Friday, February 10, 2017

A Translation of "Papiermaschinen sind grausam" (Thomas Bernhard Silently Interviewed by Kurt Hofmann)

Paper Machines Are Ghastly

I read newspapers every day; I miss them if I don’t.  But I don’t read them; I just browse them.  I don’t read any books at all—just newspapers, because they gather together everything that really makes the world go round.

Well, then, so those are all just reports from the press agencies or idiotic correspondents that get paid next to nothing; of course that’s pretty much the lowest rung, these people who have been writing about the same old trash for twenty years, and who know exactly—like the Salzburger Nachrichten, for example—exactly what’s coming out of Berlin or wherever.

So of course they only need to read Salzburg newspapers; my relatives read these papers, so they only know about an abominable, good-for-nothing Bernhard, because that’s all that’s ever in them about me, if at all.

Just look at the people who write about me.  They’re just mediocre, loutish clowns, and tasteless ones to boot, who haven’t the faintest clue about what they read and describe.  Not a clue about the world they actually live in.  When it gets hot they take off their coat, sit there with their fat bellies and suspenders, sweat like pigs; they’re completely vulgar; they guzzle one bottle of liquor after another; fraternize with every Tom, Dick, and Harry.  They’re a nasty gang.  Whether they’re in Germany or some other place.

Of course I can’t express myself here anymore.  Where the hell am I supposed to write anything off the cuff here in Austria, when you know what the newspapers are like?  Die Presse, for example, is a newspaper that’s subsidized by the State; it puts itself at the service of every government.  So you can’t submit anything to them anymore; and then if they do agree to print something by me, as, I don’t know, a protest or something like that, it’ll just get cut, completely.  Of course you can’t send anything to the Kurier or to the Kronen Zeitung; that makes no sense.  So I can’t give anything I’ve written to any of them.

But that’s the way it is with newspapers: if you write a letter from Portugal to a newspaper, it’s a shambles.  They never put in where the letter is from, and then they leave out what it’s about.  It makes no sense at all.  And then if you take the roundabout route, through Germany, that’s also pointless.  Die Zeit has become a…newspaper, I have to say it’s like a boys’ magazine, where vulgarity triumphs; it’s all very difficult.

And Der Spiegel, it really just the biggest…They’re people who in terms of schillings are swimming in billions and have absolutely no idea of what to do with them.  The editors- -in-chief there make five times as much per year as the president of this country, and yet they’re always stirring up the poor, the people, they’re always against the higher-ups.  And they themselves have got their decrepit wives and their thatched-roofed villas crammed full of Cézannes and Mirós.  Pasty-complexioned types who bore themselves in their straw sandals there on the beach.  It’s all so gruesome.  It’s really the essence of awfulness!

Take a look, for example, at Le Monde.  People think it’s really something.  And what is it: pure guff!  And the people who work there are every bit as stupid.  Of course it isn’t any better just because it’s French.  And the only writer at the Corriere della Sera is that booby, the Boy Booby they call him, that idiot.  He was a nice little boy fifteen years ago, but now he’s simply impossible. What a load of trash he scribbles; none of it’s any good at all, you just can’t put out stuff like that.

There are the famous night scenes.  These people sit there for an hour-and-a-half; there’s a philosopher and a pseudophilosopher, or most often two pseudophilosophers, and they have on a turtleneck sweater and a tie.   It’s pretty much pointless, because it’s all scripted beforehand and inane.  And they just talk incessantly and talk and talk.  When you read what’ve been published as conversations in the Süddeutsche Zeitung  over the past three decades—nobody gives a hoot about a word in any of those conversations.

And books?  They’re just for workers in paper factories; they’ve got a job, so for them there may be a point to them.  Of course they’ve got a terrible life and lose all their limbs.  At fifty they’ve usually got no legs anymore or they’ve lost five fingers.  Paper machines are really ghastly.  Well, so there’s at least some point to that.  Then the families can still get something into the bargain.  I actually live next to two paper factories; that’s how I know the way things are in them.


Source: Kurt Hofmann, Aus Gesprächen mit Thomas Bernhard (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1991), pp. 106-109.

Translation unauthorized but Copyright ©2017 by Douglas Robertson