Friday, May 04, 2018

An Alternative Translation of Die Jagdgesellschaft by Thomas Bernhard

The Hunting Party

For Bruno Ganz


I asked about the mechanism of these figures, and about how it had been possible without having myriads of threads on one’s fingers to govern the individual limbs thereof and their joints as the rhythm of their movements or the dance dictated.



Dramatis personae

ANNA, the cook
ASAMER, a woodcutter


The general’s hunting lodge


Before the Hunt

A large tiled stove
Armchairs, other chairs
A record player
A deck of cards on a table

WRITER standing at the window
Constantly pacing up and down
with both hands pressed against my temples
I’ll have you know
without hitting on the decisive word
in the aphorism

The GENERAL’s WIFE sitting at the table, gazing outside
It’s snowing

The constant opening
and shutting of the window
was making it impossible
for me to keep warm
and so I was forced
to put on my fur waistcoat
You know this waistcoat
parts the front of his fur waistcoat, then draws it back together
my Polish fur waistcoat
Which immediately reminds me of Poland of course
Three days in Krakow
and no conversation
the general’s wife picks up the deck of cards as if planning to start a game; the writer takes the cards away from her; tossing the cards on to the table he says
Of course I sent you the Gobelins’ design
The wild mouflon
Ovis musimon
goes to the window
Remember how when I got to Warsaw
literally six or seven steps ahead of me
that falling icicle
suddenly killed
quite suddenly killed
that young woman
the wife of a young agrarian engineer as it turned out
The hunts in Poland are very popular nowadays
How many times has the general been to Poland

Three times

WRITER stepping away from the window
I love that country
literally like no other

It snows
uninterruptedly it seems
At first no snow at all
then it snows uninterruptedly

At first I thought
a warm winter
but it’s a cold winter
and cold
I’ve been incessantly thinking
of course I’ve got my Polish waistcoat on
this waistcoat I bought in Krakow

            And your Lermontov in the waistcoat

WRITER returns to the window
So then I’ve naturally stopped
being able to keep warm even in bed
takes A HERO OF OUR TIME out of his waistcoat and reads:2
So far as I am concerned, said the doctor
I am convinced of one thing only
And that is? I asked, desirous of learning the opinion
of a man who had been silent till then. Of the fact, he answered,
that sooner or later, one fine morning, I shall die
shuts the book and pockets it
As you know I’ve constantly
been reading Lermontov


WRITER pours himself and the general’s wife a glass of sherry and steps back up to the window
Two hours of Lermontov
and then another two hours of Lermontov

Or two hours of Mayakovsky
and then another two hours of Mayakovsky

Or Pushkin
All at once I remembered the aphorism
Rest puts everything back to rights
But I didn’t get any further
over and over again rest puts everything back to rights
after a pause
No puts nothing back to rights
But again nothing further nothing further
The aphorism I kept thinking The aphorism
Rest puts everything back to rights
and its continuation
No rest puts nothing back to rights
And yet and yet and yet
do you understand
the whole time I was thinking
then I said to myself quite distinctly quite loudly
And yet and yet and yet
pacing to and fro
over and over again
I opened all the windows
because I couldn’t handle the madness
of closed windows do you understand
This cold madam
and the thought
of having to suffocate
and that it was all about an error
Then I came down here
and shuffled the cards
I continually shuffled the cards

            Those cards that you abominate so much

Shuffled and shuffled
for an hour
then again in my room upstairs
Rest puts everything back to rights Rest
But I failed to recall the decisive word
When you want to crush your head to a pulp
with your own two hands
Then once again I thought about
stoking the stove myself
But I wasn’t strong enough to do it
I had literally locked myself in my room
and taken away the key
then for more than an hour I searched for
the key
and opened the windows
and closed the windows again
and the key was gone
then for more than an hour I searched for
the key
at the same time I was constantly thinking
of the aphorism
of the key on the one hand
of the aphorism on the other
What a state I was in 
Do you understand madam when one simply cannot recite
an aphorism from beginning to end anymore
so I spent the entire night with the thought
of not being able to recite the aphorism in its entirety anymore
By reading I hoped to distract myself from the aphorism
I kept thinking
of distracting myself by reading
In the morning I got up
without having slept for a single instant
but the entire time
as I was getting dressed
getting dressed
as I was shaving and combing my hair
that awful ordeal with my bootlaces
Then all at once as I was walking to the post office
as I was thinking of something completely different
while walking to the post office
and hence in the middle of all the people in the village square
while fornicating with my thoughts
in that cold air
as I was saying something to the mayor
who had said something
I remembered the aphorism
Correctly phrased the aphorism goes
Rest puts everything back to rights
No it isn’t rest that puts everything back to rights
but rather
more salubrious movement
but rather
more salubrious movement
In the blink of an eye I was exhausted

Do sit down
The writer sits down
Once you’re agitated
you calm back down
for long stretches you’re agitated
then you’re calm again

It's a terrible thing
using language
using your mind 

Then you just sit there
hanging your head
Then you're driven almost to the point of madness
by staying silent
by nothing

Nothing time and again

And then you hit upon the idea
of playing blackjack3
all day long
and saying nothing
and winning
and constantly winning
with terrifying certainty
And I lose
with the same
terrifying certainty
picks up the deck of cards

This most mindless of all card games
takes the cards from the general’s wife and puts them on the table
which exerts the greatest fascination on me
to be sure

To think that in the afternoons
and in the evenings
and for entire nights
as you’re keeping yourself from your work
I’m shuffling myself to death
laughs and again says
shuffling myself to death

WRITER laughing
Shuffling yourself to death
shuffling yourself to death

when I’m completely exhausted


exhausted and apathetic

When you loathe this game like nothing else

When I am completely exhausted
you say
one more game
And then over and over again
one more game one more game
You say it threateningly
threateningly mind you
everything about you
within you
is threatening
It never occurs to you to quit doing it
to quit doing it
because I am exhausted
when literally everything in me
and in you as well
is exhausted
one more hand you say one more
one more one more one more
we play
we keep playing
we play as if we
were about to go mad

There’s no game
that exerts a greater fascination on me
and that allows me
all the while that I am flying into a rage
to calm down
with greater certainty

You’re torturing me
because right now
we’re not playing
we’re not playing now
You want to torture me
torture me
torture me
Because when I’m in the mood
to play
you don’t play
But when you are in the mood to play
we play
then the game continues without interruption
to the point of unconsciousness
Let’s play
a hand
I’ve said
and you’ve immediately refused
you’ve always flat-out refused
I want to play
You refuse

WRITER rises, goes to the window
As if a condition
an inner condition
a mental condition
could be improved
by playing cards

It’s a way to pass the time
nothing but a way to pass the time
gazes outside
as it snows outside
until my husband comes back

Then I always get
the same headaches
the same headaches

Now you’re digressing about your headaches
All of a sudden you were talking
you were refusing
let’s play I said
let’s play

It’s become a shared habit of ours

Because as you yourself say
there’s nothing like
playing cards
for keeping one’s head together
picks up the deck of cards and puts it back down on the table
Because I’d like to play cards
you won’t play
You immediately digressed from playing cards
to your headache
from my head complaint
to your head complaint

It’s impossible to play nonstop
without literally going mad
looks outside
It’s getting dark

Throughout the forest
it suddenly
gets dark
Once the forest has been felled
That won’t happen

The silence of a mortal illness
is an enormity
enter Asamer from stage left with an armful of firewood with which he then stokes the fire inside the tile stove

This sudden darkness
it’s abrupt
you know

I now know everything
about the bark beetle
everything madam
And about the eye condition
that is termed
a cataract

Through this colossal forest
in the background
it’s abrupt

The cataract I’ll have you know
and the bark beetle
The one a terror
and the other a monster

when all the trees have been chopped down
the darkness won’t descend
then it’ll set in slowly

To think that the general
has dinner with the ministers
in addition
to his regular dinner

My husband does
what’s proper
to Asamer
In a quarter of an hour shut
the stove
fill it up now
and in a quarter of an hour shut it
The general could come at any moment now
Have the beds for the ministers been made
are the rooms all well-heated
well-heated Asamer well-heated
it’s been two months
since the place was last heated
it’s cold all over the lodge
to the writer
It’s not enough
to start heating the lodge
the day before we get here
the lodge has got to be heated
for an entire week
before we get here
the walls are cold
the walls exude coldness

I know everything about the bark beetle
and about cataracts
I’m better informed
than the ophthalmologists

The walls need an entire week
to get properly warm
but my husband says
it’s too expensive
to start heating the place a whole week before
we get here

The bark beetle
and the cataracts
that prevent him from seeing the bark beetle
addressing the general’s wife point-blank
and his kidney disease
an abrupt
and less awkward
way of rounding out one’s life madam

Even though we’ve got so much wood laughs
a colossal amount of wood
Once the forest has been felled
we’ll have so much wood
that it will crush us
and the funny thing is
I wasn’t the one who used to worry about the bark beetle
it was my husband
not me
my husband
my husband always used to go on about the bark beetle
to Asamer
put as much wood as possible in
and then
after a quarter of an hour
shut it

Then the stove will deliver just enough heat

For twenty years
I’ve known how to time it
but the lodge has still never been heated
early enough beforehand
I’ve never succeeded in convincing my husband
of the fact
that a full week

At least a week

At least a week
before we get here
the lodge has got to be heated
exit Asamer
My husband worries
that these people could be
using more of the firewood than necessary
that they could be up to something
we don’t know about

what a strange name

That we can’t see everything
they get up to
And now the whole forest has got to be chopped down
because the bark beetle has infested the whole forest


With his eyes
he can go wherever likes
he doesn’t see the bark beetle
he fails to see the whole infestation
and as long as nobody says anything about it to him
he won’t know about it

The ministers come here
to drop him
and prop him
the one minister props
his left arm
which he hasn’t got
and the other minister props
his right arm
and they both drop him

Sixty-by-ninety kilometers
have you any notion
of how big that is

A colossal surface area madam
A properly grand grand estate

Throughout the year
he keeps saying
keep a close eye
on the woodcutters
and the other woodsmen
keep a close eye on them
he often says that in his sleep
then he suddenly wakes up
in a sweat
in a sweat you know in a sweat
and says
Keep a close eye on the woodcutters

It really beggars the imagination
Sixty-by-ninety kilometers
and the whole thing
is full of bark beetles
and so
because a forest infested so heavily with the bark beetle
must be felled
we’ll end up with a huge expansive surface of completely bare land
According to the letter of the law madam
a tree
that is infested with the bark beetle
must be felled
and if the whole forest is infested with the bark beetle
the whole forest must be felled
And if the proprietor of the bark beetle-infested forest
lacks the wherewithal
to have his forest felled
the government will fell his forest
but as long as he has got the wherewithal

He wakes up at night
and suddenly says
Keep a close eye on the woodcutters
he’s constantly tormented by the thought
that something is being done
that isn’t supposed to be done
Because he is always talking about two worlds
one of them is behind his back
a world that must be looked into suddenly
as he says
He trusts the prince implicitly
if something that goes against my husband’s wishes happens
the prince has got to make a report
The prince is responsible
My husband trusts him one hundred percent
He loves the princess
on account of her eye complaint
Who sees nothing
or almost nothing in such beauty
he says
The prince is my husband’s closest confidant
The prince protects my husband
from the woodcutters’ ever-recurring shamelessness
just as he protects the woodcutters
from my husband’s ruthlessness

There won’t be anybody
in the hunting lodge anymore
once the forest has been leveled

We live in an age
in which the demands of the rabble
are pandered to
that is unprecedented he says

WRITER picks up the cards and shuffles them
Death by shuffling
death by shuffling
throws the cards onto the table
An interruption of my work
is harmless
when one takes one’s head
quite unexpectedly madam
into another landscape suddenly
as when one plunges it into a refreshing spring
An interruption
of my work
and forgetting
my writing
if that were possible

The constant fear
of being found out

Because here in the forest
after the war
only hunger
and denunciation
along with the severest of all winters

GENERAL’S WIFE to Asamer, who is stoking the fire
In a quarter of an hour shut it

The art of heating up a stove
is the art of conscientiousness
in stoking
and the art of punctuality
in shutting
Most people fail to master this art
and it’s got to be swept
at regular intervals
Asamer stands up and makes as if to go

Make sure all the rooms are well-heated
put a hot brick in the general’s bed
and also put hot bricks in the ministers’ beds
We’ll wait until the lady and gentlemen get here
to have dinner
Anna must serve the compote cold
Has everything been shoveled clean
Asamer make sure everything’s been shoveled clean
exit Asamer

A snow-in
When everything is entirely snowed in all at once

It’s not at dawn
it’s at dusk
whereas in the morning everything is heralded slowly
slowly do you understand
in the evening the darkness descends
it’s suddenly dark
Leaving the lights off for a long time
Hearing people speak
but not seeing them
Hearing the fire in the stove
but seeing nothing
hearing the fire in the stove
but seeing nothing
or at least only so
that it isn’t painful

When the forest has been chopped down
there won’t be any more of this painful abrupt
descent of darkness
as if the daylight
is suddenly being extinguished

Two hundred extra woodcutters are going
to have to be hired

The prince said something about bribery

Can you even imagine it
twenty-eight tractors
goodness knows how many chainsaws

If a mind can allow itself
to put up with such an awful din

He won’t be here
he won’t see anything
he won’t see anything
or hear anything
at first I thought
I wouldn’t be here
but now I think
I’ll have to be on hand
Because I was the only one who couldn’t bear the thought
that the entire forest is going to be chopped down
Of looking on as the trees fall
Enter Asamer with a message on a slip of paper, which he hands to the general’s wife
The general’s wife reads the message, then says
Fine Asamer
Exit Asamer
doesn’t dare come in here
she wants to go home
for a half-day tomorrow
When you’re here
she doesn’t dare come in here
Instead she sends a message

When was it
When did you make the discovery
that the bark beetle

A year-and-a-half ago
But by then it was already too late

            And his illness

            A year ago

People with this kind of condition
stop being able to hold their water
it is a tedious
and at the same time painful process
So his development of cataracts
is quite timely

It’s quite impossible to explain
how every part of the forest

Of a truly colossal forest

Has become infested with bark beetles
at the same time
it’s inexplicable
the professors at the University of Life Sciences and Natural Resources
are burying their faces in their hands
At first they said It’s impossible
out of the question
there’s absolutely no rational explanation for it
it even quite literally defies the laws of nature
They find this situation quite unimaginable
The experts were irritated

Every science
is always at a loss for words madam

Because nobody believed
in the possibility
of simultaneity
Because such a thing quite simply
contradicts the laws of nature

            Natural law

The bark
of all the trees almost simultaneously

Simultaneously turned
withered madam

He couldn’t see it anymore
but everybody else sees it
all the more clearly
It was Asamer who in seeing it first
made the discovery
my husband believed
just a couple of trunks were infested
I can still see my husband
there where you’re standing
there at the window
I was sitting
where I’m now sitting
then Asamer comes in
and stokes the stove
and says
a couple of trees have got the bark beetle
and then my husband laughs
he laughed so heartily
And then my husband asks Asamer where
and Asamer says right behind the hunting lodge
my husband quickly forgot about the whole thing
Right then I already knew the extent of the catastrophe
knew that the bark beetle
was in every tree
and the professors have been coming here in perfect secrecy
to keep my husband from learning anything about it
If he’s got cataracts
and he has got cataracts
they said
he won’t see a thing
they said
They were standing there at the window
where you’re standing now
All week long the forestry people
were conducting inspections
here there
and everywhere
there were bark beetles
Abandon it
abandon all the dead dry wood
I thought
the bark beetles are bound to devour the lot

Seen in this light
which is very much the right light his illness
is a blessing
and so are the cataracts

I have silenced everybody

A forest infested by the bark beetles like this
must be chopped down in its entirety

I’ve always been worried
that word of it would spread
and my husband would hear about it 

The fact that he’s working on his book
on his life’s work madam
and is completely preoccupied with this life’s work of his
and is constantly holed up in his room in the city
is doing him good

The young officers are doing his work
at the ministry
On the other hand he thinks of nothing
but the forest
nothing but the forest matters to him
you know
He has concentrated all his inner energies
on the forest

Then we’ll be confronted here
with an enormous empty expanse

Here my husband always came up with
his best ideas


With his best ideas
not in the city
in the country
in the forest
he could be alone for days on end
even the woodcutters
disturbed him
he avoided them
in his boots
and with pencil and paper

And with his green hat
on his head

When he heard the woodcutters
he would make a detour
not a word with them
often for years on end
not a word with them
apart from with Asamer
When I’m in the forest
he always said
In the forest I’m thinking
All these changes
that basically
can be traced back
to my husband’s walks in the forest
Everything that this government has changed
has established
as he’s always saying
you’ve got to have a forest like this
to have ideas like that

A character
like your husband’s character
An ability to act in the background
is also typical of it
a forest like this in which everything is to be found
but rest
quoting the general
A forest like this one
in which everything but rest may be found
is everything for my mind

At the end of the war
we hid out here
if they had found us
they would have killed us
We were in the forest
you understand
not in the hunting lodge
we didn’t dare go into the hunting lodge
Anyone who went into the hunting lodge
was killed by them
they killed everyone in the hunting lodge
In constant dread
of being discovered you know

When as you did
one comes into possession of such an enormous estate
and is then
for example forced to hide out in one’s own
enormous forest
The dread of being killed
in such an enormous forest

Of being suddenly

In a forest like this
in which everything
is to be found
but rest
When two colossal estates
are combined into a single colossal estate
in which one is forced
to hide away

GENERAL’S WIFE gazing outside
Now it’s
completely dark
enter Asamer, who then shuts the stove
When you can still hear footsteps
but see nothing
still hear
see nothing
Asamer makes as if to turn on the lights
no light Asamer
Is the stove shut tightly
to the writer
You know
I’m afraid
of my husband
and I loathe the ministers
I have loathed those two from the very beginning
they double-cross my husband
they have been exploiting him
for years
for decades they have exploited him
he’s the one who got them their positions
one of them was only twenty-four
when he brought him into the ministry I’ll have you know
those ministers owe everything to my husband
and now they’re double-crossing him
they want to get rid of him
get rid of him do you understand
they’ve come here now to coerce my husband
into tendering his resignation
We’re not safe from the lower ranks anywhere
in the darkness
at first you’ve got to be coerced into it
then you love this situation
at first it’s coercion
Nobody can withstand the darkness
to the point when nothing’s happening do you understand
you’ve got to coerce yourself into it
then you
love this situation

One fine day you consolidated your estate
with your husband’s estate
in order to force yourself into hiding out
in the resulting colossal estate

And now it’s restful
no war

And the bark beetle has arrived on the scene

The bark beetle
to Asamer
Is the stove shut Asamer  

Yes madam

This incessant attentiveness
and work
indeed dread you know
until one feels completely warm
exit Asamer
the general’s wife calling after him
turn on the garden light Asamer
And shovel everything clean
to the writer
The ministers receive an incredibly huge subsidy
from the Church
My husband loathes the Church

He’s the archetypal born atheist

GENERAL’S WIFE rises and turns on the light; sits back down
One more hunt
before he checks into the clinic
I coaxed him into it

Little by little
probably under the influence of his terminal illness
of which he is oblivious
he’s starting to listen to you madam

I coaxed him into it

all of a sudden
you don’t want to hurt him anymore

GENERAL’S WIFE with great pathos
I have erected a wall of silence
around him
he mustn’t
know a thing
about the bark beetle

That’s the question I’ve been posing to myself
whether the general actually doesn’t know anything
whether it’s actually the case that he doesn’t know anything
or whether he’s only acting as if he doesn’t know anything
This is undoubtedly the end madam
Mark my words madam
a general is someone who can be told
and told frankly mark my words madam frankly
what must be told
namely the prognosis of his condition

But he isn’t
is he

Yes because he’s a man
whose signature trait
is unsparing frankness
A person as enlightened as he is
exists with a completely different sort of mind

He doesn’t know about it
he mustn’t know about it
Entirely regardless of time or place
he’s always talking about his forest

To think that you have managed
to conceal
the bark beetle from him
To bring the gamekeepers
and the woodcutters to keep silent
about everything
having to do with the forest
because it’s hard madam
to bring people who were born to talk
to keep silent
especially over such a vast area
an entire
absorbed by curiosity
and the spreading of gossip
Thanks to incessant
and to my mind intelligent bribery
you have successfully
achieved what you set out to achieve

Not a soul
has said a thing

The fact of the matter is
that the bark beetle
is eating up everything connected with the hunting lodge
that it’s destroying
devouring everything here

Like you
the doctor talks
about a terminal illness
quite frankly
it’s only a matter
of very little time

This is the reason
why even though it’s only a matter
of very little time
you keep the bark beetle secret from him
And the cataracts
he has
are your co-conspirators
The frankness
evinced by doctors
in certain circumstances
is baffling

A minor procedure
my husband thinks

And yet
even before the doctors arrived here
you suspected
your husband
was suffering
from a terminal illness
You said he had changed
some time before

He suddenly
It was
on the road shoulder

I remember
on the road shoulder
goes to the record player and puts on a record of Handel’s Suite No. 5 for harpsichord
But even though you believed
he would come down with the illness only much later
there was that incident with the chainsaw
An injury
like the injury he received from the chainsaw
causes one to come down with a terminal illness
And the day after tomorrow when your husband
is in the clinic
and perhaps exactly
when he’s undergoing the procedure
which of course is no mere procedure
because as you know it’s actually
an extremely complicated
and even quite risky operation
when you are anticipating the worst
the first trees will be falling
Then the period of convalescence
the time at the seashore
the time in Rome
that he longs for

            The end will come in Rome

Then you’ll come back
and the trees will already be gone
and possibly not a visible trace of the entire forest
will be left

Naturally he knows something is up
but he doesn’t know the truth
I have spoken with the ministers
I have told that that he’s dying
Just wait I’ve told them
my husband the general will die very soon
a man who’s going to die very soon
doesn’t need to be forced to resign
They’ve got to have his decision now
He’s going to die
but he isn’t going to resign
do you understand
And he’s not even thinking about resigning
I told the ministers
that the forest was full of bark beetles
and that the whole forest would have to be chopped down
It had no effect

Every once in a while
under the influence of his intelligence madam
a man picks up a chainsaw
or some other tool
that he has absolutely no business handling
every once in a while an intelligent man suddenly super-suddenly
thinks about
felling a tree
all of a sudden a man like this feels a need
to hammer a nail into a wall
a man who’s been sitting at a desk year after year and without a break
suddenly up and walks into a gravel pit
or quite simply into the forest
a man like this suddenly fancies
he’s got to smash something to bits or cut something down
just as your husband the general super-suddenly
went into the forest with a chainsaw
suddenly a man like this goes out of his mind
and goes into the forest
and fells a tree
or he goes into the gravel pit or he kills a man do you understand
or a man like this
who has always worn underwear of the finest quality
suddenly puts on a pair of the kind of underpants
that woodcutters wear
all of a sudden a man like this runs off in a pair of sheepskin boots
or he dons a felt cap
even though he is accustomed to wearing nothing but the most expensive hats
This leads to terrible
and very often lethal injuries madam
The general cut his leg with the chainsaw
and this injury actually precipitated the onset
of his terminal illness
each and every one of us harbors a terminal illness
and some injury often an insignificant one and often indeed one that is scarcely even          noticed
precipitates the onset of that illness

Luckily Asamer was with him
and dragged him out of the forest
and into the hunting lodge
And luckily he made it into the hands of a good surgeon
Outside there are footfalls, talking, laughing  

The general
stops the music
So nothing disastrous happened
Enter the general, who is missing his left arm, the ministers, the prince, the princess, the cook, and Asamer, who takes their coats and steps back outside
The general embraces his wife
The writer lingers in the background
the prince and princess linger in the doorway 

This sudden snowfall
everything’s snowed under
everything’s snowed under
The last bit on foot

A dry
cold winter general

GENERAL exclaims
Ah the writer
the general and writer approach each other and shake hands
You keep my wife from getting bored
Your philosophy
or rather your philosophies
distract her
Just think of it
my secretary
has seen your comedy
more of an operetta than a comedy I think
an excellent production
The history-maker
or the so-called history-maker in your play
more of an operetta
delighted her enormously
To rehearse such a role
one needs a comedic mind doesn’t one
a mind like a machine
and exceptional talent
One has got to have talent
Talent talent
Actors must have talent
and must be a machine
with a mind like a theater
not with a theatrical mind
when they arrive in the world
to all the others
Please be seated
sit down
Please be seated
everybody sits down

            Sherry brandy

EVERYBODY ELSE only vaguely in unison
Brandy sherry
Sherry brandy

GENERAL’S WIFE to the general
I was worried
that you wouldn’t be coming
that something had happened

            Without the help of the ministers

There’s never been
this much snow

The writer in his lunacy
writes a comedy
or rather an operetta
and the actors are taken in
by this comedy
by this
And then the world the cultivated world is
believes it’s something philosophical
The writer attacks philosophy
or a whole heap of philosophies
and quite simply imposes his mind on the actors
and if the play is a tragedy
he maintains
it’s a comedy
and if it’s a comedy
he maintains
it’s a tragedy
when it’s actually nothing but an operetta
The writers force actors
into a dramatic process
and every medium is fine with them
into a dramatic process
inimical to actors
and the whole thing is nothing but an oxymoron
to the ministers
Watch what you say
this gentleman
puts what he sees
give careful thought to what you share with us
and what you keep to yourself sirs
for any old vulgar claptrap
comes across as something philosophical
This gentleman will turn even you into an operetta
the ministers laugh
No man is more taciturn than the prince
and no woman is more charming than the princess
The prince writes poems
which he reads to us from time to time
his wife
is preoccupied
with taking care of their two delightful children
Our writer is observing
but I’ll have you know
he’s observing something other
than reality
to the ministers
He understands nothing
about ballistics gentlemen
and yet for him gentlemen
the term political intrigue is
enter the cook with an air of being about to say something

silently makes it clear to the cook that she is to leave the room
exit the cook
the general’s wife rises
everybody else rises

I’ve got a colossal appetite
everyone begins exiting
the general referring to the writer
An inscrutable mind
an utterly and thoroughly inscrutable mind
exeunt omnes


During the Hunt

The forest is quite distinctly visible through the windows of the hunting lodge
As the curtain rises the general’s wife and the writer are playing cards, drinking brandy, laughing

GENERAL’S WIFE throwing her cards onto the table; throughout the scene she keeps a running tally of wins and losses on a slip of paper
I win
I win
Picks up the deck of cards and shuffles it, deals from it

That loud laugh
Your loud laugh
Looks at his cards, deals himself two more cards
There is something highly interesting
about terminal illnesses
throws his cards onto the table
I win
in theatrical proceedings
the general’s wife shuffles, deals
the writer drinks
If we observe
and don’t get involved in events
looks at his cards, deals himself three more cards
and purposelessness
the means by which people
who simply aren’t cut out for this

GENERAL’S WIFE pounding the table with both hands
I win
I win
I win

We needn’t take part in things
to be sure we have a part to play in them
but we needn’t take part in them
If we exert our gift for observation
throws his cards onto the table
You win
the general’s wife quickly shuffles the cards
A huge sum of money
an enormous sum
really an enormous sum
dealing himself a hand of cards

GENERAL’S WIFE dealing herself an unusually large hand of cards
What do you mean by possibly

it isn’t a terminal illness at all
possibly it’s the furthest thing in the world from
a terminal illness
His best anecdote is the one
where he talks about
his left arm being torn off
in Stalingrad

            When he almost bled to death

Whenever he tells that story
you always round it out by saying
you almost bled to death
whereupon he always rejoins
I wouldn’t wish the Siberian cold
on my worst enemy
they both laugh

The first thing he wanted to do
was to take a trip to the Oktoberfest
but as it happened
we ended up not going

Because when you’ve only got one arm
you can’t sway back and forth

            You can’t sway back and forth

You can’t sway back and forth
sway back and forth
sway back and forth

GENERAL’S WIFE throws her cards onto the table
I win
I win
do you see
now I’m winning
just so I can start losing again

You’ve got to shuffle quickly
The whole point of this game
is to shuffle the cards quickly
and play very quickly
Now that we’ve been playing for an hour
you’re suddenly shuffling awfully slowly
Shuffle quickly
quickly do you understand
takes the cards out of her hand; shuffles quickly
This quickly do you see
you’ve got to shuffle like this
this is how blackjack should be played
like this like this
deals the cards
With one arm
you can’t sway back and forth
There are so many things you can’t do
with one arm
And yet cripples
the crippled
are the most ambitious people on earth
deals himself five cards
We observe this
when we take a close look
at history
when we go back into history
when we get mixed up
in that senseless pursuit
The cripples not the non-cripples
are the rulers of the earth

WRITER throws down his cards
I win
the general’s wife is shuffling and dealing, now suddenly very quickly
It’s a truism
it’s nothing but a truism
deals himself six cards
Time and again we expose ourselves
as we get mixed up in repulsiveness
whether it’s a thing
or it’s people
we are dealing with a repulsive thing
time and again
time and again we’re also dealing with repulsive people
we’re attracted to what’s repulsive
The hunt for example
is repulsive
the hunt repels me
The hunt is repulsive

He loathes you
but not as deeply
as you loathe him
throws down her cards
I win

Here we see a so-called distinguished man
for example

He reads to me
from his manuscript
but I’m disgusted
by his voice
and even more so by what he’s reading

At the same time it’s all quite cogent
everything he writes
is quite cogent
And his competence
is peerless
An incorruptible individual
throws the cards onto the table

Now you’re winning again
I win twice
and then you start winning
and you keep winning
picks up the cards, shuffles, deals
Up in the attic
I’ll have you know
he’s still got his army coat
And under the army coat
the uniform
that he was wearing
when his arm was torn off

            When he almost bled to death

He has the key
to the trunk
in which he has placed
these garments
It is his wish
to be buried
in this uniform

            And in a rough-hewn softwood coffin

            And in a rough-hewn softwood coffin

WRITER throws his cards onto the table, drinks
I win
the general’s wife suddenly bursts into laughter
Why are you laughing
Why are you laughing
Your loud laughter
the general’s wife deals the cards
A year for pheasants
I read it’s
a year for pheasants

He loathes playing cards
It’s always been this way
when he’s hunting
I wait here
I’ve always waited

At first cataracts occasion
no pain whatsoever
suddenly the pains set in

As he’s aiming his gun
he says
it’s like a veil
like he’s shooting
through a veil
through a veil

WRITER throws down his cards
I win
the general’s wife picks up the cards, shuffles, deals
You swore the foresters
and the woodcutters
to secrecy
All your energies
have been focused exclusively
on keeping the bark beetle a secret
from your husband
enter Asamer to check on the stove

It’s fine Asamer
Wait until the others get back
then stoke it
wait until then

Yes ma’am
Exit Asamer

In reality
these simple people’s loyalty
has always
repelled me
it quite simply repels me
there are sounds of shots being fired outside

A year for pheasants

I’ve got blackjack

I’ve also got blackjack

Whenever I’ve got blackjack
you’ve also got blackjack
picks up the cards, shuffles, deals

If we double
your luck will improve

GENERAL’S WIFE takes eight cards
            Shut up

WRITER lays his cards on the table

You see
throws down her cards
Playing with you always means
do you understand
picks up the cards, shuffles, deals

What a huge sum of money
you’re going
to have to pay out to me

The truth is
I often say
things that aren’t supposed to be said
You’re the most ruthless person
I know
there isn’t a human being alive
who’s more ruthless than you are

WRITER lays his cards on the table
I win
I’ve got two aces

GENERAL’S WIFE picks up the cards and shuffles, deals
The truth is that
whenever anybody else
takes the smallest liberty
On the other hand

            On the other hand

            On the other hand
            it’s a pleasure
            and the greatest pleasure of all is
playing cards with you
When you burst out laughing so loudly
and your mind
is dwelling on a philosophical topic
or on something indecent

WRITER throws down his cards
            I win

Did you hear me
something indecent
shuffles, deals, drinks
the great thing about this little pastime
is that you’re an appalling individual

WRITER throws his cards down
            I win

GENERAL’S WIFE picks up the cards, shuffles, deals
Then I phone you
I write to you
I phone you
I phone you
And always the uncertainty
whether you’ll come at all
Because quite often you say
you’ll come
and then you never show up
Quite often I write
and I receive no reply
First thing in the morning your wine
with your special label
is placed in your room
the baked deserts are served cold

WRITER throws his cards onto the table
            I win

GENERAL’S WIFE picks up the cards, shuffles, deals
It’s all for you
the entire house
has geared itself up for you
And then you never show up
after maybe eight days
if I’m lucky
you turn up here
No apology
as if nothing had happened
You eat and drink
and laugh
And what a laugh you laugh
what a laugh you laugh
what a laugh you can laugh

WRITER lays his cards on the table, laughs
            I win

GENERAL’S WIFE picks up the cards, shuffles, deals
The we play
and say nothing
Suddenly you leave

When we look at a person
no matter what sort of person
we are looking at someone who’s dying
at a dying person
And the moment we wake up
we always see
We are condemned to immobility
Do you understand
we are dead
everything is dead
everything in us is dead
everything is dead
throws down his cards
I win
I win
I win

            WRITER: I win
            GENERAL’S WIFE: You win

Whatever something is
it’s death
We hear a voice
shots outside
we ask who it is
It’s death
This fine human being we say
He’s death
This rigorous work
It’s death
the general’s wife shuffles the cards, deals
the writer takes nine cards
Whatever we publish
It’s death
We are alone
We are defunct
It’s death
All these faces
I’ll have you know
are suddenly dead
we see them
and see them suddenly dead
suddenly dead
Every face
as a dead face
The infamy with which people [ignore]4
their dead face
The means that we
When we understand what’s what madam
everything darkens
We hesitate
we procrastinate
we loathe
what we are
Everything we put on paper
is death

GENERAL’S WIFE lays his cards on the table
You win
You win

What we see
the moment
the terminus
is death
A friend dies
everything is dead
do you see
lays his cards on the table
the general’s wife picks up the cards, shuffles, deals
If we go into our room
we ask
where are we located
when we’re in our room
we are alone
or not alone
we listen to music
or we don’t listen to music
Every object madam
is death
Everything we touch
is defunct
it’s defunct
Everything we touch
defunct madam

GENERAL’S WIFE and WRITER laughing, only vaguely in unison

We despise
whatever we hear
Whatever we see
we despise
This person
with this feeling we say
this person
with this past
this person
with this face
lays his cards on the table
I win
the general’s wife picks up the cards, shuffles, deals
We expect something
a person
a terminal illness
persistently madam
That’s why we’re ill
that’s why we
each of us
has a terminal illness
It’s always something different
a different person
that’s why we’re unhappy
takes five cards
What is this idea
we ask ourselves
from which we have emerged
We inquire after our own cause
Is it this
or is that
we ask
and when we’ve killed one of them off
the other one is there
Where do we end up when we
say we to ourselves
and we are incessantly citing
our own character as an authority
we accuse individuals
of weakness of character madam
and at the same time we cite
as if it’s justice
but life
or more properly speaking existence madam
raising his voice
I win
throws his cards onto the table
is a nightmare
the general’s wife picks up the cards, shuffles, deals
When we see a human being
we must ask ourselves
where does this person fit into everything else
when we see a character
where does character fit into everything else
and so on in this fashion
with regard to every object we see
we are constantly
on the verge
of going insane
Because incessantly rejecting everything
renouncing one’s mind
is an impossibility
The facts are always terrifying
as are thoughts of this kind
so terrifying that they disintegrate matter itself
and everything is always in the process of dissolving
you know
which is why we have no choice but to despair
A human being
is a human being in despair
everything else is a lie
But then we lose
because we are so consistent
making connections time and again
at every instant I’ll have you know
and everything is a crude falsification
Suddenly we remember
the surface
and bury our faces in our hands
It’s a huge process of exploitation
nothing else

GENERAL’S WIFE lays her cards on the table
You win

            I win
            the writer throws his cards onto the table
            the general’s wife picks up the cards, shuffles, drinks
            the writer drinks, takes five cards
            Then I ask myself
            why do I come here
            What is there
            for me to look for here
            takes two more cards
            What is there
            for me to do here
            What is the general
            what is the president
            He is an idealist
            The ministers will force him out
            He will have to give in
            Probably he’s already given them his word
            I know what these people are like
            these people are intransigent
            What is a cabinet minister
            Take a good look at these people
            But with disdain on its own
            nothing gets done

            He is an idealist

WRITER drinks
But an idealist is an imbecile
throws his cards onto the table, exclaims
I win

GENERAL’S WIFE picks up the cards, shuffles, deals
            You with your
            communist stockpile of ideas

WRITER laughs, takes four cards


            Let’s double
            General’s wife shuffles, deals
            So when I crisscross the forest
            on foot with you
            it’s very nice

            These people
            my husband says
            who just want
            to destroy everything
            who are degrading everything
            pulling everything apart
            throws down his cards

I win
I just won

            Yours is a nature
            always bent on changing everything

When we are happy
for example here in the hunting lodge
we are pulling a fast one on ourselves
but even when we’re unhappy and nothing
but an unhappy emotion
we exist only in a state of delusion
What we see
is something different madam
This person, we say
and he is a different person
this air that I am inhaling is a different air
These cards
holds the cards up in the air
are all different do you understand
And everything is so pathetic
that we can hardly stand it
Events are only ever delusorily similar
Our understanding a different one
And completely pervading it all is death
he world is a crippled world
and human nature a crippled nature
and when we speak of beauty
we are really only speaking in microscopic terms
What strikes us as most beautiful
Mutilation madam
To be sure human beings turn up
but they are different
do you understand
This entire hunting party
is a different one
Quite simply a figure of speech madam
this is philosophical
but the whole of philosophy is nonsense
lays his cards on the table
I win
the general’s wife picks up the cards, shuffles
the writer drinks, takes five cards
The environment madam
has an ear
against the mind
and it will stop at nothing
to destroy the intellect
throws his cards onto the table, exclaims
I win

GENERAL’S WIFE pounding on the table with both hands
You’ve won
You’ve won



After the Hunt

The general, the general’s wife, the ministers, the prince, and the princess, along with the writer, drinking and smoking at the table
Around five in the morning

My dear writer
life in a general’s uniform
is never at any time
an affair for a sensitive person
or even for an exceptionally emotional character
To be sure in the case of an independent person
such as yourself
the writer laughs loudly
Who can do what he likes with his independence
the writer laughs loudly
But that’s a different affair
In any case you’re a person
who keeps his eyes and ears open
and keeps no secrets
that is his nature

Twenty-six hares
four pheasants
two badgers
That’s a genuine record

Very much so gentlemen
for such an ultra-short hunt
And then you must of course take into account
my nearsightedness
and the fact
that I lost my left arm
in Stalingrad

            It was literally torn off

Torn off gentlemen
torn off

            My husband nearly bled to death

WRITER to the general’s wife
            Nearly bled to death

I can’t tell you what it was like
I was completely surrounded
I held out
to the bitter end

GENERAL’S WIFE to the ministers
The greatest battle
in the history of all battles

In the history of all battles
to the writer
Doubtless you exist in a different world
You’re a commentator
drinks an entire glass of schnaps

My husband has been most strictly forbidden
to consume alcohol

Absolutely forbidden my dear sirs

is as we know
the inevitable product of all human natures
and the entirety of history is nothing but a calamity
And when we look into the future
we see nothing else

The day after tomorrow my husband
is checking into the clinic
for a couple of days so to speak

GENERAL to the ministers
For a couple of days so to speak
you know
This sojourn at the clinic is coming
just in the nick of time
A pause for breath I’ll have you know
so that I can move further along
in my great undertaking my book

My husband wanted to go
on one more hunt beforehand

The general
is a celebrity as a hunter
to his colleagues
The general has attained the highest distinctions
that exist in the world of hunting

GENERAL to the ministers
You know
during a hunt I regenerate
I get a breath of fresh air
I’m a different person
a new person
Admittedly my wife abhors hunts
She’s a woman under the influence of an artistic feeling
I’ll have you know
a feeling that puts her off the hunt
And she’s a woman under the influence
points at the writer
of this man
to the writer
With ideas like the ones
you have
you corrupt innocent minds
and thereby transform them from perfectly serviceable minds
into completely unserviceable ones
Only a deranged society
can tolerate something like this
laughs, then addresses the ministers
Complications ought to be abolished gentlemen

In a couple of weeks my husband will be back in the office
after his sojourn in the clinic
he’ll go
back to work
with renewed energy
to the ministers
If only you could have seen
those incredible heaps of papers on government policy
that he had delivered
and that I’ll have to carry to him in the clinic
My husband is keenly attentive
to everything having to do with development

Geopolitical development
which is constantly accelerating nowadays gentlemen

Then each and every day I’m ordered
to bring the very latest newspapers
and all the most important journals
to him in the clinic
to the ministers
My husband has got big plans
to the prince
naturally this is bad for the forest
When he spends more time on politics
the forest falls into the background
to the ministers
But the prince makes sure
that the forest isn’t neglected

GENERAL crying out
Just try to find a gamekeeper
like the prince

I’ve read
that this has been a particularly good year for pheasants

A good year for pheasants
a good year for pheasants
did you hear that
crying out
And four whole pheasants

            Very fine pheasants

            Very fine pheasants

A diversion
for example the hunt
facilitates concentration
The mind is diverted
to concentration
do you understand
to the writer
Concentration is everything
isn’t it

GENERAL’S WIFE referring to the writer
He won’t allow himself to be disturbed in the slightest
he won’t tolerate the slightest irritation
he completely sequesters himself
he won’t let anyone come near him
And of course one of my husband’s best-known sayings is
These constant intrusive disturbances
have got to stop

The prince shields me
he protects my body from vexation
and even more importantly
my mind from it
and what’s more I can also still talk with him
about nature
which I can’t do with anybody else

No excuse for being irritated
my husband’s always saying
no excuse for being irritated

GENERAL to the ministers
The time has come
in which everything must be intensified
an intensification of the punishment
as we see we are dealing with
a society that’s completely gone to seed
a world that’s been thoroughly neglected

A couple of weeks from now General
we’ll see you here again in the hunting lodge
At the very height of the season
In the meantime the work
will have been taken care of

GENERAL’S WIFE to the ministers
An estate as large as this one
requires the absolutely unflagging attention
of hundreds of people
The minutest particulars of such an estate
must be paid the minutest attention to at all times
If we didn’t own this forest
my husband wouldn’t be
what he is
The army
and the forest
the restlessness of the city
and the restfulness of the country
in constant alternation don’t you know
The ministers nod

The one
is like the other

GENERAL to the ministers
The prince is the finest forest ranger around today
A graduate of the University of Life Sciences and Natural Resources in Vienna
a thoroughly scientific character
and yet he’s never lost touch
with the earth beneath his feet
His publications
regularly appear in professional journals
and cause a sensation in the world of professional forestry
Such a well-grounded man can easily permit himself
to write poems in his spare time

Without the prince
absolutely nothing
point-blank to the prince
You enjoy my husband’s
absolutely implicit trust
to the ministers
Walking and thinking
Thinking and walking
do you understand
The forest is the main thing

The fact that during a hunt
my thoughts are honed
Breathing in the air
Feeling my way
groping my way do you understand
The silence into which
the shot falls next

The general
has explained to me
how to hold a firearm

GENERAL rejoining suddenly on how to hold a firearm
Like this
mimes the right grip
Not like this
mimes the wrong grip and laughs

SECOND MINISTER to the general’s wife
It had been ten years
since I last took part
in a hunt
In the Dolomites madam

Walking by turns
walking and standing
and thinking
to the prince
Lepus europaeus
Ovis musimon
Cervus sika
Twenty-two hunters today
lots of new faces
to the ministers
and the sons of woodcutters
A tavern packed to the bursting point
to the prince
The higher pay rate for the hunters
kicks in tomorrow
the prince is writing everything down
the higher wage rate
for the woodcutters
If only we could
hold onto people
to the ministers
They simply leave for the factory
unless you double their pay
It’s been a long time since I found it possible
to reward everybody
I went to school
with most of them
enter Asamer with an armful of firewood in preparation for stoking the stove
How’s it going
Is your wife well again
to the ministers
removal of a goiter
I’ll have you know
a completely bungled operation
to Asamer
How’s your wife
how are her lungs
Sometimes they’re better
sometimes worse
suddenly they’ll up and  give out
Seriously Asamer
is she still coughing

            No General

No General
And your children
to the ministers
you’ve got to ask people about their children
and not only the simple people
first about their wives and then
about their children
They all get good grades
the best grades that children
at that village school have ever gotten
to the ministers as Asamer is stoking the stove
at Christmastime my wife gets them all to memorize and perform
a so-called Christmas     play
Actual angels everything in white you know
And from up above you hear
the voice of the Lord
to Asamer
Your children always recite
the verses beautifully
not one of them has ever forgotten his lines
to the ministers
Then there’s always
a good supper
and presents for the children of course
presents that my wife has selected herself
Before Christmas she drives to town
in the car
and buys things for the children
to Asamer
And how is your leg Asamer
are you going to the doctor
to the ministers
You don’t mess around
with a smoker’s leg
to Asamer
With a smoker’s leg
you’ve got to go regularly
to the doctor
to Asamer
Are you still a sexton

            Yes General

            And a gravedigger too

Yes General
Asamer rises and exits

GENERAL to the ministers
What a fine human being
he’s the last of his kind gentlemen

GENERAL’S WIFE to the ministers and to the prince and princess
Please do eat
please do eat some more
gives the writer a slice of sausage

WRITER with the slice of sausage in his hand
We’re squandering all our time
on a mere idea
that in any case leads to nothing
A human life madam
is ultimately nothing
but a human catastrophe

The butcher’s son
the teacher’s son
the doctor’s son
the woodcutters’ sons
the rangers’ sons
the prince’s children
all memorize
my wife’s verses
the ones she’s written
A Christmas play gentlemen
a full-fledged theatrical play
and there
points at the opposite corner of the room
there in that corner
the presents are laid out
And there’s something individual
for each child
something utterly individual
original gentlemen
The first one of these Christmas plays
was twenty full years ago gentlemen
In that first play
the prince played
a prince
and the princess
a princess

And my husband
spoke the Lord’s lines

The prince’s genuflections
to the king
are still the handsomest genuflections
in living memory
You were fourteen then
to the ministers
It was the mainstay of his mother’s existence
to cook a huge meal at each and every sort of hunting party
and wedding reception
and at each and every sort of funeral
And she used to darn the laundry at the manor houses
and at the castles
to the prince
A colossal estate
that your forebears lost in Bohemia
The princess’s father
was a lieutenant
and was killed in Finland
I knew him when he was still a child
I can still hear his voice
that childlike
that childlike voice
to the princess
During the Corpus Christi procession your father got to carry
the Madonna
That was a special distinction
One time your father fell with the Madonna
and injured his head
A severe head injury I’ll have you know
to the writer
Time has passed over everything
passed over it
passed over it
passed over it
One of the prince’s uncles is the French ambassador in Vienna
and another of the prince’s uncles was an attaché at the French embassy
to the ministers
The prince writes
in his spare time
once in a while he reads from them
to my wife
Everybody here writes
to the writer
Would it be fair of me to say that
what you write
is always thoroughly philosophical
Even though you describe it as comedy
Or would it be fairer
of me to say
that what you write is comedy
whereas you yourself maintain
it’s actually philosophy
Everybody who lives here
if he isn’t a woodcutter
he writes
even the rangers write here
I’ll have you know
to the ministers
on the one hand people walk a great deal
on the other hand they write
walking and writing
they divide their time between the two
to the writer
When you were last here you were plumb in the middle
of writing a comedy
or let us rather call it
something you yourself described as a comedy
What you describe as a comedy
I personally don’t regard as a comedy
A comedy is after all quite a hard and fast concept
and what you’re writing has nothing in common with it
What you’re writing
has nothing in common with a comedy
It’s something different from what I think of as a comedy
or even what I think of as a play
to the ministers
A comedy you say
and the whole thing has got nothing in common with a comedy
but one mustn’t discuss concepts
with the writer
A lot of the what you’ve observed here in the hunting lodge
is in this comedy that you’ve written
and also had performed
also had performed mind you
I don’t go to see plays at the theater
I avoid going as a matter of principle
the theater is a repulsive thing
I’m constantly reminded of this repulsiveness
whenever I’m at the theater
although I can’t explain
what this repulsiveness is
but it is repulsive
But perhaps you’re preoccupying yourself with the theater
precisely because you find it repulsive
I find actors revolting
when an actor speaks
I get a headache
My father also loathed actors
a stage performance
gives me nausea
in point of fact I can only tolerate dilettantism at the theater
the suburban stage
Amateur theatricals at private parties do you understand
but not theater
as high art
to the writer
My dear writer
you are practicing a despicable art
my wife admires you
to the ministers
My wife needs a person like him
she’s got no use for hunting
and solitude torments her here
to the writer
You’ll put what you’re seeing here
to the ministers
In a comedy gentlemen
Because our esteemed writer is a comic playwright
Enter the cook with several bottles of wine

Put the wine over there
by the stove
the cook sets the bottles down next to the stove and exits
general’s wife to the general
Anna needs a man
a husband do you understand

GENERAL to the ministers
Be patient gentlemen
Be patient
You want my decision
I have made my decision
to everybody else
These gentlemen say
my illness but of course they mean
my political untrustworthiness
They say my stay at the clinic
My convalescence
they mean my physical frailty do you understand
and they say
the intellectual frailty resulting from this physical frailty
but they mean my political untrustworthiness
They say that I shall be retiring as a man known entirely for his merits
a man distinguished with the highest honors in the land
a banquet hosted by the chancellor etc.
The highest honors
to the ministers
Be patient
You must be patient
one must be patient
Everybody writes here
everybody writes here
Everybody plays cards
or does nothing
or writes
Our writer
is writing a comedy
and every one of us sitting here
will appear in his comedy
The curtain will rise
We’ll be sitting here
and we’ll be a comedy
to the writer
You’re always taking notes
even when it looks as though
you’re not taking notes
You’re listening
attentively listening
and even when you’re looking away
To the ministers
Do you see those interior walls inside his brain
he’s filling it with writing
filling it
a brain full of writing
a brain chock-full of writing
and hence a completely darkened brain
filled with writing with such celerity
that the whole thing has been already written over many times
like a madman
The entire inner surface of his brain
which even he can’t read anymore
to the writer
So make sure you realize that not even you
can read
anything you’ve written down
in your brain anymore
to the ministers
like a madman
And my wife insists
on my inviting
the writer personally
So I write to the writer
with punctilious politeness I’ll have you know
Come my dear sir our esteemed writer
I’ll have you know
we’re having a hunt
the writer
With such celerity in your brain
and with such ruthlessness
which you in your lunacy have written
anyone who behaves like this
is consequently
a certifiably insane individual my dear sirs
to the ministers
A comedy do you hear
A comedy
And if we tear up the whole thing
simply tear it to pieces like a sheet of paper
tear it up
tear the comedy up
to the writer
Isn’t that right
it’ll be gone
torn to pieces

WRITER after the general has clearly said his piece
The people who falter everywhere
because their mind is a line
and the surface of the world
a deformity
We suddenly give up completely
We’ve got to be alone
We are necrotizing
we are dead
as soon as we see a person
with perfect clarity
we see
that he is dead
one existence after another
and what we hear
is something dead
Which is said to us
which we must teach ourselves
constantly teach ourselves and drill into ourselves
in the light of this we must say
there goes a dead person
whenever we see a person
walking by us
If we know anything
we know
that we are dead
to the general’s wife
But naturally we cherish
our opportunities for necrotization
we cherish them
and take notes on them
and publish them
We rely
on death
This person I think
and everything is dead
so we are constantly worried
about meeting this or that person
because then we’ll  see
we are dead
When we wake up we see
that what we’re interested in
is nothing we say nothing to ourselves
Not a human soul
no science
and not the slightest hint of nature
We embark on pursuits that are purely and simply lethal
the prince rises and fetches two bottles of wine from the stove, uncorks the bottles and fills everyone’s glass
We wake up and see
no interests
we make this observation
Because we can take no interest
let’s say
And we have breakfast and get dressed madam
and establish contact
Take refuge in a task madam
pick up an axe
or sit down at a desk
or we hurry to the train station
or we compose something
or we take even more medicine
more and more medicine madam
We wake up feeling a fundamental lack of interest
simply because we’re around other people
or we aren’t
the prince sits down
whether we wake up in town or not
we always wake up in the same uninterested state
we make this observation
because we can’t fall back asleep
and we can’t kill ourselves yet
over and over again not yet
that’s a fact
because we haven’t got the strength to do it
The same people
the same requirements madam
the same relations and processes
which allow us to see quite distinctly madam
that nature
nature in its entirety is nothing but uninterest madam
and illness
and strictly speaking a terminal illness
Each and every day we wake up into our terminal illness
we go to sleep and wake up
in the same terminal illness of nature
and are always in an uninterested state
the rest is lies
this constant incessant walking
in a state of absolute mental and physical unconsciousness
is an undeniable fact
We dread
what we’re going to do
just as we dread
what we’re not going to do
And apart from this there exists entirely in our imagination
the notion that our existence is a bearable existence madam
a notion that allows us to exist
But we don’t talk about it
and when we do talk about it
we talk about it
as though
we were talking
about whatever else we are talking about
not real in any sense
not in any real sense at all madam
We are incessantly talking about something unreal
so that we can tolerate it
put up with it
because we have made our existence into an entertainment mechanism
into nothing but a shabby entertainment mechanism
into an artificial natural catastrophe madam    

GENERAL motionless, staring at the floor with his legs stretched out, echoing the writer
            An artificial natural catastrophe

When we wake up
we observe
that we are suffering
from a weakness of will
because we are basically composed of nothing
but death
we perceive a bearable life
Perceptions madams
we perceive
But the truth is spoken only by the deceased
When I’m in the general’s company
I enjoy hearing some talk about weaponry
especially about ballistics
but he gets stuck on a philosophical subject
In such a situation
no conversation can take place
He wants to talk about literature
about Heinrich von Kleist for example
but I
don’t like talking about it
I’m interested in military science
but he asks me
about my comedy
in this way your husband and I
encounter difficulties immediately
Soon we stop talking completely
Then your husband ends up saying
I’m observing things
This kind of observation madam
Which gradually irritates everybody
The general rises, goes to the record player, puts on a record of the “Haffner” Symphony and returns to his seat, then resumes his previous posture. Very soft music
The concept of guilt is nonsensical madam
If we’re afraid
of description
this is nonsensical
We stage a play for ourselves
a play in which a general is one of the main characters
and this general has a terminal illness
in Stalingrad they tore his left arm off
And one fine day he goes into the forest
and injures himself with his chainsaw
and at the same time he’s diagnosed
with cataracts
And there are also two cabinet ministers madam
who are forcing the general to retire
I imagine I’m watching a hunt
a hunting party
at one of our finest hunting lodges
in a forest completely cut off from the outside world
A privately owned forest just imagine it
Two well-dressed gentlemen are invited to the hunt by the general
and so is a prince
sitting beside the general
the princess
as charming as she is silent
And possibly madam
I take the liberty of letting the bark-beetle be mentioned
Whatever is described gentlemen
is something different
just as whatever is observed is already something different
Everything is different
possibly a philosophy
the general would say
When a one-armed general figures in one of my plays
it’s somebody else
And perhaps madam people will say
I myself am a character in my plays
But it’s somebody else

GENERAL’S WIFE referring to the general
When one is under such enormous strain
as my husband is
such enormous strain
such an important position I’ll have you know
in an age of overwhelming ruthlessness
fills her glass, then the others’
I’ve had a go at learning foreign languages
foreign languages
at studying the natural sciences
spills wine, knocks over a glass, sets it upright again
At teaching myself foreign languages

Every human being is imprisoned in
besotted with
his misfortune
I now know everything about the bark beetle
And about cataracts madam

GENERAL’S WIFE looking through the window
Clear and cold

It’s a clear night
Everyone is looking out through the window; only the general has not changed his posture

PRINCESS after a pause and while looking out through the window longer than the others

And wipe away everything
Nip everything in the bud
wipe away
wipe them away
Thus for two years I preoccupied myself
with wiping away everything
with simply wiping away every budding thing

GENERAL’S WIFE still gazing through the window
            Cold and clear

WRITER pulls his Lermontov out of his waistcoat, opens the book and reads aloud from it:2
The events of that evening produced a somewhat deep
impression upon me
and excited my nerves
I do not know for certain
whether I now
believe in predestination or not
but on that evening I believed in it firmly
The proof was startling
and I notwithstanding that I had laughed at our forefathers and their obliging astrology fell involuntarily
into their way of thinking
However I stopped myself in time from
following that dangerous road
and as I have made it a rule
not to reject anything decisively
and not to trust anything blindly I cast metaphysics aside
and began to look at what was beneath my feet
The precaution was well-timed
I only just escaped stumbling
over something thick and soft
but to all appearance inanimate
I bent down to see what it was
and by the light of the moon which now shone right upon the road
I perceived that it was a pig
which had been cut in two with a sabre
slams the book shut, pours himself some wine; as he is pouring, everybody else apart from the general suddenly bursts out laughing; as the laughter continues the writer starts laughing as well
to the ministers
Lermontov gentlemen
the general rises and goes into the next room; no sooner has he done so than everybody else bursts out laughing again
wipe everything away
do you understand
wipe everything away
emphasizing what he is saying with his right hand
One must liberate oneself
Then all of a sudden
as a natural matter of course this force weakens
Old age do you understand
People sell themselves
safeguard themselves
be it through a scientific discipline
a party
a form of art
everybody suddenly seeks refuge
all of a sudden they convert to Catholicism
or reconvert to Catholicism
to avoid going insane
To persevere in this state of insecurity
of fathomlessness
of licentiousness madam
that’s the thing
to speak this unintelligible language
this single valid unintelligible language
to put up a fight against making oneself intelligible
with a motion of her hand the general’s wife knocks over a glass; leaving the glass knocked over, she pours herself more wine into a new one
Because we have given up
we are human
referring to the general
In recent days
he’s been reminiscing about Paulus
who on the eve of his capture
was appointed field marshal general
because Hitler believed
he would kill himself
but even Paulus preferred life
to immortality

Every time he goes into the forest
and he comes across an animal that’s frozen to death
he thinks of the soldiers who froze to death

Of the thousands and hundreds of thousands of them
Nothing but frozen corpses madam
How fascinating it was to hear
what I heard tell of then
he says
and straight-away
all those faces
I see a limb on the ground
I think it’s an arm
a foot
the head
of a dead man
to the ministers
if you observe the general attentively
it is slowly getting lighter outside
you will realize
that he hasn’t got the slightest hint
of resignation in him
And listen
a general at sixty
to the general’s wife
The thing that made the deepest impression on me
to the ministers
and that expresses his keen intelligence
with extraordinarily unusual clarity
is the chapter
in which the general describes his last meeting
with Field Marshall General Paulus
He has an eye for the dead
because of course death in general
plays an enormous role in his work
he is peculiarly preoccupied with death
profoundly so
His description of the frozen corpses
is in my opinion the most unusual and compelling
vision of death there has ever been
a shot rings out from the next room
The general’s wife jumps up; everybody else rises, looks at the door of the next room.  The prince goes to the door and opens it.  Everybody looks in at the corpse of the general lying in the next room
Enter Asamer and the cook
The writer stops the record player

GENERAL’S WIFE to the cook
Bring the wash basin
the wash basin
the sound of saws and axes being employed in felling the forest begins and becomes ever more intense, ever louder

            Listen madam

            The woodcutters

            How well they’re working

The End

Author’s Note on The Hunting Party

With the exception of the general, who is to wear a general’s uniform, and the writer, all the characters are to be attired in hunting outfits.  The play is in three movements; the last movement is the “slow movement.”


Translator’s Notes:

1.       In a revision made on May 7, 2018, FIRST MINISTER and SECOND MINISTER replace PRIME MINISTER and DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, which are of course both untenable in the light of the general’s reference to a chancellor, although I still like to think of this play as taking place in some country that is not identical to Austria or any other extant German-speaking country in every respect (yes, despite the references to Vienna, the Battle of Stalingrad, etc.).

2.      Here instead of Englishing Bernhard’s German or Lermontov’s Russian I insert the corresponding passage from J.H. Wisdom Marr Murray’s 1916 translation of A Hero of Our Time.

3.      Siebzehnundvier in the original.  Those who find blackjack too evocative of Las Vegas may silently substitute twenty-one.

4.      “Ignore” is my own indisputably disputable guess at the verb the writer has in mind before he trails off (or has his train of thought interrupted by the gunshots).  English word order, in contrast to German, requires this verb to be supplied.


Translation unauthorized but Copyright ©2018 by Douglas Robertson

Source: Thomas Bernhard, Stücke  1 (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1988), pp. 172-249.  

The authorized translation is by Gitta Honegger and was published in Vol. 5, No. 1 of Performing Arts  Journal in 1980. 

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