtless pace towards the Plague Column, with his old trousers under one arm
There’s nothing like a nice-fitting pair of trousers
to lighten a person’s mood
don’t you agree Bernhard


On the one hand these nice-fitting trousers
on the other hand Richard the Third in one’s head
these things really lighten one’s mood
but when it actually comes to putting on a play Bernhard
fascinated by his new trousers
Trying things on trying things on trying things on Bernhard
what exhausts us of course
with trousers it’s the same as with The Winter’s Tale
just as with Leonce and Lena it’s the same as with trousers
trying on trousers naturally exhausts us
trying on Shakespeare in rehearsals exhausts us in exactly the same way
when we try on trousers it’s exhausting in exactly the same way
as when we try on Kleist or Shakespeare
When we have on such a nice-fitting pair of trousers
such a comfortable pair of trousers Bernhard
it’s the same happy feeling
as when we have realized
a nice-fitting Shakespeare play
a nice-fitting Kleist play
a comfortable Schiller play Bernhard
gazing down at his new trousers, having drawn to a halt
these trousers are comfortable even when you’re sitting
Trying a sitting posture on, as it were
Nice aren’t they
fantastically comfortable
nice store isn’t it
After we turn forty
we buy nothing but top-of-the-line
comfortable trousers
resuming a standing posture
Buying trousers has always been a tragedy
I don’t know
is it more horrible to try on Shakespeare
or six pairs of trousers Bernhard
I don’t know
This town seduces people into buying trousers
Tell me Bernhard do I look good in these trousers
or not
his face assuming an inquiring expression
or not

You look fantastic in those trousers
Zegna makes the best trousers
The Italian style suits you best
Your figure is absolutely unsuited
to the English style
Your figure is best suited
to the Italian style Peymann

Do you really think so

It’s obvious that
in a pair of Zegnas you look your very best

Years ago I ran around in rags

Before the age of forty you ran around in rags
in the middle of winter in minus twenty two-degree cold
you used to wear nothing but your most frayed pair of blue jeans
and a so-called Coca Cola tank top
right up until you produced Iphigenia at Stuttgart
after Iphigenia you suddenly started dressing very elegantly
You effected this metamorphosis in Paris 

PEYMANN delighted with his new trousers
Seriously Bernhard
I do look great in these trousers

Clothes make the man Peymann
shall I relieve you of your old trousers


You know what
we should get something to eat at the Magic Flute

At the Magic Flute

The Magic Flute is a bar
where you can eat top-of-the-line food and spend very little

Well then let’s go there Bernhard

I’ve always hated
buying trousers

Me too

I’m always assailed by attacks of breathlessness
when trying on trousers
Of course it’s never just one pair of trousers
that we try on
it’s always several
I’ve often tried on seven or eight pairs of trousers
and each and every time I’ve thought
I was having a stroke in the fitting room

But you haven’t had one
You’re tough Bernhard
I scarcely know anyone who’s tougher
For the past ten or fifteen years
you’ve been saying
you’ve had a stroke

The fitting rooms are too cramped
there’s no air in them
So many people have had strokes
in trouser-fitting rooms
just ask the clothiers’ guild
they’ll confirm it for you
People walk into a boutique
and intend to try on just one pair of trousers
and naturally end up trying on seven or eight
and they have a stroke
the clothing-store fitting-room stroke is the most common of all strokes

It’s like if I
had been rehearsing The Winter’s Tale for three days and nights

Ask the doctors in the cardiac units
The cardiac death coinciding with the trying on of trousers
is no rare occurrence
If on every gravestone we could read the interred person’s
cause of death
we would at every turn on the gravestones
in every cemetery
read cause of death trying on trousers
if you are honest
you must admit
that trying on trousers like this is more exhausting
than a rehearsal in a theater
a rehearsal in a theater can’t compare to it
People walk into a trouser-store
And plan to buy just one pair of summer trousers
and they try on pair after pair
and they have a stroke
When one is trying on trousers
the utmost circumspection is required
We try out only a pair of light summer trousers
and catch our death
Interestingly death is much more frequent
in gentlemen’s fitting-rooms
than in ladies’ fitting-rooms Peymann
Granted ladies slip into their skirts with great ease
whereas men have to make enormous exertions
On the other hand in such fitting rooms
I’ve actually come up with some of my best ideas
I once got the idea for a novel
I even wrote the novel
In Würzburg of all places
but naturally I immediately rejected
and discarded this novel
I have discarded more novels than I have published
to say nothing of the rest of the prose pieces
that I have written and discarded
and not published
We try on only one pair of trousers
and we outline a novel
or a stage play
A ghastly word that—“stage play”
Mainly the word “stage”
but also the word “play”
and most of all the word “stage play”
Of course I also hate the word “theater”
and the word “actor” I hate like nothing else
Everything having to do with the theater I hate
like nobody’s business
I hate the stage
I hate the actors on the stage
I hate the world of the theater

I can’t say I feel the same

You are after all a man of the theater
as they say
But I am not a man of the theater
You love the theater viscerally
and wholeheartedly
you are infatuated with the theater
I hate the theater viscerally
and I abhor it like nobody’s business
I find nothing more repellent
but for that very reason I am at its mercy
I hate the theater
and everything having to do with the theater
and am at its mercy
You are at its mercy thanks to love
I am at its mercy thanks to hate

The theater is my world

My world it isn’t

The theater is my passion Bernhard
nothing but the theater

It’s exactly the opposite for me
I abhor the theater
it attracts me
because I abhor it
You love actors
I hate them
You love the public
I hate it
You love the stage
I hate it
Everything that you love
I hate
Everything that you abhor
I love
I love everything
that you abhor

A good bowl of beef soup Bernhard
that’s what I’m craving now
it’s so hot
we crave a bowl of hot beef soup
Austria is the best country for beef soup
nothing is better in Austria
than the beef soup
In no other country in the world
will you find a better bowl of beef soup Bernhard

But shall I or I shall I not relieve you of your old trousers Peymann

What are you driving at Bernhard
that I simply lack the strength
to carry my old trousers myself
Do you really think me such a weakling
In the final analysis I am the Director of the Burgtheater
hence I am necessarily more than strong enough
to carry a pair of my old trousers
Walking more quickly along the Kärtnerstrasse towards the opera house
Life as the Director of the Burgtheater
is of course a continual test of one’s strength
hence I am quite undaunted Bernhard
The Burgtheater is a behemoth Bernhard
A behemoth is the Burgtheater
So I don’t see from where you’re getting this idea
that I’m simply incapable of carrying a pair of my old trousers
when I am after all Director of the Burgtheater
Every single day the Director of the Burgtheater
has to carry the entire Burgtheater Bernhard
figuratively speaking Bernhard figuratively
Just try to imagine what it’s like for a second
every single day at the crack of dawn picking up
the entire Burgtheater in its present state Bernhard
this huge Burgtheater brimming over with actors and dramaturges
and hoisting it aloft
and hoisting it ever higher and higher Bernhard
and higher even than the other directors hoist their theaters
the Director of the Burgtheater the Burgtheater
Just try to imagine what it’s like for a second Bernhard
You wake up at the crack of dawn and you know
You must hoist aloft the Burgtheater
and what’s more ever higher and ever farther aloft
and on every occasion in as Director of the Burgtheater hoist the Burgtheater     higher
than all the other directors hoist their theaters
those ridiculous stages Bernhard
those ridiculous stages in Germany and in Switzerland
everywhere those ridiculous European stages
Every day I hoist the Burgtheater so high
as no other director hoists aloft his stage

Well I must say you’re quite a musclemaniac

What’s that

A musclemaniac is a person
who isn’t half as strong
as he should be
but strains himself more than anybody else

That’s what a musclemaniac is

Yes that’s what a musclemaniac is

Austrian concepts
are subversively comical
Practically everything here is
subversively comical
it seems to me that here
almost everything is subversively comical
Austria is the craziest comedy
that I have hitherto taken in

The Austrians fancy that
their fatherland is a tragedy
whereas it’s actually a comedy

Austria is a comedy
and what sort of comedy
a colossal comedy
like one written by some quintessence of Shakespeare
Nowadays Bernhard I actually often feel as though
Austria is a Shakespearean comedy
that need not be staged
it already exists
the unique ready-made grandiose comedy the craziest comedy of them all
is the Austrian comedy
We have only to start thinking about performers
and they already exist
we have only to start thinking about scenery
and it already exists
you have only to start thinking about incidental music
and it already exists
the craziest comedy of all time
is Austria
no other play in the world can touch this one
and the Austrians themselves have staged
this craziest comedy of all time
Austria is popular theater in its entirety
popular theater in its entirety
No writer could have roped you into writing
this craziest of all comedies
no director could ever have roped me
into staging it
And this Austria qua scenic backdrop
is also the craziest there has ever been
Most likely this Austria is
the unique global comedy the global comedy in its entirety Bernhard
equals Austria
equal Austrians
equals Austria
Compared with this Austria qua global comedy
you my dear Bernhard are nothing
and I too am nothing compared with it
for you never could have written anything
so powerful anything so one-of-a-kind anything so colossal
and I never could have staged anything
so powerful and one-of-a-kind and colossal
and our dear Karl-Ernst Hermann
never could have built anything
so powerful or anything so one-of-a-kind or anything so colossal
by comparison we are of course nothing but ridiculous pygmies 
You are a literary pygmy Bernhard
I’m a directorial pygmy
Hermann is a stage-architectural pygmy
by comparison with this Austria
Whenever anybody asks me
where the best theater in the world is
I always reply “Austria
I say “Austria
whereupon the other person always asks “where in” Austria
and I reply “not in Austria Austria
it’s Austria itself”
I tell everybody go to Austria
and you’ll arrive in the most total theater in the world
buy yourself a good ticket I tell all these people
book yourself a bed at the Imperial or at the Bristol
at the Sacher or at the Ambassador
and enjoy the craziest theater in the world
I tell all these people
who naturally are bewildered by me
I thought say all these people
the craziest theater was wherever
you were working Mr Peymann
and from now on of course you’ll be working at the Burgtheater
so surely from now on the Burgtheater will be
the best theater in the world
No I say nono it’s not me
nor is it the Burgtheater
it’s Austria
Austria is the best theater in the world
thus do I bewilder people Bernhard
thus do I discomfit them
and then people think
that I am mad
They used to count on my megalomania
and are now discovering
that I am nothing but a madman
when I say that Austria is
the best theater in the world
My dear Bernhard
all my life I’ve been
leading people by the nose
just as you all your life have been
leading them by the nose
indeed as Director of the Burgtheater I have a virtual duty
to lead people by the nose
to lead them by the same nose
that I put out of joint
a Director of the Burgtheater is naturally a huge
Leader of other people by the nose
but you know all about it Bernhard
You being the biggest leader of other people by the nose of all
I’m quite content with the idea
that the two of us
You as a writer
and me as Director of the Burgtheater
are leading people by the nose
what is a Director of the Burgtheather there for
other than leading people by the nose
by the Burgtheatrical nose
by this gigantic distended Burgtheatrical nose
Why don’t you write a play Bernhard
in which you lead all the people by the nose
I crave such a play from you
such a play properly about leading other people by the nose
why don’t you just sit down
and write such a play about leading other people by the nose
Great theater Bernhard
crowds galore smuttiness galore megalomania galore
Criminality contemptibility indigestibility galore
a proper Burgtheatrical theater
a great all-destroying comedy properly about leading other people by the nose
why don’t you for once bring your global nausea on to the stage
the entirety of your global nausea
not just a semiglobe of your global nausea but the entire globe of your global nausea
you must write a play Bernhard
fit to tear the Burgtheater asunder
a proper grandiose global joke
fit to explode the Burgtheater
fit to make the entire city of Vienna tremble
you know full well what I mean
of course you know full well what I’ve always hoped to obtain from you
this totally and completely world-overthrowing comedy for everybody
this monster comedy to top all comedies you know full well what I’m referring to
you must write something
that casts a shadow over
everything else
you must quite simply write world literature in its entirety down
you must quite simply write it into the earth and into the ground
you must make a last-ditch effort at writing a hole into the world’s guts
you must write a proper world-hammer Bernhard

having followed Claus Peymann to the Ringstrasse and back to the Kärtnerstrasse without actually managing to keep up with him
But don’t you want me
to carry your old trousers

What are you driving at Bernhard
you’re forgetting that I’m at the height of my powers
having drawn to a halt
you have absolutely no idea Bernhard
how happy I feel in my new trousers
it behooves a new director of the Burgtheater
to wear a new pair of trousers
don’t you agree Bernhard don’t you agree

Naturally naturally

It’s too bad that one cannot without further ado
buy oneself a new head Bernhard
I’d gladly in the blink of an eye walk into a store with you
and buy myself a new head
after all throughout our lives we run around
with nothing but a worn-out or rather with a used-up head
with a head that’s gone shabby Bernhard
everybody is sporting a shabby head
every head that we see is a used-up head
I myself naturally have a completely used-up head
no sooner do we have a head
than we have an already used-up head
the world has nothing but thoroughly used-up heads
But wouldn’t it be the craziest thing Bernhard
if we could walk into a boutique now
and could buy ourselves new heads
and then you would be sporting a new one
and I would be carrying your old used-up one in a plastic bag
and I would be sporting a new one too
and you would be carrying my old head in a plastic bag
and we would be walking with new heads on our shoulders
to dinner at the Magic Flute
and would have our old heads in plastic bags
But sometimes of course it’s really enough
for us to buy a new pair of trousers Bernhard
of course it doesn’t have to be a new head
or a new hat
and we carry along the old one in a plastic bag
Ah Bernhard what haven’t I promised myself from you as a dramatist
But I haven’t given up hope
I often say to myself when I wake up in the middle of the night
he’s simply got to write the play I’m waiting for
I have never given up hope

PEYMANN enters the Magic Flute with me, and we sit down, then, after he has studied the menu and selected something from it and taken a look around the Magic Flute
Who is that guy anyway

The vice-chancellor
a Nazi

And that guy

The minister of agriculture
an old Nazi

And that guy over there

The defense minister
a Nazi

And that guy

The foreign minister
an old Nazi

And that guy over there

The president of the court of audit
an old Nazi

And that guy

The editor-in-chief of the most highly respected newspaper in Vienna
an old Nazi

And what about that guy

The editor-in-chief of the second-most highly respected newspaper in Vienna
an old Nazi
And that guy over there

That’s the minister of art and culture
an imbecile an idiot

And what about that guy

That’s the chancellor
an imbecile

And that guy

That’s the newly elected president of the republic
an old Nazi

And those guys over there

They’re thoroughpaced Nazis

And the rest of them

They’re all thoroughpaced imbeciles and Nazis

And the waitress

She is a Catholic and knows everybody and doesn’t know a thing about anything

Well then why don’t we go ahead and order some beef soup

Sure why not

What do you recommend here anyway Bernhard

The boiled beef

Then we’ll just have boiled beef  
to the waitress
Just some beef soup with liver dumplings
followed by boiled beef with horseradish porridge
and then ehh why not for dessert
some bread pudding with cream sauce
tucking his napkin into his collar
A crazy town Bernhard
A crazy country Bernhard
Austria is ripe for hammering Bernhard
Stretching out his legs before eating his first spoonful of soup 
and at an exclamatory volume suggestive of having just made a happy discovery
Here practically nothing surprises me Bernhard
absolutely nothing absolutely nothing
laps up his soup, first slowly, then quickly


Claus Peymann and Hermann Beil on the Sulzwiese

After the First Year at the Burg

Strains of Schubert are playing in the distance
The director of the Burgtheater, PEYMANN, is sitting under a lime-tree in full flower and biting into a large cold Wiener schnitzel.  His co-director, the dramaturge BEIL, is sitting beside him and unwrapping and biting into an even larger cold Wiener schnitzel
Not a leaf is stirring

BEIL is gazing across the Danube at Slovakia

PEYMANN having taken a second bite from his Wiener schnitzel
The crux of the matter is The Tempest

BEIL having taken a second bite from his Wiener schnitzel

Stop saying “naturally” all the time Beil
There’s nothing natural about it
The Tempest is the most unnatural thing imaginable
all of Shakespeare is unnatural
suddenly losing his temper
and The Tempest is the most unnatural of all of Shakespeare’s plays
It’s all artificial
all of Shakespeare is artificial
taking a bite from his schnitzel 
If I had my druthers I’d stage all of Shakespeare at once
and present him in a single evening
a single insane Shakespearean concentrate Beil
why not a total Shakespearean concentrate
in which we’ll smash together all of Shakespeare’s plays
into a single play do you understand Beil
make all of Shakespeare’s plays into a single play do you understand
smash together all the characters in all of Shakespeare into a single evening
and make all of Shakespeare’s settings into a single Shakespearean setting
that would be one crazy evening of theater don’t you think Beil
The Tempest, Hamlet, Richard III and IIThe Winter’s Tale, Macbeth, etc.

BEIL taking a bite from his schnitzel and a sip of Gumpoldskirchner wine from a flask that he has brought along, then
That’s what you have in mind

Yes that’s what I have in mind
what I’ve just described to you
is no demented fantasy
it’s the most serious of all my plans
all of Shakespeare in a single evening
and we’ll also present the sonnets
the true drama lies in the sonnets
The Tempest and Hamlet simultaneously
and the whole thing lasting no longer than five hours
that would be a zenith Beil
But you think it’s an absurdity
Don’t you think it’s an absurdity
all of Shakespeare in a single evening
of course we have the technical means for it

what are we saving such a gigantic technical apparatus for
taking a bite from his schnitzel
The theater is an unparalleled dead end
to it repair all the people
who have been looking for an exit all their lives
the theater has no exit


Unless we present all of Shakespeare
in a single evening
for that we’ll certainly need one thousand eight hundred forty-three characters
and naturally only the most eminent actors
as performers Beil
but with exactly as many sets of scenery as plays
constructed in such a way as to interlock Beil interlock
and we’ll act this Shakespeare in all the languages
in which Shakespeare has ever been acted
and in a Viennese and in a Styrian version
and don’t forget that Shakespeare
has even been acted in Greenland
and in the Kirghiz dialect
and in the Tyrol Beil
takes a bite out of his schnitzel
If only I were still capable of astonishing the world
astonishing astonishing astonishing that’s the thing
the theater’s walking in place walking in place walking in place
we must without a doubt make something out of the Burgtheater
something that until now has never been made out of the Burgtheater
Bernhard thinks the Burgtheater deserves to close next Ash Wednesday
and to be sealed up for ever with concrete
as ceremoniously as possible
on the following Maundy Thursday
with all the actors, directors, and dramaturges on its payroll inside
Bernhard thinks that the Burgtheater deserves to be
“starved out”
in the most endearing Austrian fashion
without saying as much he has intimated
that the Burgtheater might as well be packed up
and sent to Mongolia by overnight mail
with the postage to be paid for by the sender naturally
he has also said that he could easily imagine himself
single-handedly and without the assistance of another party
pounding the Burgtheater
into the ground and the earth
with an entirely ordinary twelve-headed pickaxe
that it’s long since ceased to be anything but stinking pile of rubbish
on which the Burgtheater’s actors lugubriously crawl around stark naked
while reciting Shakespeare and Nestroy
in such an incredibly dilettantish fashion
that sooner or later they’ll get
on everybody’s nerves so much
that they’ll be forced by a fiat
of the psychiatrists’ association to enroll
in an elementary speech course
from which in virtue of their incompetence
they’ll never be allowed to graduate
he can also imagine
the Burgtheater’s being transformed in the blink of an eye
into a state-run mental hospital
“for certified incurables.”
Thus overnight would come into being
the sole mental hospital on the Ringstrasse
opposite the Rathaus
and the director of this mental hospital
in which nobody can be cured
would be Zilk the mayor of Vienna
who as everybody of course knows
resides directly opposite the Burgtheater
The mayor of Vienna would quite simply be appointed
director of the sole official state fake
mental hospital on the Vienna Ringstrasse
the whole thing would be quite simple
Of course it would also be quite simple to let the Burgtheater
in its present state serve as a theater museum and instead of actors put
wax dummies on the stage
and wax dummies in the auditorium
and every two hours the curtain would rise
and the wax dummies on the stage would bow
and the wax dummies in the auditorium would clap
and then the curtain would fall
he takes a bite from his schnitzel
according to Bernhard that would be the ideal theater
Bernhard has also said that more than anything else
the Burgtheater would make an especially fine
Coffee-roasting house
and that the State should make an offer
to the Julius Meinl Corporation
of course I also see the Burg as a kind of coffee-roasting house
on account of its two coffee roasting house-esque chimneys
but don’t pay any attention to Bernhard Beil
don’t pay any attention to him
to that arrogant bugbear of the theater
We need Shakespeare
as he has never before been presented Beil
as I just described him Beil
as I actually have him in mind
as I am going to make him Beil
are you listening to me Beil
are you listening to me

BEIL having just taken a bite from his schnitzel

You’re constantly assailing me with that
“naturally” of yours
if only you would just once say “artificially”
“artificially” Beil “artificially” Beil “artificially”
after all everything in the world is “artificial” Beil
“artificial” “artificial” Beil “artificial”
when you’re constantly saying “naturally”
it drives me mad
out of urgent necessity I have climbed to the top of the Sulzwiese
to discuss The Tempest
and you assail me with that “naturally” of yours
my whole coterie assails me with that word “naturally”
everybody around me is continually saying “naturally”
when they should in contrast be saying nothing but “artificially” the whole time
taking a bite from his schnitzel
Did I really have to climb all the way to the top of the Sulzwiese
just to be allowed to eat my schnitzel
and to hear you say nothing but “naturally”
For God’s sake Beil
say “artificially” at least just one time
and by all means say it a million times a day
but stop saying “naturally”
there is no such thing as anything natural anymore
and least of all in Vienna
I’ve been wanting to stage The Tempest
and I’m going to stage all of Shakespeare
all of Shakespeare
this will tax the limits of dramaturgy Beil
this will tax the limits of dramaturgy
Dramaturgy is decidedly inadequate to the kind of theater
that I have in mind
it is inadequate to the theater that I intend to produce
for such a production I find dramaturgy “per se” too simple
which is just a nicer way of saying
that for such a production I find it too stupid
for such a production I find all living dramaturges too stupid
taking a bite from his schnitzel
When I see the way you take a bite from your schnitzel
I think to myself
he’s not a good fit for all of Shakespeare
he’s really not a good fit for all of Shakespeare
for a single Shakespeare play sure for The Tempest sure
by all means even for Macbeth
but not for all of Shakespeare
taking a bite from his schnitzel
Shakespeare as he has hitherto always been staged
can no longer be staged
nowadays everywhere Shakespeare is staged
as he can no longer be staged
To be sure the only theater left in the world is run by megalomaniacal hacks
Hack dramaturges hack directors hack actors
If theater can still be staged anywhere
to be sure only the theater I intend to stage
can be staged
to be sure everything that’s done on stage nowadays is enough to make you puke
especially everything that’s done on stage with Shakespeare
to be sure for decades now nothing
but old hats have been put on in the theaters
to be sure this is an unbearable situation Beil
this unbearable situation must be done away with
You understand me don’t you Beil
don’t you understand me Beil

Having taken a bite from his schnitzel while shuddering out of fear of ticks, because he knows that on the Sulzwiese there are a million ticks from whose bite one can catch meningitis
Naturally I understand you

PEYMANN having become disillusioned with BEIL and having finally helped himself to the flask of Gumpoldskirschner wine
We have merely the possibility
of staging a form of theater
that has hitherto never existed
his whole life said Bernhard
he has been thinking about this
about how to stage a form of theater
that has hitherto never existed
I myself have been thinking all year
about how to stage a form of theater
that has hitherto never existed

BEIL gazing at Vienna and taking a bite from his schnitzel
It’s a horrible idea of course Peymann

There’s nothing horrible about it now
that I know exactly
what I have to do
the role I have to play
the role I have to play
is quite clear to me
all of Shakespeare the whole of Shakespeare
in one evening
in five hours
the entire global theater hence the entirety of Shakespeare
in a single five-hour concentrate
his head sinks on to his breast, all but the last bite of his schnitzel
has been devoured by now
after raising his head
I think I’ve got it now


The idea the act

What sort of idea what sort of act

My theater
my Shakespeare
my future
my goal
do you understand me Beil my goal
my total theater

BEIL after he has finished eating his schnitzel
An excellent schnitzel

PEYMANN after he has finished eating his schnitzel
I shall present all of Shakespeare
in one evening
in a production lasting no longer than
five hours
with the best actors in the world
with the best scenery in the world
with the best audience in the world
at the Burgtheater obviously

Naturally at the Burgtheater
where else

Where else where else where else

BEIL rises and gazes down at Vienna

We’ll never find a city as beautiful as this again
did you hear that Beil
never again
nor such a good audience either
are you listening Beil are you listening

Naturally I’m listening to you

Come on
let’s start heading down to the city
starts heading down to the city

BEIL follows him after picking up the papers in which the schnitzels were wrapped and stuffing them into his trouser pockets

PEYMANN at the altitude of the Krapfenwaldbad
To be honest Beil
during the whole year that we have been in Vienna
I have not slept a single night

Me either

How long a human being can endure such insomnia
I do not know
As far as I’m concerned I’ve broken a record

Me too

It seems to me that where other people
are nice the Viennese
are nasty
and where other people are nasty
they are nice
We still haven’t quite got that out here my dear Beil
Tonight I dreamt
that Chancellor Vranitzky lunged at me
and strangled me
and that the culture minister Frau Havlicek hit me over the head with a fist
like a bricklayer’s
and that Mayor Zilk kicked me
before I lost consciousness
the Burg actors laughed me to scorn
And you my dear Beil
closed my eyes
closed my eyes Beil
and shut my mouth
You closed my mouth in a quite frankly brutal fashion
Throughout the past year I’ve been dreaming
that I am being killed
the Viennese approach me from behind
and kill me
they say my name and kill me
they lie in wait for me on all sides
and hit me over the head
they aim a kick at me from every conceivable angle
and hit me over the head
Chancellor Vranitzky receives me
it’s a trap
Frau Havlicek the Minister of Culture receives me
it’s a trap
into which I have actually stepped
I have stepped into a trap
I have come to Austria
and have stepped into a trap
I have come to Vienna
and have stepped into a trap
I have stepped into the Burgtheater
Don’t you ever dream such dreams Beil
aren’t the Viennese killing you as well

BEIL after polishing his spectacles and humming the “Trout” quintet
What do you mean by naturally
or naturally not
yes naturally
or no naturally
good Lord Beil you’re forever talking in that dramaturgical patois of yours
please just talk to me like a normal person for once
Do you have such dreams or don’t you
is anybody ever killing you in your dreams
can you actually sleep peacefully
as if this Viennese hell is no concern of yours

After putting on his glasses and looking for the Burgtheater in the distance
My dear Peymann
I dream much more horrible dreams than you do
I am pursued in the night by whole
hordes of writers and actors
armies of writing and acting dilettantes
armies of mental defectives
Because we have always had only the highest standards in our heads
and because we came to Vienna with these highest standards
I wake up every night screaming in terror

PEYMANN inquiringly
Screaming in terror

Every night I accept new plays
I accept eight or nine new plays
we’d have to stage twelve plays every evening
if we wanted to put on all the plays
that I have accepted during the night


I have auditioned eight thousand actors
and hired forty-two hundred


For Richard III I have purchased forty-six pieces of scenery
from twenty-one set designers

That’s really appalling

On a whim I have closed the Burgtheater for fourteen days in winter
and leased it to a kennel club from Floridsdorf
I have asked the actors
all the Burg actors
to put a muzzle on your face
and while you’re wearing this muzzle to goad you across the Kärtnerstrasse and into the             Graben


I have served you a bowl of pea soup
that was poisoned
you lapped it up
but you didn’t die
I have forced you to let a monkey play Egmont
I have sold you the Burgtheater for three schillings eighty groschen
because I thought it belonged to me
I have climbed the pyramids of Giza with the Burg actors
and sent you a postcard from Giza
I have stirred around inside the Burgtheater as though it were a stockpot
I have cast Richard III entirely differently than you
I have cast all the plays that we perform at the Burgtheater
entirely differently
you have walked up to the edge of an abyss
and I have cried out, “watch your step, Peymann”
but you kept walking
and didn’t fall in
just like Christ you kept walking
you could walk on air
Good Lord just once I showed you my teeth
and you boxed my ears for doing so
on one occasion there were proper dramaturges on the stage
and in the dramaturgy proper actors
on one occasion I lunged at you and strangled you
you quite enjoyed it
not once did you point me in the right direction
“I’m not budging from this spot”
you on one occasion pathetically cried out from the stage of the Burgtheater
“I’ll die here”
which prompted me to say the world “repulsive” several times
which left you absolutely unmoved
“You’re shameless, Herr Peymann,” I on one occasion screamed at your face
“You’re megalomaniacal”
“You’re a theatrical abortion”
Whereupon you called me an “intellectual hack”
and ordered me
to fling Bernhard’s new play straight at his head


You have absolutely no idea
of the kind of person you are in my dreams

And you have no idea of the kind of person you are
in my dreams

“Wherever you go I’ll go
until you self-destruct, Peymann,”
I have exclaimed from the stage-box
during a rehearsal of Richard
“In the end it’s really nothing but a theater of complaisance,”
I have said to you
a dramatic perversity
a confused stage nightmare
on one occasion you threw your bread and butter to the ground
and I picked it up
but I know why I picked it up
“brilliance brilliance brilliance” you always said to me
but I didn’t listen
I have made such extensive cuts in all the plays
that there was eventually nothing left of them
I cut out the entirety of the world’s dramatic literature
and you only laughed at my cuts
scornfully you laughed at them
I shall never forget that laugh

The culture minister Frau Havlicek
has split my head open with a pickaxe
and Mayor Zilk has kicked me
and simultaneously driven a stiletto into my back
and the Burg actors
my own Burg actors have laughed me to scorn
the day before yesterday I dreamt
that I was running the gauntlet through the city center
of Vienna Beil
but while wearing my underpants from Bochum
The Viennese whipped me into a frenzy on the Graben
I fled into the Kärtnerstrasse
there they laid into me even more ruthlessly
“I’m only human too after all”
“I’m only human too after all” I cried out in despair
this made no impression on them
I cowered beneath their blows
and eventually escaped into the Maltese Church
wherever I went the Viennese shouted me down
“I won’t ever go back to Bochum again
I won’t ever go back to Bochum again,” I whined
then they plunged knives into my back
“I am the Minister for Finance,” one of them intoned pathetically
and drove his knife into my back
my dear Beil
as you can see I have dreams of my own
but there is absolutely no comparison
between your dreams and mine
The dreams of a director are most certainly not the dreams of a dramaturge
looks back at the Sulzwiese
Once a week at the Sulzwiese Beil
under the lime-tree
for our deliverance
for our existential deliverance
We underestimated the Viennese
they are much nastier and more spiteful than we thought
but they also have a much keener understanding of art than we thought
we always used to think they had no understanding of art at all
and were not so spiteful and nasty
they have a keen understanding of art
and are the most spiteful and the nastiest people in the world
Of all the things in the world
I never thought I’d be working in the Viennese theater
Did you ever think you’d be working in the Viennese theater either


Now we’ve stepped into the trap
into the trap of our lives into our existential trap
they start walking more quickly

The dramaturge blames the director
the director blames the dramaturges
they are walking so fast that they are almost out of breath
But as we’re now in the trap
in the Burgtheatrical trap
we have no choice but to make the best of it
“All of Shakespeare in a single evening” Beil
remember that
take me at my word
and the sonnets as a centerpiece Beil
as a centerpiece
what’s more we’ve coped with every conceivable situation
and we’ll cope with the Viennese too my dear Beil
you closed my eyes
closed them like a top-of-the-line dramaturge Beil
My name appeared on a cenotaph in the central cemetery
I could do nothing about it
what’s more before that I became a professor and a privy councilor
and the honorary president of the Viennese allotment holder’s association
and there was nothing I could do about it
and I attended the Opera Ball
and I was at a tavern with the National Socialist president of the republic
I acted for the Philippine Refugee Children
and for Catholic Charities
and I also acted for the Socialist Friends of the Children
and I bought myself a manor house in Döbling
and there was nothing I could do about it
and finally I even had myself appointed
as an honorary member of the Burgtheater
and there was nothing I could do about it
and I had hired the daughter of the president of the industrialists’ association
and there was nothing I could do about it
and the Austrian press wouldn't stop singing my praises
and there was nothing I could do about it
at my funeral were the president of the republic
who had ridden to the cemetery on horseback dressed in his complete Wehrmacht        uniform
and nobody else
only the critics dressed as gravediggers were there

and the Wehrmacht uniform-clad president of the republic
mounted on his Macedonian horse
but in the newspapers it is reported that
“all Vienna” was at my graveside
suddenly in an agitated voice, after getting a violent craving for a demitasse of black coffee
A director is an aberration
A German director in Austria
is a total aberration
pressing on in great haste down towards Grinzig, leaving Beil behind and crying out in an agitated voice      
A director is literally an aberration
altogether the theater is the acme of nonsensicality
don’t you think Beil
shouting down into the Grinziger valley
If I didn’t have you
and The Tempest
sighing after a pause
The Tempest alone is not enough
Richard and The Tempest are not enough
it’s all false all annoying
a falsification of Shakespeare a falsification of Shakespeare
it has to be “the entirety of Shakespeare” Beil
“the complete Shakespeare in one evening”
the sonnets must be fitted in too
Sonnet-worthy dramaturgy Beil sonnet-worthy dramaturgy do you understand
the sonnets are the centerpiece the hub
everything everything everything
do you think you’re up to that Beil
Beil Beil

BEIL after looking for and finding a coffee house for a demitasse of black coffee

exhaustedly meditatively

They enter the coffeehouse and drink a demitasse of black coffee and then head straight to the Burgtheater, where this evening Hamlet will be performed by itself as it has been for decades, and the complete Shakespeare all at once in its entirety will not be  


Translation unauthorized but ©2012 by Douglas Robertson

Source: Claus Peymann kauft sich eine Hose und geht mit mir essen.  Drei dramolette (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1993).