Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Translation of "Ich brauche die Festspiele nicht" by Thomas Bernhard

Thomas Bernhard: “I Don’t Need the Festival”
His Rejection Letter to the President
of the Salzburg Festival

Ohlsdorf, 20 August 1975

Dear Mr. Kaut,

After my conversation with you in July at Mr. Schaffler’s house, a conversation that left an ambivalent impression on me, and likewise after reading various silly press releases, like the one in today’s issue of the “Münchner Merkur” [Munich Mercury], in which “we” (meaning the Festival) “beg leave to point out that an unfinished novelty cannot be accepted in advance and that a Bernhard play can hardly be performed in Salzburg every other summer”—note the bombastic tone of the latest newspaper item on the subject of The Celebrities—I am releasing you with a clear conscience from our agreement, and I shall from now on not attach so much as a jot of importance to the production of any of my plays at any Salzburg Festival.
A collaboration with me for the stage is possible only as a hundred-percent [commitment] and on the basis of complete [and] transparent trust; this can no longer be taken for granted at Salzburg Festivals.
As you know, it was your desire, not mine, to make sure that a play of mine was performed in Salzburg in 1976; indeed, you already wanted another play from me in 1975, [a demand] that at the time, immediately after the admittedly sensational success of The Force of Habit, I described as “insane.”  But I readily accepted your proposal to write a play for 1976 for the state theater, [and] I [wrote the play] with [great] enthusiasm, and I even—this was also your desire—got in touch with Dieter Dorn, because you wanted Dieter Dorn to be the director of my 1976 play.  I hope that you recall the exact particulars of the affair; if not, I can verify them at any time you like.
The fact of the matter is that I finished writing my play on time, contrary to all the moronic pronouncements of the newspapers, and that I really would have submitted to being dragged once again through the mud by the idiotic local press in 1976, because I am accustomed to keeping my word.
But you have withdrawn the foundation of a collaboration through your weakness and your literal incorrectness, as I now know, and from now on nothing of mine will be performed in Salzburg.  Theater history long ago decided who was more important to whom, Bernhard to the Festival or the Festival to Bernhard.  Basically your dismissal of me comes as a genuine relief, even if it might have been occasioned by entirely different and hence more agreeable circumstances.
I have escaped the gravitational tug of your human weakness—I refuse to say [“]weakness of character[”] directly—and this is assuredly to my advantage.
Please take care that no additional false reports about me leak to the press corps  through the walls of the Festpielhaus—for it is your fault that the firm addition of The Ignoramus and The Force of Habit to the seasonal programs became publicly known before a single person at the Festspielhaus had read a word of their texts—lest I should be forced to issue an explanation.
I don’t need the Festival.
Thomas Bernhard

Translation unauthorized but Copyright ©2013 by Douglas Robertson

Source: Der Wahrheit auf der Spur.  Reden, Leserbriefe, Interviews, Feuilletons.  Herausgegeben von  Wolfram Bayer, Raimund Fellingerund und Martin Huber [Stalking the Truth.  Speeches, Open Letters, Interviews, Newspaper Articles.  Edited by Wolfram Bayer et al.](Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2011).

A Translation of a Telegram from Thomas Bernhard to Josef Kaut, President of the Salzburg Festival

Bernhard Sends Kaut a Telegram [1]

President Kaut, the Salzburg Festival

With a cool head I must describe today’s Festival administration-penned public diatribe against Claus Peymann and his ensemble as an infamy and its circumstances as revolting on every level.  You, the Festival administration, accuse Claus Peymann and his ensemble of breach of contract and you yourself broke your contract with Claus Peymann when you first of all broke your promise at the dress rehearsal—same reality in the première as in the dress rehearsal—at the last minute and [with great] devious[ness] and thereby imperiled the entire première and falsified the conclusion of the play through your scandalous intervention.  You yourself admitted in a conference with me after the première that you had deceived Peymann in order to safeguard the première.  Via your ambush of an intervention—and quite apart from the fact that the set designer Karl-Ernst Hermann was beaten up by unknown parties behind the scenes, a criminal act from which you have so far not distanced yourself—you have categorically inculpated yourselves of breach of confidence and [also], via your arrogant cancellation of future performances, of breach of contract.
The breach of contract is entirely on your part and not on the part of the ensemble, whom I advise to insist [on undertaking] all future performances at the state theater.  We are dealing here with the austerity and the incorruptibility of a nerve-racking art and its principl[es] and not with the common [subject-matter] of some unsavory human-interest daily.  If you should actually cancel the performances, you, and hence the Festival administration, [will be] guilty of breach of contract, and with respect to everything—even the damages previously incurred.  [It is] not the ensemble, but rather you who are responsible for the hoaxing of the public.  In these horrible circumstances it is only fitting for the director and the cozened performers to lodge a legal complaint against the Festival administration, because Peymann and his actors, whom I stand by a hundred percent, are categorically in the right, a fact that you personally through your false and, I must say it yet again, infamous braggadocio, are slyly endeavoring to conceal.

Thomas Bernhard

[1] Editors’ note: First printed in Oberösterreichische Nachrichten [Upper-Austrian News], 9 August 1972.  The editors of the paper prefixed the reprint of the telegram with a note:
“At about 5 p.m. on Monday, after the withdrawal of his drama The Ignoramus and the Madman from the program of the current season of the Salzburg Festival, Thomas Bernhard, the author of the play [sic on the redundant attribution (DR)] transmitted to the president of the Festival, Josef Kaut, the following telegram, which was also delivered to the Austrian Press Agency verbatim and with permission to circulate.”

The editors appended to the telegram this remark: “We shall address the entire affair again in more detail upon the subsidence of the waves stirred up by this initial altercation, whose full legal repercussions remain to be seen.”  

Thomas Bernhard refers to the “emergency lighting scandal” at the July 29, 1972 Salzburg Festival première of his play The Ignoramus and the Madman (directed by Claus Peymann, set designs by Karl-Ernst Hermann), during which, in defiance of the author’s stage directions for the conclusion, “total darkness” failed to prevail: the emergency lights remained switched on.  Thereupon the director and performers declined to give any further performances unless the emergency lights were switched off.  As a result, on August 2, 1972, Bernhard wired the following message to the president of the Festival: “a community that cannot bear two minutes darkness stop can get by without my play stop my commitment to director and actors one hundred percent stop they make uncompromising decision re future performances.”  Kaut refused to bear the cost of any fines and so the first performance remained the only one (although one further performance was recorded for broadcast on television).  Thereupon the Festival sued the director and performers for damages resulting from breach of contract; the defendants in turn lodged their own complaint against the Festival.         


Translation unauthorized but Copyright ©2013 by Douglas Robertson

Source: Der Wahrheit auf der Spur.  Reden, Leserbriefe, Interviews, Feuilletons.  Herausgegeben von  Wolfram Bayer, Raimund Fellingerund und Martin Huber [Stalking the Truth.  Speeches, Open Letters, Interviews, Newspaper Articles.  Edited by Wolfram Bayer et al.](Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2011).

A Translation of a Letter about Ludwig Wittgenstein by Thomas Bernhard

Grand Hotel Imperial Dubrovnik [1]


Dear honored Doctor Spiel, [2]

I have promised you an article for your Ver Sacrum—you write, “something about Wittgenstein,” and I have been thinking about this idea [of yours] for two weeks, in other words since the day of my return from Brussels—now I am once again on the road, [in] Ragusa, Belgrade, Rome, etc., and the difficulty involved in writing about Wittgenstein’s philosophy and above all [his] poetry—for in my opinion in Wittgenstein we are dealing with a thoroughly poetic brain (a BRAIN [3]), with a philosophical BRAIN,[3]  hence not with a philosopher—is extreme.  It’s the same as if I had to write something (sentences!) about myself, and that isn’t going to happen.  It’s a cultural-cum-mental-historical state of affairs that defies description.  The question is not: am I to write about Wittgenstein?  The question is: [can] I be Wittgenstein for a single instant without destroying him (W.) or me (B.)?  This question cannot be answered and therefore I cannot write about Wittgenstein.  In Austria (mathematical-musical) philosophy and poetry are an absolute mausoleum; we regard history [from] a vertical [point of view].  In a nutshell, [a nutshell that] is appalling on the one hand, [and] auspicious on the other: in Austria, in contrast to other nations, philosophy and poetry exist not in the consciousness of its people but rather in the consciousness of its philosophy and poetry(-culture) etc., which is a [great] boon for the philosopher and the literary writer, a boon of which he is conscious.
As for Wittgenstein: he combines the purity of Stifter [with the] clarity of Kant and is the greatest [Austrian] since (and along with) Stifter.  Wittgenstein is now for us what we have not gotten from NOVALIS, the German—and one further sentence: W. is a question that cannot be answered—for this reason he is at one with that level of merit that precludes answers (and an answer).
Our present-day culture is in all its unbearable manifestations a culture whose answer anybody who thought it worth doing could easily figure out—only in the case of Wittgenstein is it different.
And the world is always the same excessively moronic, unconceiving world, which is why it is always without concepts—the concepts stand for themselves as concepts.  This is lethal to the MASSES of heads, but no consideration should be shown to the masses of heads.  So I’m not [going to] write about Wittgenstein because I cannot, [or] rather because I cannot answer him; all [the implications of this] are completely self-explanatory.

Best regards and wishes,
Thomas Bernhard

[1] (Editors’ note): First printed in Ver Sacrum, Vienna, 1971, p. 47.

[2] i.e., Hilde Spiel.  For background on her association with Bernhard, see flowerville's translation of Krista Fleischmann's interview with her.

[3] Respectively, GEHIRN and HIRN, two words that are effectively as interchangeable (or non-interchangeable) as though and although or till and until.


Translation unauthorized but Copyright ©2013 by Douglas Robertson

Source: Der Wahrheit auf der Spur.  Reden, Leserbriefe, Interviews, Feuilletons.  Herausgegeben von  Wolfram Bayer, Raimund Fellingerund und Martin Huber [Stalking the Truth.  Speeches, Open Letters, Interviews, Newspaper Articles.  Edited by Wolfram Bayer et al.](Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2011).      

Sunday, November 03, 2013

A Translation of "In Österreich hat sich nichts geändert" by Thomas Bernhard

In Austria Nothing Has Changed [1]

Twenty years ago, when I was a mere eighteen years old, [2] a lawsuit was filed against me in the Salzburg District Court because in my august capacity as theater critic for the then-preeminent Austrian cultural and political weekly “Die Furche,” which admittedly nowadays functions as nothing but a public digest of perverse Catholic-Nazistic vacuity, I described my impressions of the Salzburg [State] theater.  [My impression] that its actors [were] non-actors, its singers non-singers, its dancers non-dancers, its directors non-directors, its general administrator a non-general administrator, etc…That it called itself a theater but was in fact nothing but and a crock and a disgrace, nothing but a brainless, pantomimic garbage heap etc…that compared with the theater of our rural inns and taverns the theater in all our towns and cities was a nightly exhibition of a prehistoric corpse… that on every single stage (even on that of the Burgtheater, the quintessence of provincialism!) the monarchy of dilettantism reigned supreme.  [That] when stupidity and arrogance join[ed] forces to raise the curtain, the theater was dead and the stage a tasteless joke.  [That] from the orifice of the stage nothing came but the nauseating halitosis of bureaucracy…For these and similar sentences I was fined four thousand schillings by an Austrian judge (who knew plenty about run-over pedestrians’ legs, but had not the faintest clue about the theater) twenty years ago.  Back then, and for me in particular, four thousand schillings was an enormous sum of money.   Throughout the four-hour trial the judge, assisted by two clerks, had thumbed through a massive stack of three-ring binders piled up on his desk and crammed with reviews—binders that Stanchina the general administrator had brought to the courtroom along with two of his customized dramaturges—and kept saying over and over again: “…and erupted into thunderous applause… and erupted into thunderous applause… and erupted into thunderous applause...”  All the while he thumbed and thumbed and said “…and erupted into thunderous applause.”  And over and over again he said: “So what do you want?…and erupted into thunderous applause…”  And throughout the entire four hours he made me stand at attention and kept me guarded by a prison officer.  And before he delivered the sentence he said that the theater was a good theater and after he had delivered the sentence he said once again that the theater was a good theater.
Today, twenty years later—during which period, and actually a full fifteen years ago already, I myself studied acting and dramaturgy at the Academy and graduated [from it] (at my final examination I gave a speech on the great Artaud, but the seventeen “organs of academic examination” at the long green table had never before heard the name Artaud), in any case, [it was] a completely superfluous course of study—twenty years later, I have to say that Austrian theater has not changed the slightest bit; indeed, I have to say that today everything is actually much more dilettantish and depressing than back then.  But as I have no wish to be again sentenced to pay a large fine (or serve a prison term), because it is silly to shove money down the throat of the useless State or to sit in prison, I shall not delineate my impressions of our theater.

[1] Editors’ note: First published on p. 144 of Theater 1969. Balance Sheet and Chronicle of the 1968-1969 Season, a special edition of the magazine Theater heute.  In the first sentence of the article Thomas Bernhard refers to his essay "Salzburg Is Waiting for a Play", which appeared in the 3 December 1955 issue of the weekly newspaper Die Furche [The Groove].  The author’s description of that newspaper as “a public digest of perverse Catholic-Nazistic vacuity” led to his being sued a second time for “defamation of the character of the press.”  The suit was filed by the then editor-in-chief of the Furche, Willy Lorenz, on 22 January 1970 in Wels.  The pretrial took place on 11 March 1970 in Vienna and ended in a settlement.          

[2] “Fifteen years ago when I was a mere twenty-four years old” would be more accurate.

Translation unauthorized but Copyright ©2013 by Douglas Robertson

Source: Der Wahrheit auf der Spur.  Reden, Leserbriefe, Interviews, Feuilletons.  Herausgegeben von  Wolfram Bayer, Raimund Fellingerund und Martin Huber [Stalking the Truth.  Speeches, Open Letters, Interviews, Newspaper Articles.  Edited by Wolfram Bayer et al.](Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2011).

A Translation of "Der Wahrheit und dem Tod auf der Spur" by Thomas Bernhard

Stalking the Truth and Death [1]

If we are stalking the truth without knowing what this truth is, this truth that has nothing in common with reality but the truth, it is failure, it is death, that we are stalking…our own failure, our own death, as far back as we think or feel or fantasize or [as far forward as we] look into the future, [our quarry is] death, [is] restlessness or rest as the phenomen[al cover] of weakness, the phenomen[al cover] of failure…we are dealing with the sciences, with the arts, with nature herself, with signs of death…a lethal analysis is possible for us, when we talk about life, draw attention to life, preoccupy ourselves with life as a perpetual conceptual disenchantment that is nature, we, nature’s theatrical elements…
[It is, as we hear and think and see and feel, a concept of infinity at which the lines of moribundity, of morbidity, the lines of decay, intersect, a concept in which they are simply extinguished, in which everything in between ultimately and conclusively animates fatality; unoriginally, goal-lessly, and purposelessly animates the pathological pros and cons of our innate contemplativeness, uprightness, {in which everything} is a method, {2}] a method of death: what we are fleeing is, as we know for a fact, within us, what we fear is within us, what we are is within us etc…We promise ourselves much and learn everything and gainsay and learn again and again and we oxidize, putrefy from the bottom up and from the very top down [and] from the outside in and we pass away, constantly from one nature into another, into death…what we possess is the experience, a metaphysical one, about which, when we have time to be worried, we are worried, to which, being the epitome of intemperance, we capitulate: we are withering away, individualist shapers of our own impotence, which is us, orphans of history, necrotized sinews of nature…we are stalking a consequence, circumstances, suppositions of death, corporeal conditions, intellectual conditions of death…
We are born into an anamnesis, tangential to the universe, regenerative of nothing but death.
Death declares itself to me as natural history, as the possibility of understanding.  If we have a goal, it seems to me that it is death; the thing that we are speaking of is death…
And so I am speaking to you today about death, but I am not going to speak to you directly about death; that is too pretentious, fruitless, I am now going to speak indirectly about death, in allusion to this experience that we possess, that we are constantly making, that we shall continue to make ad infinitum, I am speaking now about death because of course you have scheduled me to give a speech about life, but I speak, no matter what I’m speaking about, even if I am speaking about life, about death…everything spoken [today] will be [spoken] about death…But I shall not be speaking today about a specific site of death, about anything of a detailed character; that would be, as I said, too pretentious, we have of course not convened here to listen to [the reading of] an essay; that would of course be an infamy and too depressing; I have no intention of painting this banqueting hall with my gloominess, in the common hues of gloominess and darkness, even though you have of course scheduled a speech, and what is more, a speech to be given by me, and even though I am dazzled blind by this hall, this hall blinds me, all banqueting halls blind me, you understand…and even though I needn’t show the faintest trace of consideration [for anyone], I shan’t be coating this hall in gloom and I shan’t be coating you in gloom…and yet I am speaking about death, because I am speaking, because I’m speaking about life, about the death, for example, of human beings and their achievements, because we enjoy hearing about achievements, about States and their achievements, about the macrocosmos, of the microcosmos…About capability, about incapability, about terminal illnesses, about the remains of the Empire…About its remains!, you understand…as together we all make the worst impression imaginable, and it would be necessary here, now, to say everything that we otherwise say only amongst ourselves amongst everyone, amongst all selves…but that would be to carry things too far…to carry them to the point of catastrophe…but I am also not going to speak of our lakes, of our montane valleys, [I’m] not [going to speak] of how our landscape is being ruined, as everything is being ruined, by tasteless and money-grubbing engineers, about our petit-bourgeois literature, about our lily-livered intellect, no, if [I speak at all], then [I’ll speak] about death…I [shall] allude to life and I [shall] speak of death…I [shall] speak not of intellectual history, but of death, not of physiological, psychological approximations, but of death, not of orders of magnitude, harrowing realities, of genius and martyrdom, idiocy and sophistry, of hierarchy and embitterment, I [shall] merely allude to all these things and speak of death… I [shall] not talk of religions, of parties, parliaments, academies, [nor] about apathy, sympathy, aphasia…but I ought to talk of everything here, of everything simultaneously, but to talk of everything simultaneously is impossible, it is preposterous, and so I can only tell you of everything I could say here and today, allude to what I am in truth holding my peace about, because I absolutely cannot talk about it, I am merely alluding to, for example, the essence of philosophy, to the essence of poetry, to ignorance and ignominy… in your presence it is senseless to escort into the depths a single one of these themes that I have in mind, to develop a single one of these themes here in this banqueting hall… we lack the extraordinary and superlative powers of concentration that are required for such [a task] and that we no longer have, no longer have, we no longer have extraordinary and superlative powers of concentration…but I could, as you must [surely] imagine, speak here about the State, about federations of States, the decline of States, about the impossibility of the State, and I know that you are glad that I am not speaking about that, you have been afraid all the while that I might utter something that you were afraid of and you are basically glad that here I am really not speaking about anything, in actual fact I am of course speaking here literally about nothing, because I only ever speak about death…I [shall] allude in passing to dictatorships, felonious jurisdiction, socialism and Catholicism, to our cant-spouting Church…You needn’t worry…I shall allude in passing to sarcasm, idealism, sadism…to north and south…[to] something even more ridiculous: the fact that the city of Vienna is the dirtiest of all capital cities, lame-limbed and addle-brained and racked-nerved…[allude] in passing to my uncle the butcher, my uncle the sawyer, my uncle the farmer , etc….about my farm at Natal, the people there, their beauty, about cripples, about grain[-silos] and pig-fattening, the deer in the forest, about appearances of the circus in the country…about Alexander Blok, Henry James, Ludwig Wittgenstein…how one rubber-stamps honest people into criminals overnight, how one goes to prison and comes back out of [it]…about insane asylums and how one divides and multiplies…about the concept of dilapidation and about socio-political neuralgias…about the State and about the Antistate, or even about awarders of one involves simple people in enormous perplexities…Or should I even deliver a thank-you speech here, tell a little story about world-weariness?...or a little story about industrialists or about misunderstood genius perhaps…about unscrupulousness, ignobleness, a little moral tale, I don’t know…about an old man as a cautionary example, about a young man as a cautionary example…about suicide…collective national suicide…I could even tell a story, because I have a couple of stories in mind, or a fairy tale like The Fairy Tale of Fair Austria When She Was Still Something or The Fairy Tale of the Fair City of Vienna When She Was Still Something…or The Fairy Tale of  the Voyage on the High Seas That Is No Longer Worth Taking, the Fairy Tale of the Pig That Is No Longer Worth Fattening, of the Magic Incantation EEC…or Of the Literature That Is No Longer Worth [Reading], of the Art That Is No Longer Worth [Seeing], of the Life That Is No Longer Worth Living…or would you like to hear The Fairy Tale of the Future…I speak of lies and of ridiculousness, and I [shall] not tell The Fairy Tale about Pensiveness. I [shall] merely touch on all that and speak a couple of words into this hall, for example the words “isolation,” “degeneration,” “vulgar,” the English word “sensibility”…I [shall] make note of senescence, obsolescence and the fact that at our very early age we have already had quite enough of comedy, of the spectacle of existence, of the entire art of the drama…one fine day, in a single moment, at the decisive moment, we plunge head over heels to our deaths…Death is my theme, as death is likewise your theme…and so I speak about life, allude to it, to the intellectual torpor of the present, for example; for example to the catastrophic incompetence of this government, to this whole enormous governmental scandal in which we are now participating…this whole absurdity known as democracy for example, this incessant, repellent kaleidoscope of peoples…but I [shall] of course not be giving any speech about the masses of soil and people, about these colossal nonsensical masses, nor about a new theory of life, for I do not see any [such theory], I [shall] say nothing about atomic [theory], [nor shall I say] anything about the leper hospitals and the unrest among the Negroes, about “Help!”-crying England, mendacious Germany, schizophrenic America, dilettantish Russia, redoubtable China, minuscule Austria…I am talking about death, [everything] I say is said about death, I am not talking about abominable intellectual frugality…nor about the fact that the revolutions have brought us nothing that we expected from them, from moldered empires, monarchies, intellectually torpid republics, dictatorships, I speak neither of patriotism, nor of common neutrality…I [shall] furnish no proof of citizenship…nor [shall] I recount anything about Ferdinand Ebner or about T.E. Lawrence…and yet I ask myself whether I shouldn’t perhaps deliver something, something in a cabaret-ish vein, an optimistic vein…?, something in a grotesquely fatalistic vein, something about lugubriousness, fantasy, melancholy…how a person makes money and wins friends or how a person loses friends and money, no, no it is all a misunderstanding, it is all unmisunderstandably a misunderstanding…to the extent that death is also of course nothing but a misunderstanding and the [notion] that I am there, am here, standing before you and speaking, is also a misunderstanding, exactly like death, of which I [have been] speaking the entire time…Death is my theme, because life is my theme, ununderstandably, unmisunderstandably…whether I embark on the journey or do not embark on the journey…when I wake up I seek refuge in this theme, in subject and predicate, stress[ed] and unstress[ed syllables]…there may be a great many things to say, but here is not the place in which to make a surgical intervention in states of affairs that are catastrophic states of affairs; here is not the place for philosophical transplantations, for philosophical feats of arithmetic, here in this lovely banqueting hall we lack the instruments for [such operations]…even though I would of course have been delighted [to perform] any number of operations…to incise and stitch and staunch and amputate…but I abhor affectation…and I [shall] say nothing about Shakespeare and nothing about Büchner and I [shan’t] bore you with Flaubert…I could very easily and very impressively, possibly hypervividly exploit the comical, jocular, ironical elements [of] my [makeup], and the corresponding elements [of] your[s]…[in an act of] intellectual extravagance say something new about Homer, about Turgeneev…Or: one simply picks up God and stirs, one picks up the Devil and stirs, one picks up the bourgeoisie and stirs, one picks up the proletariat and stirs…One doesn’t forget to speak constantly of the first half of the century as of a crazy half-century…it’s clever to quote a line of Baudelaire, a sentence from Proust, a sentence from Montaigne, a sentence of Cardinal Retz’s, if one wishes, or any other philosophical obscenity…one doesn’t forget the parish priests and the doctors and the communists, the Red Army soldiers and the Swiss Guards, the light metal industry and above all the hosts…
All of this, whether you believe it or not, whether you want to believe it or not, has [everything] to do with death, whether I am thinking of you or myself, goading [you or me] on along the wrong path, it is death, we are goaded on by death…whether I have something against governments or against the downtrodden, against Black or White, against this government for example, which like every government is the worst government imaginable, against our members of parliament, against the chancellor of our republic, against our university professors and against our artists, against Heine et alia, against Marx et alia, have something against all these gentlemen, it is death, it is irreparability…it is the catastrophe…it is everything that is impossible, incredible…
But I believe that by now I have said or spoken enough, as you believe, alluded, as you believe, held my peace on certain themes, as you can see for yourselves, held my peace on practically everything, as you can manage to convince yourselves, and I [shall] now say nothing more than my thanks for the couple of thousand schillings that you mailed to me at my Upper-Austrian address a short time ago, for the splendid holiday that I shall arrange [for myself] with this donation; I shall treat myself to an interval of dissipation, a couple of weeks on the Mediterranean or a couple of mad splurging sprees in Brussels or Paris or London, I don’t know yet…in any case, far from here, far from Vienna, far from Austria, from my fatherland, which I love…I thank you even though of course I have absolutely no idea of what I’m thanking you for, it’s possible I’m actually thanking you for a mad splurging spree…for a worthy cause possibly, because life is a thoroughly worthy cause, something that has, as you now know, a great deal to do with death…and with the indication thereof… namely of the fact that everything has [everything] to do with death, that everything is death, the whole of life is of course nothing but death; I shall wish you a good, if possible a remarkable evening, [I shall] walk out of this hall, leave Vienna, leave Austria for a time, [leave] it [and head] for pleasure and for work, and I say once again: I thank you for this award, for this misunderstanding, which this award undoubtedly is, because, as you know, everything is a misunderstanding, and [let me] once again remind you of death, of the fact that everything has [everything] to do with death, don’t you forget about death, don’t you forget about it, don’t you forget about it…                    

[THE END {esti mutandis non mutatis}]

[1] First published (along with the acceptance speech for the 1967 Austrian State Prize) in Neues Forum, Vienna, Vol. XV, No. 173, p. 347-349.

Thomas Bernhard wrote this speech for the acceptance ceremony for the 1968 Anton Wildgans Prize of the Association of Austrian Industry, which was canceled owing to the events [that took place] during the awarding of the Austrian State Prize on March 4, 1967.  Under the above title, chosen by the editors [of Neues Forum], the speech written for the Wildgans Prize ceremony was first published immediately below the speech for the State Prize ceremony.  The editors graced the pair of speeches with the following preliminary note:

“Society honors its artists with prizes and distinctions; are [these artists] therefore duty-bound to honor the society in which they live?  One can thank [the awarders of] distinctions (and the attendant monetary sums) with well-turned words, or one can, in being duty-bound to one’s own (prize-crowned) works and prize-crowning society, give thanks by saying what one believes to be true.  When a writer of Thomas Bernhard’s stature utters words of despair to his fatherland, this is—in the fiftieth year of the Austrian republic—an occasion for scruples.  Let these scruples find their way to our editorial offices; we shall be happy to publish them, pro or contra, as a symposium on this jubilee year.”         

{2} Work on this passage suspended pending consideration of some highly insightful suggestions from flowerville.

Translation unauthorized but Copyright ©2013 by Douglas Robertson

Source: Der Wahrheit auf der Spur.  Reden, Leserbriefe, Interviews, Feuilletons.  Herausgegeben von  Wolfram Bayer, Raimund Fellingerund und Martin Huber [Stalking the Truth.  Speeches, Open Letters, Interviews, Newspaper Articles.  Edited by Wolfram Bayer et al.](Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2011).