Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Translation of Thomas Bernhard's Eulogy in Memory of Carl Zuckmayer

Ladies and gentlemen, [1]

I am speaking about a friend and happy man who accompanied my own life from earliest childhood onwards and in the most natural way recognized and scrupulously accepted and respected [me].  The contrasts, the uncanniness on my part as well as on his, were the decades-lasting witnesses of our [mutual] attachment.

He has reached the goal, because death is our goal.

Death is the goal—in this thought we intensify and motivate our lives.  Death is the validation of our existence through lifelong intransigence, indefatigability, incorruptibility.  The place where we ourselves, oriented towards our own goal, towards death, in truth and reality exist is (initially) nothing but the fear of death, then readiness for death, finally the consciousness of death.  We know the way, we follow it as a matter of course, in the teeth of everything.  At the end of all thought death is our consciousness, clarity the question.

This friend, character, artist, poet, I think [to myself], [is someone whom] I have always been permitted to understand, compelled to love!

He has reached the goal!  We exist unyieldingly, unrelentingly [oriented] towards our goal as a matter of course.  In his admittedly at-all-times-seldom- consequential matter-of-course way, he will be in my life and hence in my thoughts.

Vis-à-vis my own work he had a sensitivity of understanding that was second to none.  I say this here quite emphatically and with enormous gratitude.  He was [an entity] unto himself—devoid of prejudice!!

In The Long Roads, in that slim volume in which I have read very often and very eagerly, he writes, “In the encounter itself there is nothing perdurable.  It bears the mark of transience in its essence.  But its nucleus is the occurrence of mutual awareness.  Its goal is [to take] the step from awareness to recognition.”


[1] Editors’ note: First published posthumously in Die Furche on February 9, 2006.

Thomas Bernhard delivered this eulogy in memory of Carl Zuckmayer on Sunday, January 30, 1977, at 11 a.m. in the Schauspielhaus Zürich. The occasion was a “Memorial Hour” in honor of the writer, who had died on January 18, shortly after his eightieth birthday, and been interred a few days later in Saas-Fee. The event began with Thomas Bernhard’s speech. Afterwards, Peter Ehrlich, Margrit Ensinger, Gustav Knuth, Hans-Gerd Kübel, Leopold Lindtberg, Helmut Lohner, Dorothea Parton, Gert Westphal, and Hans-Dieter Zeidler read selections from Zuckmayer’s works. The passage quoted by Bernhard at the end of the speech is from Zuckmayer’s 1952 pamphlet The Long Roads. A Piece of Account-Settling, the abridged version of which Zuckmayer had read aloud on accepting the Goethe Prize of the City of Frankfurt in St. Paul’s Church on August 28, 1952. Thomas Bernhard gave the manuscript of the speech to his publisher Siegfried Unseld, who had been present in the audience during its delivery. Unseld added it to his collection of autograph manuscripts.

Translation unauthorized but Copyright ©2014 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). 

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