Monday, April 21, 2014

A Translation of Two Very Short Texts by Thomas Bernhard

Bombast [1]

Your third volume from December oozes with stupidity and sanctimoniousness and in it stupidity and sanctimoniousness are equipoised in a classically Austrian fashion.
In his frivolous and slipshod [piece] “Journeys of Discovery in Our Fatherland,” Mr. David Axmann quotes and mentions Franz Stelzhamer, whom I esteem very highly, and on two occasions perfidiously spells the name of the Upper-Austrian poet identically and incorrectly.  Stelzhamer’s name is Stelzhamer and not Stelzhammer; I have known this since I was a child.  That is the difference!

For the collection of rotten bombast you have compiled in this volume there is unfortunately no remedy.

Thomas Bernhard, Ohlsdorf


Thomas Bernhard's Contribution to Mein(e) Feind(e) [2]

My work and I have as many enemies as Austria has citizens, including the administration in the Ballhausplatz and the parliament in the Ring.  Apart from a couple of exceptions.  Off of these exceptions I feed and exist.  Now I have answered your blunt, timely, delicate question no less honestly than exhaustively. 

[1] Editors' note: First published in Wiener Journal, Vol. 5, February 1981, p. 28.
Bernhard’s letter to the editors was followed by this note: “Stelzhamer’s name is of course Stelzhamer and not Stelzhammer.  For this (perfidious?) error we beg our readers’ pardon.  Nonetheless, we reject the charge of promulgating ‘rotten bombast’: to be unable (or unwilling) to impart as subtly dialectical a turn to one’s patriotism as Mr. Bernhard is not automatically to place oneself under suspicion of stupidity and sanctimoniousness.  And we assuredly did not in Vol. 3.”

[2] Editors' noteFirst published in Mein(e) Feind(e) [≈My/Our Enemies].  Literary Almanac 1982, Salzburg: Residenz, 1982, p. 28.


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), pp. 211 and 215.

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