Friday, October 11, 2019

A Translation of Ein Jahr mit Thomas Bernhard by Karl Ignaz Hennetmair. Part III: March and April

A Year with Thomas Bernhard: The Sealed 1972 Diary

March 3, 1972

Thomas has been “missing” for five days.  He isn’t even at the Krucka in Reindlmühl.  When I fetched cider from Thomas’s cellar on Tuesday, I left the key to the gate in such a position that I’d be sure of noticing if anybody touched the key.  Because as of today it hadn’t been touched yet, at 5:30 p.m. I decided to call Thomas’s Aunt Stavianicek in Vienna.  Because it’s more than high time that I notify Thomas that Radax will be coming to Nathal on Saturday, at 2:00 p.m.  Mrs. Stavianicek answers the phone and says that Thomas is lying on the couch right next to her.  But she says that he isn’t sleeping, that he can speak with me right away.
Thomas tells me that on Monday he had suddenly decided to go to Vienna, and that he had been planning to tell me that at midday.  I tell him that the neighbor saw him, and about my phone conversation with Radax.  Thomas has spoken with him himself in the meantime.  Then I just say: thank God; I’d been worried Radax would come for nothing.  Thomas says he took off so fast on Monday that he left the laundry hanging on the clothesline outside.  I’m supposed to bring in the clothes.  He says he’ll be coming on Monday.  

March 5, 1972

Dr. Peter Fabjan comes over from Wels.  He’s come straight from Nathal and picked up some tires stored there.  He asks about Thomas and is glad that he isn’t here.  I offer Peter some of Thomas’s cider.  Then he say: No, thank you, I just washed my hands with cider from Thomas’s cellar, because I’d gotten dirty from the tires.  But please don’t tell Thomas about it.  Peter is terribly disconcerted by the fact that Thomas told me about their recent quarrel.  The tension between them is easing up.

March 7, 1972

Thomas still hasn’t come back from Vienna.  Today I received a letter from Governor Erwin Wenzel, which I’m enclosing.
Linz, March 3, 1972
Dear Mr. Hennetmair!

First of all, I wish to apologize for the tardiness of this reply to your communication of January 24, 1972.  But it was necessary to get in touch with the Department of Culture in connection with the subject you raised, whence the delayed response.
I can assure you that the Upper-Austrian State Government has an extraordinarily high regard for the author Thomas Bernhard and that it is always prepared to assist this artist.  Admittedly, in the specific case of the Adalbert Stifter Prize, there are admittedly certain directives that not even the Upper-Austrian State Government can circumvent.  According to the current statutes the nomination of candidates for receipt of the prize is to be made by a jury empaneled by the Austrian State Government.  But I have asked the Director of the Department of Culture to inform the gentlemen of the jury of your petition, I can readily imagine that the jury is thoroughly prepared to confer the prize on Bernhard.  The reason that he has not yet received the prize is not that he has been regarded as unworthy of such a distinction, but rather that Bernhard has after all received a more important prize virtually every year.

I thank you once again for your suggestion and urge you to continue attentively following cultural events in our State.

Yours with sincere regards,
Dr. Wenzl  

In the afternoon I drive to Nathal; the key still hasn’t been touched.  I step into the courtyard and check the mail that’s been thrown in there.  It includes a request to pick up a registered letter from Vienna.  At about 5:00 I call Aunt Hede in Vienna.  She offers to call Thomas.  I decline the offer; I just want to know if he’s ill and when he’s coming back.  Thomas is well and will be coming back the day after tomorrow.  I ask her to give Thomas my regards and say I’ve only got unimportant mail for him.  He mustn’t be disturbed by news of the registered letter. 

March 9, 1972

At 11:30 in the morning I drive to Nathal with my wife.  The gate is open; he arrived about a quarter of an hour ago.  All the doors and windows are open; he hasn’t lighted the heating stove yet.  I tell him about the letter from Governor Wenzl and the letter from Barbara Peymann.  We invite him to have lunch with us 30 minutes later.
Thomas comes over and stays till 2:30 p.m.  He says that the contracts at the Burgtheater were signed a long time ago and that the deals with the actors etc. have already been sealed.  A cancellation would cost a hundred thousand schillings.  But he has managed to get them to agree to hire a different director.  What’s more, quite a number of performances have been scheduled, and a friend said to him: be prudent; you stand to make 350,000 schillings if these performances take place.
At 7:00 Thomas comes over for dinner.  We have a magnificently entertaining chat, and at 9:45 we watch the broadcast about Guido Zernatto.  At 11:00 Thomas drives back to Nathal.  He also told me that for the electric heating he was only going to be allowed to have 6 kw instead of the 40 kw he had requested.  He plans to have the workers get started in about a fortnight.  At 7:00 we remembered the celebratory dinner party in Marl that he was supposed to be in attendance at then.  Radax flew first class to Marl, because it was an-all-expenses-paid trip.  He’s going to stop by Nathal on his way back. He’ll make a pitch for the dubbing there.

March 10, 1972

Thomas comes over for dinner at 7:00 in the evening.  We are planning to chat by ourselves until 10:30 and then watch the first German channel’s broadcast about the awarding of the Grimme Prize.  By then Thomas has told me among other things that he made the acquaintance of André Heller, or, to put it better, failed to make his acquaintance.  He was sitting with a female friend in a coffeehouse when André Heller came into the restaurant.  Her face beaming with joy, the friend said to Heller: “Allow me to introduce you to Thomas Bernhard.” Heller said, “I don’t give a toss about Thomas Bernhard,” turned around, and left the restaurant.  Well, so now I know André Heller, said Thomas.  Thomas also ran into Kruntorad in Vienna, and Kruntograd strongly encouraged him to let his play A Party for Boris be performed at the Burgtheater.  Furthermore, during his most recent visit to Vienna, Thomas read Mrs Kaschnitz’s memoirs, because in them she mentions that he was with her at a reading in Frankfurt six years ago.  Later we watch the broadcast about the Grimme Prize.  Thomas finds Höfer execrable; Wiebel spoke very well; the Grimme awardees were given short shrift; even their names were barely mentioned; Vandenberg and Radax were onscreen for just a few seconds.  Thomas said he was now quite glad he hadn’t gone there.  He still hasn’t received a reply to his most recent letter to the execrable Donnepp, who was seen onscreen a few times.  At midnight Thomas drove back home.

March 11, 1972

Now that the cost of the installation of the new heating system has gone down a great deal and his Italian has been broadcast a second time in Germany, a broadcast for which he has received another 5,000 marks, Thomas has been urging me to find him some lot of land with a selling price of up to 200,000 shillings.  We met to discuss this at the post office at 7:45 in the morning.  We agreed that in the afternoon in Reindlmühl I would inform Thomas of the results of my inquiries about the availability of purchasable land.  I told Thomas that I wasn’t going to be picking up the mail until a quarter-past eight because I had phone calls to make, etc.

As I was about to leave the post office at about a quarter-past eight, Thomas came in and said he had read his mail in the meantime.  In the afternoon he’s got to receive a visitor from Salzburg, so he’ll only be staying in Reindlmühl until midday; in the afternoon he’ll be at Nathal.  If you’re going to have company, I don’t want to disturb you, I say.  But he says: No, no, come anyway; I want to learn what you’ve found out. 

In the afternoon I visit Thomas.  His visitor, the Countess von Axel Corti, is sitting on the bench in the courtyard.  I say: It’s impossible to do this so quickly; I can’t say yes or no to your questions; come by this evening.  It’s 3:00 sharp, and he asks if he can come by as early 4:00, an hour from now.  He says this while taking a sidelong glance at his visitor.  Presumably the visit is lasting too long for his liking.  But I’ve got no time and don’t cotton to this proposal.  We end up agreeing on his visiting me at 7:00 p.m.

Thomas is so eager to hear what I’ve got to report to him that throughout the “Zeit im Bild” evening news program he keeps apologetically turning to me and saying: Tell me such and such a thing in more detail.  He’s completely fixated on the idea of buying a good piece of land for up to 200,000 schillings.  But an inspection tour won’t be possible until the middle of next week, because on my end some further negotiations with the sellers are going to be necessary.  Thomas urges me to hurry, but I can’t possibly move any faster, because of course I’ll drive the price through the roof myself if I’m too pushy.

It’s still an amusing evening, and Thomas doesn’t drive home until 11:00.  Among other things, he says there are far too few “genuinely good execrable people,” but far too many nice, good, weak ones.

(In the afternoon I borrow Thomas’s chainsaw, etc.) 

March 12, 1972

Quite contrary to his habitual practice, Thomas comes to see me on a Sunday.  He stays from 6:30 in the evening till almost 11:00.  He nags me to scare up any old promising piece of land.  We also spend some time sitting in front of the television, and when some guy onscreen says he’s “overwhelmed” he says: it’s also possible to understand him as being overwhelmed.  (Overproduction) That’s true of a lot of people. All children that their parents didn’t want to have are “overwhelming.”  I simply take this literally.        

March 13, 1972

For the past seven years Monday evening has generally been the evening we spend together at my house.  Thomas comes over at 7:00 and stays till 10:30.  Since on Tuesday evening I’m going to have meetings with people to discuss the properties he’s interested in, meetings that could last till 10:00, I ask Thomas not to visit me on Thursday evening, because I’m going to have a busy day.  But we agree to go for a ride to inspect the properties on Wednesday the 15th.  I’m going to pick Thomas up for that ride at 7:45 in the morning in Nathal.

March 15, 1972

At 7:45 I drive with Thomas to the post office.  This time only part of the mail is there; a mail bus is running late, and we’ll be getting something more later on.  The finest and most promising piece of land, 19,000 square meters of south-facing slope in Grossalm, he finds execrable in the extreme.  For two hours straight he lambasts me.  It’s incredible how many things he criticizes.  Everything in sight, from trees to boundary stones, the view of Hochlecken—everything is ghastly, an imposition.  I’ve apparently confused him with some stupid German who’s fallen in love with the view.  Even so, he would consider buying this spot for 70,000 schillings, but not for the asking price of 171,000 schillings.  Afterwards we visit the estate called Kaltenbach in Grossalmstrasse near Altmünster.  Thomas only comes along to hear my “verdict,” because about a million schillings are being asked for this piece of property.  But there are only about eight hectares of shabby, shady land there. But there it also comes to light that the Austrian government’s forestry has made an offer of eight schillings per square meter of the property.  Because the Austrian government is paying such a rock-bottom price, Thomas sees the price of nine schillings per square meter for land on the sunny side with better access etc. in another, more favorable light.  But I take no notice of this and change the subject of the conversation to the owner’s children and dog.
Yesterday I didn’t pick up the reply to my bid to the “dauber,” so that he got a “shock” when I, the expected buyer, didn’t show up.  Thomas wants to go see him now.  In any case, Schmid, as the “dauber” actually calls himself, has gotten over the shock by now; he’d like to know what the answer is.  I’ve offered him 25,000 schillings for 4,000 square meters, and Schmid can hold onto the trees that are ready for felling.

It is clear to us that we aren’t going to be meeting with Schmid, but I manage to schedule an appointment with his wife for the evening.  Thomas gives me bits of advice on how I should negotiate and what I should say.  Among other things, he says that I’ve got to point out to him that the survey for the partition of these 4,000 square meters has already cost more than 6,000 schillings.  You see, the seller, Schmid, held onto these 4,000 square meters after the sale of the Krucka, and Thomas would have to pay 6,200 schillings for this survey.  He really wants me to make sure I mention this during the meeting.  Then I circle back to the fact that after the visit to the Kaltenbach estate Thomas upbraided me for having talked too long about the children and the dog.  Now I can tell you why I do that.  Whenever I’ve talked about children and dogs, I’ve won the game right away.  Because people won’t let me get into bed with them, but they will let their dog into their bed.  Accordingly you can never go wrong if you have that kind of conversation with people.  Because I’m obviously not some kind of baker, who starts selling his hotcakes and his bread there and is an immediate hit.  But what’s just as important about that kind of conversation is the fact that while I’m having it I can mull over what’s good and what’s bad, what’s being said about “business.”  Just now you’ve given me some really stupid advice, to say that the surveyor cost 6,000 schillings.  Even if at the moment it looks like a good idea to mention this, it can destroy absolutely everything.  And in order to recognize the right time to mention it and to think things over, I need the “chinwag about the kids.”  Because if I say that the surveyor costs 6,000 schillings for 4,000 square meters, it’s possible that the seller or his spouse will bury their face in their hands and scream: What, are we supposed to sell this piece of land for 25,000 schillings when the survey has already cost 6,000 schillings? Thomas admitted I was right straight-away.  When you’re offering 25,000 schillings for a piece of land, you can’t say that the survey has cost 6,000 schillings.

At noon we were back in Nathal.  But because he had already run me close enough to ragged for the day, I asked him not to come that evening.  I’ve also got a lot of other things to take care of in the evening.  And so I’ll come to him with his mail at 8:15 tomorrow morning.  I’ll brief him further then, because I’m still intending to negotiate with the “dauber,” etc.
Meanwhile Thomas has looked into his disused pigsty to see if any further mail has arrived there.  I’m already sitting in the car and ready to drive away when Thomas walks up with an express letter from his publishing firm.  He says: It’s a rare event when I receive an express letter from my publisher.  I’m curious to see whether it’s auspicious or inauspicious.  Then I say: Tomorrow morning I’ll tell you what happened at the “dauber’s,” and you’ll tell me whether the letter was auspicious or inauspicious, and drive off.

My afternoon is being wasted in recuperating from the stresses of dealing with Thomas, and I’ve also written everything above in the full heat of my rage.

March 16, 1972

Because the local postman has mistakenly only brought me my own mail, I’ve got to follow the postman back to the district post office to fetch Thomas’s mail and don’t get to Thomas’s house till half-past eight in the morning.  He says to me: I couldn’t imagine your not showing up punctually.  I’ve already locked up the house, and I’m driving to Reindlmühl right now.  Today is such a lovely day.  Get a load of this:  only yesterday afternoon I was in Freilassing.  The express letter from my publisher shared with me the news that I could withdraw 10,000 marks from the bank in Freilassing.  Of course I immediately did just that. 
I told Thomas that the “dauber” isn’t going to sell his woodlands.  That if he does, it won’t be until three or four years from now at the earliest.  Whereupon Thomas insists on our yet again inspecting Asamer’s patch of woodlands adjacent to Thomas’s property in Nathal right away.  I really must see to it that Asamer sells the woods.  Now he would even pay 150,000 schilling for them.  I say: Fine, let’s take a look at those woods.  But yesterday after I was turned down by the “dauber” I immediately thought that now you’d want to have Asamer’s woods, and so I went on to speak with Asamer along those lines at eight o’clock last night.  Naturally not in a nagging sort of way, but as incidentally as possible.  But at the moment he’s not ready to sell.  Thomas says that I must inform him that he’s willing to pay him the entire purchasing price right now regardless of when the transfer will be officially recorded in the land registry.  I tell Thomas that if Asamer is there, I won’t do that until I can use it as a way of spreading ca. 200,000 schillings’ worth of manure on the fields.  (That won’t be possible until May.)

After our inspection of the woods, Thomas drives to Riendlmühl, to the Krucka, and I ask him to come see me at 7:00 p.m.  When Axel Corti is then mentioned on television in the evening, he says: He’s making a good impression on me.  He’ll certainly do that well at the Burgtheater.  Of course his wife, who’s from Salzburg, was at my house this week.  You remember her, of course—my afternoon visitor.  When the crash of the 151st Starfighter plane was reported on on the news magazine show, Thomas sings: “Merle, Thrush, Finch, and Starfighter…[here B. quotes the lyrics of a popular children’s song, substituting Starfighter for Star {i.e., starling} (DR)].”  Then we chat with Granny and Mum until 10:00.  Thomas says that tomorrow he’ll be driving to Vienna first thing in the morning, because Aunt Hede has got to go back into the hospital.  Today he received from her a postcard announcing that she was planning to take a trip to Opatija; now that’s not going to happen.  But Thomas plans to be back here by Sunday evening.  Then he plans to come straight to my house, because he’ll want to learn whether I’ve scared up anything to buy.  Once again he starts giving me bits of advice on this.  They’re all the things he’s picked up from watching me for ten years.  A lot of what he says is taken directly from what I’ve told him about how to approach business matters.

Thomas also tells me again about the bombing raid that he survived as a boy when he was picking blueberries with several women near Traunstein.  The women prayed aloud to Heaven with their hands raised skyward as the bombs were falling.  They could distinctly see the bombs being dropped, and so they all leapt into the bushes and loudly prayed.  But because in the process the women had torn their dresses to bits, Thomas couldn’t help loudly laughing as they were all praying.  After the bombs had exploded, some farmers came up; they had seen that the blueberry-pickers had taken cover where the bombs had fallen and couldn’t believe that they were still alive.  But quite nearby there were some large craters, and only dirt, wood, and splinters had fallen on the women.  This hail of debris and the clouds of smoke after the explosion had naturally made them all say afterwards that it was a miracle that nobody had been injured.  Because they were all covered in rubble.
Towards 10:00 p.m. Thomas said goodbye until Sunday.  He has absolutely no desire to see for a second time the Radax film that’s about to be shown, because he says it’s really awful, even though Radax won the Grimme Prize for it as well at the time.  So prizes issued by adult education centers obviously aren’t worth very much, said Thomas.  He was referring to Konrad Bayer and “I Am the World, and That’s My Business,” a docudrama directed by Ferry Radax.

March 17, 1972

On our way back from Linz, my wife and I visited Thomas in Nathal at about 6:00 in the evening.  He shows us where the electric stove is being installed and how the rooms are being fitted out and converted.  After a half an hour, we left Thomas and asked him to come see us in about thirty minutes.

At 7:00 Thomas walked in.  This is always a good time, because now we can still have supper before the news.  After the news we sat around until nearly 11:00.  I told Thomas that I had received a ton of books from my aunt in Linz today.  I left more than half of them there because I didn’t know the value of the books.  I only took the “Nazi books.”  From the Karawanks to Crete, published by the high command of the Wehrmacht, or The German House Book, published by the culture division of the propaganda department of the NSDAP.  Also All Rivers in Bohemia Flow to Germany, Germans at War in Spain and The Farmers’ Child by Springenschmid.  The inside of the Springenschmid book is stamped “The German Women’s Welfare Association.”  At the sight of “Women’s Welfare Association” Thomas flies into a rage.  I never got more boxes to the ears or less to eat anywhere than at the Women’s Welfare Association.  I lived in one of the Women’s Welfare Association’s hostels in Thüringia when I was about eleven years old.  They boxed my ears so long that I turned into a bed-wetter.  Then early next morning in the breakfast room during breakfast they openly showed everybody my soiled bedclothes.   To this day I can scarcely believe that my mother put me in that place. But I have even more trouble forgiving her for having left me there when she knew full well what was going on there.  That’s why to this day I can’t let anybody get away with yammering on to me about the Women’s Welfare Association and other sanctimonious stuff from the Nazi period.  Because those hypocritical female champions of “welfare” brought me up on nothing but boxes to my ears.
Thomas once again reminds me that I absolutely must scare up something for him when he parts company with me at just before 11:00.

March 19, 1972

Shortly before 7:00 p.m. Thomas walks in to watch the news.  After the main news magazine program was over we weren’t interested in any other programs and amused each other with our own conversation.  On Friday I brought back for Thomas from Linz two beautiful rustic schnapps decanters along with their accompanying sets of six shot glasses.  Today I presented him with them.  He was crazy about the glass stoppers and about the irregular shapes of the little schnapps jugs.  Thomas is expecting the electricians for the installation job to show up on Monday and Tuesday, and he asks me to drop in a couple of times to see how the work is going.  After 10:00 Thomas drives home.

March 20, 1972

As I stepped through the front door at Nathal, Stadlbauer the Laakirchen electrician’s firm’s van was just driving off.  Thomas greeted me agitatedly and told me to get a load of this fine mess.  The men just left without saying goodbye because he simply couldn’t take another minute of watching the work being done so lousily.  He said that the men couldn’t even use a chisel properly, that they’d kept unfastening the door frame with their impossibly incompetent chiseling.

I only stayed till 6:00, because after listening to him bellyache for an hour I’d had enough.  But Thomas was right about each and every detail.  He actually understood everything better than the so-called craftsmen.  I invited him to come to my house at 7:00.  Because Granny isn’t there, I said, I’m going to have to light the stove myself so that we can stay warm.  I promised him a good supper and asked him to be punctual because I myself was already quite hungry.

When at five minutes past seven Thomas still hadn’t shown up, I decided to intercept him in my car, because he was planning to come on foot, so that he could pass the time till seven more agreeably.  But as I was walking to my car, Thomas arrived from Gmunden in his own.  He couldn’t stand being at home anymore, he said, and had then driven to Gmunden and bought himself a late Biedermeier desk for 11,000 schillings.  He closely inspected it once again and then took it as it was.  When I tell Thomas that I’ll be driving to Vienna at two in the morning, he asks me to give his aunt a call from Vienna to brief her on his problems, give her his regards, and ask her how she’s doing.  In the light of my early departure for Vienna, Thomas drives home at 9:00.

March 21, 1972

As my meeting with Dr. Michael Stern in Vienna was already over by 6:00 a.m., after it I drove straight back to Weinberg without calling Thomas’s aunt.  Because I didn’t want to disturb her so early in the morning.  I also told Thomas this as soon as I got back and invited him to my house to watch his program “At Home with Thomas Bernhard.” For days he’s been saying that he fears the worst about it.  He only let the crew get as far as the hallway, and apart from that he had wired to withdraw his consent to filming years ago, so that the telegram had arrived in Vienna earlier than the two people from the ministry of education to whom he had given consent.

At the beginning of the program, as details of his biography were being read out, he said that back then he was incredibly young and believed he had to represent himself as such a wretched creature so that people would pay attention to him.  Today, Thomas says, he can no longer put up with hearing that he was a garbage man and looked after a seventy-year-old woman.  But I wrote that, and I’ll have to keep hearing it for the rest of my life.  But they should at least also say that I wrote it when I was about twenty years old.  But the way they presented it, it sounds as though I’d only just written it.

After the end of the program, Thomas says that there was nothing embarrassing in it, that he’s glad that it slipped by so painlessly.  Because they could have included some truly awful footage that would have done him no good, because he really was quite rude to those people. 

Thomas stayed till just before 11:00, and we agreed to watch The Italian at my house tomorrow.  To that end, Thomas is supposed to come for supper at 7:00, and between the end of the news and the beginning of the broadcast of the film at 9:20 we plan not to watch any television so that our ability to take in the film won’t be impaired.

March 22, 1972

At four in the afternoon I visit Thomas for an hour.  Things are looking much better inside the house; the work is drawing towards its conclusion.  Ferdl is already done with the “dusting,” and Thomas has removed most of the debris and dirt himself.  At 7:00 he’s here for dinner, and, as previously discussed, we watch The Italian at 9:20. Thomas is satisfied with the adaptation; he says that one couldn’t ask for anything more from Radax.  Radax hasn’t got anything more to give; this constitutes his highest achievement.  I fundamentally disagree with Thomas, because I’m familiar with all the “takes” and can justly say that the best ones were by no means always selected from the available stock of shot film.  I said that the film was by no means boring but that many of its good scenes would have been better if they’d lasted only five to ten seconds, that a lot scenes should have been tightened up a great deal.  Thomas sticks by Radax; I insist that I’m going to remonstrate with Radax, and indeed in great detail; that he did a better job directing than editing and that he should have gotten more out of the available material.  Thomas says that during the editing Radax was perhaps too much under the influence of [Martin] Wiebel [from IFAGE].  This discussion dragged on until almost 1:30 in the morning.

During my afternoon visit at Nathal Thomas showed me the Grimme Prize.  A fantastically impossible pedestal that can’t stand on its own but that can’t be fitted into the socket into which it’s supposed to fit either.  Falkenberg accepted the prize for him and also sent him the pedestal.

24 March 1972
I am in the process of selling off a few old picture frames.  Thomas has been aware of the frames for a very long time but has always written them off as rubbish.  I drive to Nathal to show him the frames one more time just in case before they’re gone.  Thomas is in the middle of whitewashing his house.  Rochelt and the Hufnagls have announced they’ll be stopping by in the afternoon, and so he and Ferdl have thrown themselves into a big work project so that they’ll see right away that he’s got no time for them.  They’re coming on account of the environmental protection activity that’s taking place near Altmünster tomorrow, Friday [In 1972 the 25th actually fell on a Saturday (DR)].
I set up the four picture frames in his kitchen and quote him a price of 960 schillings, a quote that doesn’t include the inscription on one of the frames [Presumably an engraved inscription on some sort of detachable plate (DR)], which Thomas finds worthless.  I tell Thomas that tomorrow I’m going to sell these frames on commission to Menzel in Salzburg.  Then Thomas says: These are exactly the sorts of picture frames I’ve been looking for for years; not a single one of them is ever going to leave my house again.  I’ll take the lot; here, I’m giving you 800 schillings for them.  Not a penny less than 960 schillings, I insist.  In Salzburg I’d be just as hardline, because they’re a steal.  Just take a look; where else are you going to get something like this?  Then Thomas hands me the 960 schillings and says, help yourself to the inscription on the frame, but at least let me keep my head.  You’re really fleecing me; I don’t expect this kind of thing from you.
So the deal is done; Thomas has got a lot of work to do; the Hufnafgls could walk in at any moment, and I tell Thomas I’d like to visit him again towards eight o’clock, because as far as I can see, he’s going to be busy until then.  At 8:00 I run into Thomas in the hallway when he’s on his way to the bathroom.  He says, I’ve got to go upstairs to visit with the Hufnagls.  They’re up in the vestibule; the heating cycle’s been running for a few hours already; it’s already quite warm.  Up there I find Mr. and Mrs. Hufnagl and Hans Rochelt’s girlfriend, whose name is Irina David.  The conversation centers on tomorrow’s press conference and gala in Altmünster.  I agree to attend with my spouse.  After an hour, at about 9:00, Thomas and his guests drive to Gmunden; I drive home.

March 25, 1972
At 8:00 a.m. I run into Thomas at the Ohlsdorf post office.  Thomas tells me that later on yesterday they all got together with the state assemblyman and mayor of Altmünster, Dr. Scheuba, and that he promised to come.  Naturally he has no interest in this gala, and I’m supposed to excuse him for his absence.  On account of urgent work projects; you know the drill.  But of course I’m not an idiot and I’ll attend that kind of function.  By the way, Thomas added, what’s the matter with you; are you taking some kind of pills, or what the hell else is it that’s making you seem so different than usual to me?  How am I different than usual?  I ask.  I can’t exactly say, but you seem different than usual; you’ve never been like this.  Then we say our goodbyes.

March 27, 1972

At 8:00 a.m. I meet up with Thomas at the Ohlsdorf post office.  He takes great interest in the fact that since we last met I’ve scrounged up a house for Peymann in Pfaffstätt.  He’s planning to visit me in the evening.
Thomas shows up at 7:00 p.m. He tells me that he’s been in Wörgl with Hufnagl the architect.  Hufnagl’s got a school under construction there.  He’s also been in Wildschönau.  He says that it’s really terrible there, that he imagined its being a different sort of place.  I apologize to Thomas for not having been able to call his aunt in Vienna, because I was already finished with Dr. Stern at 6:00 a.m., and by 10:00 I was already back in Wels.  I didn’t want to call his aunt so early in the morning.  Thomas wanted to know whether she had yet scheduled an appointment at the hospital and how she was doing in general.
Thomas stayed until 10:30.  He also read my letter to Mrs. Peymann.

March 28, 1972

Thomas is housebound because since yesterday he’s had the workers for the installation of the electrical heating in his house.  I visit him several times over the course of the day, and in the evening he’s glad that he can discuss his problems with the electricians with me.  Among other omissions they forgot to install the cable with the outgoing day-current along with the one for the outgoing night-current.  Ferdl had already dusted the outlet; they wanted to make another outlet in another place and do even more damage to the look of the house.  Additionally, Thomas noticed just in the nick of time that the thermostat was about to be installed in the wrong place.
Thomas stayed until about 10:00 p.m.

March 29, 1972

I visit Thomas several times over the course of the day, because he asked me to stop by when the workers were in the house.  The installers were doing a better job.  In fact, they might even have fitted everything together by then, and the house was already quite warm.
Since I’ve got my weekly gym session this evening, Wednesday evening, we agree that I’ll come to see him on Thursday morning to plan a trip to Pfaffstätt on Friday, Good Friday.  I’ve promised to drop by between ten and eleven.

March 30, 1972

At 11 o’clock, when I arrive at Nathal, Thomas has made so much headway with his “domestic laborers” that he says: If you’ve got the time we can leave for Pfaffstätt anytime this afternoon.  I say sure.  We take off at 1:45, but in my car. 
Then in the afternoon Thomas and I drive to Mattighofen via Vöcklabruck, Strasswalchen.  There we take a look around the market and walk around the church, which is surrounded by its churchyard.  We both buy a copy of the Wochenpresse, because Thomas already knows that there’s a good review of his work The Italian in it.
When Thomas sees that it’s only 38 km from Mattighofen to Salzburg, he says that Mattighofen would be quite manageable in terms of distance for the Peymanns.  When we get to Pfaffstätt, Thomas is wildly enthusiastic about the lodgings I’ve scared up.  It’s been ages since I stopped being able to put with this kind of overwhelming approval from him.  The house, the garden, the stable, all the rooms were unlocked, and we walked through the entire house.  As we stepped into the house, Thomas said he missed my loud shout of “Hello!” because I’m in the habit of shouting that out when I walk in like that.  I said that that would be pointless, that sure, the house was unlocked but that certainly nobody was in the house.  And it’s probably even been a fairly long time since anybody was last in the house, because the chickens are standing and looking hungry at the door to the stable.  When the chickens are standing by the door like that, nobody’s at home.  I’m surprised the doors haven’t been locked.  I showed Thomas all the rooms and led him through the whole house.  When we were back walking in the street, we asked a lady where the woman who owned the house was.  She’s working at the tavern, she said, but her nine-year-old son should be at home.  We passed through the garden once again, because Thomas was so enthusiastic about every little thing in the house that he said he was going to write to Peymann.  There’s absolutely no need for them to see the house beforehand; if they won’t take it they can get stuffed.

Then we went to the tavern.  There we were hit straight in the face by a fearsome stench.  The dining room with its ancient furniture was empty.  A hallway took us to a miserable hole of a room in which six women were crammed together in a tight space and mechanically plucking chickens.  The table was piled high with mountains of guts, and the chickens were being passed from hand to hand.  The woman stuck with doing the actual plucking was Mrs. Bamberger, who we wanted to speak with.  When Mrs. Bamberger caught sight of me, she shook a few buckets of water onto her rubber dress and took off her rubber boots.  On account of the stench, Thomas and I walked to an exit gate via the hallway and stepped out into the open air.  But even out there it wasn’t any better.  Right there in plain view next to the building hundreds of chicken-heads were piled up against a chicken-decapitating machine.  Thomas said: This is all much more disgusting and appalling than anyone could ever describe.  Those six women in that tiny room—it’s the sort of thing you never still come across nowadays.  This whole operation is obviously illegal and in violation of the health regulations.

Mrs. Bamberger eventually came outside without her rubber dress.  But on account of the stench I said the deal was perfect.  I’ve spoken by phone with Peymann; they’ll take the rooms no matter what.  She’s just got to set up some beds wherever she thinks is best.  The large room that she uses herself and that she’s willing to swap for a smaller one won’t be needed.  We don’t want to impose so much work on her.  We told her we had inspected the unlocked house.  She wasn’t surprised that her son had left without locking it up.  There are still places, I say to Thomas, where people leave their houses unlocked when they go away.  You know, I don’t allow my own house to be locked up during the day.  Even when my people aren’t in the house but in the garden.  Things are hardly ever stolen from unlocked houses.  Usually all the houses in the entire village are left that way, and because everybody notices a stranger right away, it would be hard for anybody to steal anything.  
Thomas was bursting with enthusiasm for Mrs. Baumberger.  He says he couldn’t imagine a better landlady.  On the way back we take a route that leads from Salzburg to Mattsee to Köstendorf, then take Federal Highway 1 to Vöcklabruck and finally Weinberg.  Because I had relished my Maundy Thursday lunch of spinach with sunny side-up eggs, I wanted to offer Thomas the same meal for dinner.  He said he had eaten the same thing for lunch at the tavern.  So we switched to omelets.  But we promised each other to eat spinach with sunny side-up eggs more often, because it tastes so good.  Thomas stayed until 10:00 p.m. and couldn’t stop raving about the great lodgings in Pfaffstäft.
Thomas also said that he would pick up the butter he’d ordered at the Krucka, that he wasn’t really expecting any visitors for Easter, but that first thing Tuesday he’d be going to Vienna to visit his aunt in the hospital.  He added that we’d see each other before then.

April 4, 1972

At 8:00 in the morning I run into Thomas at the Ohlsdorf post office.  Thomas walks up to me and says: I was hoping to run into you here; otherwise I would have driven straight to your house.  I spent the long holiday weekend lying in bed with a fever, Thomas says.  I left the gate open each day and was hoping you’d come by.  I told him I’d assumed he might visit Wolfsegg for Easter.  Because then Count Saint Julien’s entire family is there at one time, so he could take care of his required yearly visit to all of them in one trip.  I thought he’d take advantage of the cheerful atmosphere of such days over cakes and coffee, not only there but maybe somewhere else as well.  It never occurred to me to drive over, because no matter what, I wasn’t expecting to find him at home.  And even if you were at home you presumably would have had a visitor, and you know I don’t like to disturb you then as a matter of principle.  Yes, says Thomas, I was hoping you’d stop by and there were no visitors here, and whenever you see that the gate is open and that are no visitors here, you can walk right in, as you of course do at other times.  So I didn’t have a single visitor or anyone to lend me a hand.  Then I said, you’re coming straight home with me.  I’ve got to take Granny to Dr. Beck’s office; after that I’ll take you straight back to my house.  You won’t need to wait; Granny has announced that she’ll be coming and can get in there ahead of schedule.  They’ll tell the doctor that she’s got to see her right away.  Thomas immediately agreed to this arrangement.

We paid our visit to the doctor’s office and then drove to the pharmacy.  Thomas was hoarse and could hardly speak.  Thomas’s cold syrup had to be specially prepared and wouldn’t be ready to be picked up from the pharmacy until 5:00 p.m.  Given that Thomas had felt so well during our trip to Pfaffstätt on Maundy Thursday, I was quite surprised that  he was so ill now.  My mother saw Thomas and said: You’ve lost your calves.  That’s right, said Thomas; they’re lying in my bed.  He really looked quite enfeebled.  Then in the evening I brought him the syrup from the pharmacy and was at his house from 6:00 to 7:00.  We agreed that I’d come to him with his mail at 8:15 a.m.

April 5, 1972

As agreed, I come to Thomas’s house with the mail.  While I’m there I can report to him that Asamer is now prepared to sell him the woods adjoining his lot in Nathal.  I told Asamer that I’d be bringing him the money and finalizing the sale no later than tomorrow.  But, I added, Asamer will be at home all day today because it’s raining. Thomas’s hasn’t got a trace of fever, but his voice is even hoarser than the day before.  And so I suggest my driving him to the bank to withdraw the money for Asamer tomorrow.  But Thomas is so greedily eager to get hold of the woods, as he has been since the autumn, that he says that maybe tomorrow he’ll be feeling worse than today, that I’ve got to drive him to the bank right away, and that he’d like to get the whole business settled immediately.  He types the necessary sales contract himself on his typewriter, and so we drive first to the bank and then to Asamer’s place in Ohlsdorf.

The deal takes place in accordance with my plans.  The whole thing takes lasts until shortly before noon.  I stop by my house with Thomas in order to brief my wife. 

At Asamer’s Thomas drank nothing but a cup of tea, marjoram tea, and when my wife asks me, have you invited Thomas to have lunch with us? I can only say: He can’t eat anything; nothing tastes good to him; he’s just that sick.  Thomas asks me to make sure to take the contract to Dr. Meingast this afternoon.   At Asamer’s Thomas also immediately pays me the 4, 500 schillings he’s promised me for brokering the sale.  There’s still a lot more I can achieve for that money, he says.  But my achievement didn’t consist in also driving to Dr. Meingast’s office after the sealing of the deal, but rather in knowing the most auspicious moment for the sale.  Back in the autumn I was already saying to Thomas: the only time, if ever, when the sale can take place will be when the farmers are fertilizing their fields.  At a time like that even a farmer as well-situated as Asamer may need cash.
In the evening, after I had delivered the contract to Dr. Meingast, I was back at Thomas's house for about an hour.

I promised to bring him his mail at 8:15 a.m. again tomorrow.  Thomas asked me to bring him some newspapers as well.  But since I didn’t have anything to do in Gmunden, Thomas was content with having Die Presse, the Kurier, and Die Salzburger Nachrichten, which I could even buy in Steyrermühl.

April 6, 1972

Towards 9:00 in the morning I walk into Thomas’s house with mail and newspapers.  I still had to make a few telephone calls and so I was running late.  His voice was still very raspy, and I said to Thomas: As long as I hear your raspy voice, I don’t need to ask you whether you’re doing better yet.  Yes, said Thomas, it keeps staying stuck down here, and he pointed at his chest.  Once he’d recovered, he said, he’d go to Vienna and get a physical.  Then I said I had assumed he’d already done that during his last trip to Vienna.  Of course way back when he had weathered the same illness, and I had hoped that he’d be convinced by a follow-up checkup on his case of “Bocke’s disease” that this had nothing to do with it anymore.  Then Thomas said that he had actually intended to do that.  But that in Vienna he was so healthy that he’d felt as though it would be ridiculous to have a follow-up checkup.  But, I said to Thomas, that’s certainly no reason not to have a follow-up checkup.  Because of course in the case of such a strange illness and such a strange Bocke’s disease operation the doctor will also be interested in seeing whether you’re healthy.  You actually owe it to your doctor to let him see whether you’re healthy.  Yes, yes, next time I’ll go see him, said Thomas.

April 7, 1972

At 8:15 a.m. I’m back at Thomas’s with mail and newspapers.  I’m back again from six until eight in the evening. Because there won’t be any mail tomorrow, Sunday, Thomas was planning to drive to Gmunden by himself to read the newspapers and consume another proper soup.  So far he’s only had four sausages, each of them prepared in a different way.  He hasn’t had a proper appetite all day.  I’ve brought to Thomas a few items from the supermarket in Wels.  Among these are a pack of 500 disposable handkerchiefs, because he’s got an enormous demand for them.  As I’m leaving I tell him I’ll be stopping back again late tomorrow afternoon.  He says he’s feeling so weak that he might not even be able to do more than read through these newspapers in the meantime.

We also spoke about The Italian.  I said that his speedy power of discrimination would be an asset during editing.  That because he wouldn’t need much time to look at this or that, he’d quickly come to the right decision.  To this he said that he’d let Radax make a hash of Frost on his own, that he’d leave him alone.  Then he’ll demand and get the rights and the go-ahead to produce a television film entirely by himself.  He’ll do all the directing and editing himself based on instructions in his own screenplay.

April 8, 1972

As promised, I visited Thomas towards five in the afternoon.  He told me that he’d only been home since 3:00.  He ran into Mrs. Hufnagl in Gmunden and drove with her to Traunkirchen, Pühret, to have fish for lunch.  He ate a char, but in particular the soup before the meal did him good.  He said that he absolutely needed to have something proper to eat once again, and that he would also go dine at the tavern tomorrow, Sunday, morning.
The three hours I spent with Thomas until 9:00 actually went by quite quickly.  He had his entire rural neighborhood wiped out by a plague epidemic and then bought up all the houses and lots in the neighborhood, all the property, his two houses and all their furniture, etc. but subsequently declared that it was all pointless.  If he lives long enough to get old, he wants children to run away from him as he’s walking down the street and to cry out: “Quick, run, here comes the old skinflint.”  And mothers will have to say to their children: “If you’re not nice, Bernhard will come get you.” They’ll have to fear and loathe him.  He’d like to look exactly like the late Mr. Franzmaier of No. 1, Hochbau, Ohlsdorf: tall and haggard.

The picture from 1965 is inscribed: “Franzmaier from Hochbau with Wolfi, Granny, Reinhild, and Franzmaier’s girlfriend.  Thomas was looking on.” 

Then before I leave I suddenly recalled a home remedy for his cold: vaporizing French brandy one drop at a time on the stovetop and inhaling this steam through the nose.  Of course it’s a drastic cure because it burns your eyes and your respiratory tracts, but the congestion loosens up and you get air flowing through your nose again.  Of course it’s got to be done patiently several times an hour; otherwise it won’t have a lasting effect.  Because Thomas hasn’t got any French brandy at home, I promise to bring him some at 10:00 tomorrow morning, so that he’ll able to get some air before lunchtime.

April 9, 1972

As promised, I’m at Thomas’s house with the bottle of French brandy. He diligently sniffs in the steam and notices right away that his respiratory tracts are opening up.  But the stuff won’t come up from his chest.  It’s still sitting down there, he keeps saying; it’s got to come up; otherwise I won’t be healthy.  I show Thomas a letter from the Rosenbach Gallery in Hanover, which wrote to me at the suggestion of his friend Dr. Wieland Schmied.  After Thomas had read it, he handed it to me and remarked: That’s a letter from him that you could just as easily have received from Neulengbach.  Thomas keeps going back to the stovetop and sniffing and sniffing.  He’s enthusiastic about the relief that he’s noticing right away.  I take a few hits myself and it doesn’t even seem very harsh to me.  Probably healthy respiratory tracts aren’t as sensitive to the steam.  After a good half-hour I take off and say I’ll stop by again late in the afternoon to see how he’s doing.

April 10, 1972

Shortly after eight in the morning I’m at Thomas’s with the mail, and I apologize for not having been able to come again yesterday on account of a visitor.  In the evening I was very tired, and that was also true of my visitor.  But yesterday we had also spoken about the article in the Oberösterreichische Nachrichten in which Thomas was described as an “inconvenient executioner of Alpine mindlessness,” and then I realized once again that it’s really quite taxing to speech and debate with Thomas for hours on end.  That also played a bit of a role in my decision to let him “sit” on Sunday evening.  He himself has been confined to his house for quite a long time, hasn’t been receiving any visitors with whom he could squabble, hasn’t been sending off any poison letters either; a moment of inattention to his sickliness could very easily lead to an attack of resentment.  Because his cold has been dragging on for so long that it’s really getting on his and my nerves.  But we don’t let this show and trick ourselves into thinking that it isn’t.

His aunt wrote to him that her brother who was two years younger than her died on Easter Sunday.  Thomas says it’s better that his aunt is in the hospital now and won’t be able to attend the funeral.  It’ll affect her less. We shared a laugh over what a fine day it had been to die on, over the fact that he’d chosen to die on Easter Sunday of all days, but it was actually only bad news.  Because Thomas says to me that he’s going to start driving out to eat and read newspapers again, I invite Thomas to come to my house in the evening if his health permits, and then I’m off again.

April 11, 1972

At a quarter-past eight in the morning I’m at Thomas’s house with the mail.  He doesn’t feel a jot better and says he would have found it too taxing to come in the evening.  Thomas is still in his bathrobe and shows me his scar from the chainsaw.  It’s about five centimeters long, dark red, and it’s a bulge half as wide as a pencil.  The deep notches from the stitches are distinctly recognizable.  We chat for about an hour, and Thomas says that he plans to come this evening, because he’s got to get out of the house for a bit.  I told Thomas that he should build up his strength by drinking an egg yolk mixed with a teaspoon of honey and a tablespoon of brandy.  I’ve been doing that for a few days myself.  It’s been doing me a world of good.

Since I’ve got a spare moment at 5:00 p.m., I drive to Thomas’s.  I noticed some wood-gatherers in his newly purchased patch of woods.  I took a closer look and noticed that the occupants of the Gruber estate had already taken a few huge piles to the removal truck.  At the same time I noticed that last Sunday’s storm had knocked over a 30-cm wide spruce at the roots and this tree had fallen from the edge of the woods into the woods themselves without damaging any of the other trees.  I reported this to Thomas and told him that the tenants from the Gruber estate were saving him a lot of work, because otherwise he’d have to remove the deadwood himself.  It would be good if these people continued to take an interest in the wood in the future, because he’s still got a great deal of clearing away of deadwood to do, as the woods have been untended and neglected for some time.  Thomas doesn’t feel well and says that he won’t even be coming over this evening.  After about a half an hour I’m off again.

April 12, 1972

At 8:15 in the morning I’m back at Thomas’s with the mail.  It includes a letter from Dr. Meingast in Gmunden that Thomas hands right back to me and asks me to take care of for him.  He also gives me the original contract that Dr. Meingast asks for in the letter.  Thomas doesn’t want tomorrow’s 8:00 a.m. onsite inspection, which is the subject of the letter, to be postponed yet again on account of illness.  He wants me to consult with Panholzer the engineer so that the rendezvous site won’t be at the plot itself but at Schachinger’s tavern next to the church in Reindlmühl instead.  He says that he’s going to sit in the tavern the whole time, and that I’m going to have to show them the house and the limits of the property on my own.  Besides, he says, he would prefer me to be there instead, because he’s terribly embarrassed at having confused Panholzer with the other engineer, Meindl, when he sent he sent his telegram to Meindl from Vienna.  I tell Thomas that that mix-up is absolutely nothing to be worried about.  Meindl is very influential at the district office, such that Panholzer will actually feel honored by having been confused with him. For breakfast Thomas is taking spoonfuls of egg yolk and honey as I recommended.  He says he used rum instead of cognac.  Now that’s just poison, I say; it’s important to use brandy in that mixture, because it’s fortifying.  You must never use good grain alcohol.  It doesn’t matter, spirits are spirits; why should it make any difference what kind of spirits you use? says Thomas.  Rum is off-limits, I says, because it’s made from poisonous aromatics, and brandy is definitely brandy and not grain alcohol.  Brandy is more refined and more fortifying.  Thomas won’t concede this, and finally I say: If you won’t admit there’s any difference between different kinds of spirits, you might as well get drunk on the wood alcohol that’s a waste byproduct of paper production.  Just like Mr. Hradil, who died at the age of 45 because he used to drink that stuff constantly.  If spirits are just spirits, then get them straight from the wood.  Then Thomas says that he’s already feeling much better, that it’s already been eight days since I took him to the doctor.  But that if he doesn’t get better in four days, he’ll have to go back.  You’re a proper farmer, I say to Thomas.  He also always makes sure that everything’s in order around the farm, but when he’s got something wrong with himself, he won’t go to the doctor unless he’s forced to.  You’ve obviously already built up a tolerance to these pills in the past eight days; they’re not helping you a bit.  Probably the doctor would have prescribed something different after four days if she’d seen that there’d been no improvement.  Probably something stronger.  Apart from that you’re obviously not feeling at all better; I can tell that from your voice.  It’s just that you’ve gotten used to your condition, and you’re confusing that with “feeling better.”  Tomorrow it won’t be possible on account of the commission, but on Friday I’ll take you to the doctor, to her back door, so that you can go in right away.  I’ll do that because I won’t let another whole weekend pass without a doctor.  In any case, by then it’ll have been ten days since your last visit to the doctor.  You’ve been putting it off for six days.  After a little while, a good hour or longer, I say goodbye and promise to come over at about four in the afternoon to inform him of the new rendezvous site that I’ll have agreed to with Mr. Panzholzer.

After I’ve gotten hold of Mr. Panzholzer and delivered the original contract to Dr. Meingast, I return to Thomas’s.  We agree that we’ll meet up at the Ohlsdorf post office at 7:00 tomorrow morning.  You see, I want him to drive to Gmunden in his own car so that I won’t be tethered to him.  Some time ago, Dr. Wieland Schmied told me that Thomas had done this to him when he was dependent on him.  That Thomas can take a sudden mischievous pleasure in getting the other person to do the opposite of what he plans or wishes to do.  So when on the other hand Thomas gets a sense that the other person would like to go for a drive, he digs in his heels, etc.

We also speak about that evening’s broadcast, in which Ferry Radax will have something new to say.  Because I don’t want to miss this broadcast, I go to the gym during the 6:00-8:00 p.m. session for the youngsters instead of during the 8:00-10:00 session for the adults, so that I can avoid breaking my exercise routine and also see the broadcast featuring Radax.  But Thomas stays at home, and I don’t want to go see him that late, so each of us watches the broadcast at his own house.

April 13, 1972

At 7:30 a.m. sharp I meet up with Thomas in front of the Ohlsdorf post office.  It’s still too early to pick up the mail, and so we ask the postman to deliver Bernhard’s mail to my house at No. 3 Weinberg.

Bernhard leaves his car parked at the tax office in Gmunden, and we take mine to Reindlmühl.  Mr. Panzholzer the engineer is already waiting there in front of Schachinger’s tavern.  We explain to him that Thomas is going to stay at the tavern and that I’m going to show him the house and rest of the property.  Thomas goes into the tavern, and I drive with Mr. Panholzer to the Krucka; naturally we cover the last stretch on foot. 

The property at 98 Grasberg, the “Krucka” Photo: Matthias Burri

I show Panhozer the borders of the property in detail, then I show him the house and pour us some schnapps.  As we’re discussing the pros and cons, Thomas comes in from the rain.  He says there was no heat at the tavern, so that he thought it better to follow us here slowly so as to avoid freezing to death.  As it’s also freezing cold in the Krucka, I say: Fine, then we’ll have to leave again right away so that you don’t catch cold.

We were originally planning to take care of the paperwork at Schachinger’s tavern, but I proposed our visiting the Alpine hotel in Altmünster.  There Thomas orders a huge plate of cold cuts for three people and some tea.  But when we then turned our attention back to the paperwork, there were constant discrepancies of scale between Panholzer’s and Thomas’s estimates.  It eventually turned out that in Panholzer’s deed the appraisal of the property of Ms. Charlotte Schmidt at 45 Feldstrasse in Holzen über Schwerte had inadvertently been used as a draft in place of the appraisal of 68 Grasberg.  Because the previous owner of 98 Grasberg was called Josef Schmid, the two Schmid(t)s  had been confused with each other.  Thomas was outraged by such brainlessness on the part of the authorities, especially in the light of the fact that they’d been dealing with this deed for months and nobody had detected this error.  Accordingly, all the factors discussed since have completely changed, and a definitive assessment is impossible without the appropriate documentation from the tax office.  By 11:00 I’ve already told them I’m going straight to Dr. Meingast to ask him to get hold of the appropriate documents before the end of the day.  Thomas stayed at the hotel with Panholzer, and we agreed to meet up at my house shortly after midday.  At the ticket agent’s I also picked up the five tickets I’d ordered for the premiere of the play in Salzburg.

Thomas didn’t show up at my house in Weinberg until just before 1:00.  He lingered a bit in Gmunden to read the newspaper.  In addition to his mail he’s received a telegram today.  Thomas eats and drinks and wants a verbatim account of what I’ve said at Dr. Meingast’s office.  I reported to Thomas that I had asked Dr. Meingast to get hold of the appraisal of the property from the tax office before the end of the day.  That I’d told him that I’d have to visit you at 5:00 p.m. to share with you what I’d managed to get done at Dr. Meingast’s office.  I’d pointedly drawn his attention to the fact that at 5:00 I’d have to tell you that he’d gotten hold of the appraisal as promised.  I also told him that as I had some other business to attend to at the district agricultural office tomorrow I’d also make sure that the appraisal had arrived there by then.   There would have been absolutely no point in hurling abuse or raising a fuss about such incredible brainlessness, I said.  Because the mere fact that something like has happened is already disgraceful enough.  When a fourth-grade public schoolboy shows up to class with the wrong books, he’s punished by the teacher.  What is one to do with an attorney who makes mistakes like that.  That was quite good, the way you dealt with him, said Thomas.  I couldn’t have gone there, I would have ended up raising a horrible fuss.  Then I show him the telegram and say: At least take a look at the telegram; perhaps it’s important.  Thomas opens the telegram, reads it; it’s a fairly long text, and then he hands it to me to read.  The telegram is from Musulin.  It asks Thomas if he’ll write a review of Zuckmayer’s book Henndorf Pastoral.  The telegram proposes 4/24 in Vienna and 5/5 at Musulin’s house in Frankfurt as possible dates and locations for handing over the review.  He says he’s convinced that Thomas would be happy to do it, that it would give him a thrill, etc. Yours, Danko.  After I’d read the telegram, Thomas angrily said: That’s the sort of thing people are always trying to force you to do.  But I’m not going to do anything of the sort.  This goes to show once again how…and blind Musulin is.  Zuckmayer’s book is simply awful; all the names in it are misspelled, etc.  But people are buying it just because it’s by Zuckmayer, and they also even like it because it’s by him.  I say: I’m surprised that Musulin didn’t know you well enough not to hope that you’d write such a book review.  He ought to know you well enough to know that he’ll never get you to do that.  Yes, naturally, of course that annoys me; we’ve known each other for fifteen years, but in actual fact he’s never really known me at all.  But of course he’s charming, and rich, filthy rich, and…Of course, when you’re watching his TV broadcasts you can often tell what he’s…really like.  But with all his money, he does everything he can to hide it.  But he’s very charming, and you’ve always got to be wary of people who are charming.  They’ve got no substance; they’re nothing but charming and there’s not much of anything behind the charm.  It’s impossible to get by on nothing but being charming and nice.  I simply cannot say something good about a book that I abhor, because of course that’s what Zuckmayer and Musulin are expecting of me.  On top of that it annoys me that he writes that as a little boy I used to like drinking chocolate there at Zuckmayer’s house.  I say: So far I haven’t read the book at all, apart from an excerpt in the newspaper in which he got blood poisoning in a pond.  But I got the impression that it wasn’t any better written than an eighth-grader’s composition exercise.  I can’t understand how a man like Zuckmayer could write something like that and have it published.  Thomas says: The only person to blame for that is Schaffler.  He’s just a gold-digger; he’s talked him into writing it, because it’ll sell well even if it’s rubbish.  Zuckmayer is senile; he’s got a greedy wife and a greedy daughter, and they just want to squeeze everything out of Zuckmayer’s name that can still be squeezed out of it.

Finally Thomas says that it irritates him that it’s going to cost him 50 schillings to send the telegram in which’s he’s going to decline to write the review, and it vexes him even more that he’s also going to have to drive to the post office in order to send it.  I’ve always got a few telegram forms for that purpose ready to hand at home.  I’ll give you two of them and some carbon paper so that you can also make a carbon copy.  Thomas makes as if to go to the study nook, where my typewriter is set up.  But I go get my typewriter and say: Take your time. I place the machine in front of him on the table and say that I’ll take the telegram to the post office for him.

Thomas types: Baron Musulin 28 Leerbachstrasse/Frankfurt D 6.  Have been ill two months and condemned to complete inactivity.  Sincerely Thomas.  There, now they’ll think I’m about to kick the bucket.  But I wouldn’t have used any other excuse even if I’d been well, because I can’t be wasting my time on Musulin and Zuckmayer.

Then, beaming with joy, I show him the tickets for the Salzburg Festival premiere of The Ignoramus and the Madman that I picked up earlier today.  Thomas contemplates the tickets and says: Ten years ago I would never have dared dream that something like this would ever exist.  The Ignoramus and the Madman; the title alone is madness, but everything is madness.  The seventh row; these are good seats; critics and guests of honor will be sitting right in front of you.  But why is the performance on the 28th?   Well, you see, Kaut told me that there’s been one tiny change.  Thomas contemplates the tickets a bit longer and suddenly says: But these are for August 28.  They’ve given you the wrong tickets.  The premiere is on July 29! Thomas says I’ve got to go right away, before the end of the day, and return the tickets and absolutely insist on being given tickets for the premiere.  He says that this travel agency in Gmunden had once booked him a trip to Brussels that went all the way to Brussels on a branch line without any express service.  That on top of that his aunt had once been given the wrong timetable, and when she complained about it, the employees there had just kept calmly consuming their sausage rolls, whereupon his aunt kicked up a huge ruckus.  She’ll never use this travel agency again.  Then I say that they were adamantly determined to sell me a ticket to a matinee on August 26.  Even though I repeatedly said I hadn’t ordered it, they kept saying that this ticket had been ordered by me, that I had to take it.  Finally, when they took a good hard look at my request, they said, yes, the ticket was ordered by somebody else.  Thomas said: The world is crawling with these “little Meingasts” who screw up everything.

Thomas stayed till 5:00, and we agreed that I’d go straight to the ticket agent’s and then report back to him.  Thomas said that when I got there I should say that all three of them deserved to have their heads chopped off, and that all three of these heads with their tongues lolling out should be put behind the front window with a sign over them reading: They sold wrong timetables and wrong tickets.  That I should take an axe with me.  That on top of that I should insist on their calling the box office in Salzburg while I’m standing there and that if the people in Salzburg say that no more tickets are left, I should remonstrate with them and tell them that that can’t be true, that the author himself said that, because he knows from experience that there are always a few tickets left even when they say there aren’t any.  That the call must be made right away, because the box office is always open, there’s always somebody there.  That I should throw down the tickets and immediately demand to have my money back.  That I should also tell them about the business with his aunt and with the preposterous train itinerary they booked him there.  In response to all of this I say to Thomas: I’ll do what I can, but I’m so worn out that I can’t raise any more fusses today; besides, I still won’t have any tickets even if I do lop off their heads.  Thomas asks me to come see him as soon as I get back from Gmunden; he wants to know how things turned out.

In Gmunden the paperwork associated with my order makes it clear that tickets for 8/29 were ordered.  The 29, I say, comes from me, but you’re to blame for the 8.  I ordered tickets for 7/29.  I’m also shown a letter from the box office in Salzburg in which they write that there isn’t going to be any performance of The Ignoramus and the Madman on the 29th, but that there is going to be one on the 28th, and that they are therefore sending tickets for the 28th.  On being informed that there are no more tickets left there, the employee says that the author knows that despite that there are always a few tickets available, and that because the customer is an acquaintance of his, they should hand them over.  In Salzburg they insist that they’re all gone.  As a sop they tell her that if any tickets are returned they’ll be sent over.  Whereupon I say to the employee that Thomas Bernhard has asked me for their heads, that he’s furious at them, and that they had once led him to Brussels along a branch line, via Brussels, and I also rebuked the employees for what his aunt had gone through.  That’s completely irrelevant, this woman said.  But of course it’s very much relevant, I say, because the same sort of cockup happened then.  She gives me back my money without further ado and asks me to come back tomorrow, when Mr. Ruckser, who took down my order wrong, will be there, because it’s in his handwriting.

Right afterwards I visit Thomas in Nathal; it’s about 6:30 in the evening.  He immediately asks me whether I talked about chopping off their heads, and when I say yes, he asks: Did you also say that their tongues would have to be lolling out of their chopped-off heads as well?  I forgot to say that, I say.  But I mentioned the bit about the sign that would have to be posted above their chopped-off heads.  Then it’s fine, says Thomas; how’s the situation with the tickets? After I’d briefed him, he said that I shouldn’t let it slide no matter what.  That they could get hold of the tickets whenever they liked.  That I’d ordered them in the proper way, that I had a right to the tickets.  What the hell, if somebody flew here from America they obviously couldn’t say to him: It was a mistake; we haven’t got any tickets either.  Thomas tries really hard to stir me up to take the initiative quite energetically tomorrow, because he’s convinced that tickets are still available, even if the people in Salzburg have said there aren’t any left there.

Then he shows me the bill from Stadlbauer the master electrician in Laakirchen; it amounts to 32,346.10 schillings for the installation of the entire heating system.  He was charged 4,000 for labor, so that the radiators and the building materials cost about 28,000 schillings.  We both found the bill quite fair after we went through the individual items.  Thomas says he budgeted for 30,000 to 35,000 schillings, so shortly before noon today he went straight to Gmunden to transfer the money.  Now he says he’s got 50,000 schillings in debt at the bank.  Now it’s easier for him, because it’s very disagreeable to have credit at the bank, because the inflation rate is rising so quickly.  He says that it’s better to have 50,000 in debt than 50,000 in credit.  That kind of credit melts like snow in the sun.
Then we find ourselves talking about Radax.  Thomas saw the broadcast on Wednesday and is disappointed in Radax.  His statement in Viennese dialect was particularly execrable, a person simply can’t say something like that.  On top of that, in the meantime Thomas has perused Radax’s screenplay, perused it more closely, and noticed that Radax transcribed whole passages from the book verbatim and then just tacked on where the person’s got to go or where the person’s got to be next.  What Radax has done certainly isn’t worth 20,000 DM.  When you consider that he’s getting 20,000 for this, you become conscious of the fact that that’s much too much for this job.  On top of that Radax writes: Frost, adapted from the novel of the same name. That alone is already a disgrace.  But when he comes, I’ll tell him a thing or two.  I tell Thomas that he shouldn’t do that, that he should instead let Radax fail, and he’ll come to do that even more easily with something new.  Because a bad film by Radax based on Frost won’t do him any harm.

When Thomas notices shortly before 7:30 that I’m about to leave him, he says that he’d like to come along, that he couldn’t bear to spend this evening alone.  Later on at my house Thomas is so high-spirited and witty that I say he’ll “laugh himself out of his own chest” before long, that he’s laughing so hard his insides are surely coming loose.
At 11:30 I take Thomas home.  We agree that at 8:30 in the morning I’ll come to him with his mail and then ride with him to the doctor’s office.

14 April 1972

Shortly before 8:30 a.m. I’m at Thomas’s house.  He’s only got two letters.  Each of them is from a publishing firm.  He chucks them and doesn’t even read them.  Once again he asks me to come with him to the doctor again, and also actually to go with him into the office.  You see, I had already promised to book him “from behind,” so that he could go right in.  He also gives me the photocopy of the municipal government’s confirmation from the farmer’s association, which the agricultural commission urgently needed, because the municipal government didn’t have access to the confirmation from the farmer’s association.  It’s a letter from the Ohlsdorf municipal government in which it’s confirmed that Thomas is running his farm on his own.  I then talked Thomas into having a photocopy made so that I could take possession of it.  At the time I also added my own notes as an attachment.  But it was good that Thomas had this photocopy as well.  I had it photocopied again and took a copy to Mr. Panholzer the engineer from the agricultural commission.  I invited Thomas to my house for dinner at 7:00 p.m.  Between now and then Thomas will visit Dr. Meingast himself and ask him for the main contract for this coming Monday.  I point out to Thomas that he should tell Dr. Meingast this by 10:00 a.m. at the latest so that he can pick up the lustrum by noon.  Because it’s Friday, and in the afternoon Dr. Meingast might be at court and no longer able to get the dates from the surveyor’s office and so also unable to finish preparing the contract until Monday.  You see, this contract can only be signed on a Monday, when Asamer stays at home all day, and once the weather is better, Asamer will also be out in his fields from four in the morning till eight in the evening.  Because he’s constantly on the move on his own with his machines in his roughly 150 hectares.  What’s more, because he already knows the price he’s sold the land for, once he’s begun to work in his fields we won’t even be able to drag Asamer to the notary’s office with a lasso, because we’ll never be able to find him, what with his fields being so expansive.  So Thomas will do everything he can to make sure to get hold of the contract from Dr. Meingast by Monday.  Thomas also gives me some advice on my visit to the ticket office and says in conclusion: If the worst comes to the worst, you can have mine, because of course you know I’m not going to attend the premiere in any case.  Then I say: Haven’t you promised that ticket to Irina, Rochelt’s wife?  She told me she didn’t have any tickets yet but that she’d certainly be receiving one, and then I thought, “She’ll be sitting next to Aunt Hede.”  Then   Thomas gets indignant: I’m not giving anybody a free ticket.  Only in the event that you couldn’t get hold of anything would I give you the ticket.  I’ve told all my acquaintances that they must surely think I’m worth the cost of a ticket to the premiere, and that if they don’t, they’ll just have to miss it.  I’m certainly not going to insist on their attending the performance.  For exactly the same reason I don’t give away books anymore.  Where would that get me; if I give 49 acquaintances a book, then the fiftieth is upset if he doesn’t get one.  That’s all stopped; that business of giving away books.  If anybody’s interested in my books, he’ll have to buy them.  But naturally in the event that you can’t get a ticket anymore, you can certainly have mine.  Well, you know, I say, in my case it’s on account of my family; they’ve really been looking forward to it.  Maybe I could still get tickets through Peymann, because of course he’s bound to have a few tickets at his disposal. 

Next I accompany Thomas to the doctor’s office in Steyrermühl.  I make his appointment “backwards,” but because just then the doctor is giving a patient stitches, which is going to take at least another 20 minutes, the nurse promises that Bernhard will be announced immediately afterwards.  So he’s just going to have to take a seat at the front.  I sit there with Bernhard for about another 30 minutes because we’re having a very interesting conversation and the patient with the stitches still wasn’t finished.  When I left him we had no idea that this would be a successful day for both of us.  That he’d finalize the contract and I’d get hold of the tickets for the festival.  I said goodbye and that I’d be seeing him at 7:00 that evening.
At 7:00 p.m. Thomas shows up for dinner as scheduled.  He managed to get everything done just fine; the sales contract is set to be signed at three o’clock Monday afternoon.  The rendezvous point is Dr. Meingast’s office.  He hasn’t notified Mr. and Mrs. Asamer yet, because he was planning to ask me to do that for him.  I tell him I’ll drive to the Asamers’ house in Ohlsdorf right after dinner, because I’ll be sure of finding Rudolf at home then.  The sooner they know that they’re going to have to be in Gmunden at 3:00 p.m. this coming Monday the better.

But even before then I can report to Thomas that the travel agent’s in Gmunden has already promised me the tickets.  Officially no further tickets can be delivered to the agent’s, but they’ve received the tickets privately, meaning via a private individual.  It’s just as Thomas said.  When they say they’re completely sold out, there’s still always something there for private emergencies.  Of course I was very happy about this and gladly drove to Asamer’s afterwards. I found Asamer at home, and he agreed to sign the contract with his wife on Monday.  Thomas was soothed by learning that this had been taken care of as well, and he remained in a good mood until 10:30 p.m.

Granny sewed up the torn pocket of his windbreaker very nicely.  He was actually highly delighted that the seam turned out so well that it was almost unnoticeable, and he thanked her very warmly.

Because most of the time Saturday and Sunday are days on which we find it hard to meet up because most of the time I’m busy viewing lots or houses with customers, we’ve agreed that if we don’t meet up before then I will in any case come to his house with the mail early Monday morning.

April 15, 1972

Thomas stops by at three in the afternoon and only finds only my mother here, because we, my wife and I, are on the road with prospective buyers of houses.  Thomas chats for a while with my mother in the garden and asks her to give me his regards.  Since there were quite a lot of people here on Saturday, it wasn’t until Sunday that I recalled that I had actually said to Thomas: If you don’t stop by, I’ll check in with you to see how you’re doing.

April 17, 1972

Shortly before eight in the morning I came to Thomas’s house with the mail.  He’d received a huge pile of letters, including one from Musulin.  I asked Thomas if he’d mind if I stayed a bit longer so that I could look through my own mail and for another reason that I’d tell him about later.  Thomas was fine with staying until 9:00.  We also spoke about the Japanese Nobel Prize winner who had committed suicide at the age of 72 the previous day.  A few years ago one of his fellow-Japanese writers committed hara-kiri.  As I had done many times before, I told him that suicide was a very frequent cause of death among writers.  Thomas says: At 72 that’s the best thing you can do.  If you were to kill yourself at the age of 72, I’d hold you in very high regard and doff my hat to you.  Or the pointed cap you’ve got on right now, I say.   Thomas says he’s wearing it so that he doesn’t catch a cold, because he’s just washed his hair.  As soon as I walked in I noticed that he seemed healthy.  That was why I wanted to stay there with him longer.  After an hour he hadn’t coughed even once, so I said to him that I was trying to observe whether he was still coughing.  Especially whether he was coughing those dry, short coughs that are typical of “Bocke’s disease,” which he wasn’t.  So he can calmly go to Vienna, get a checkup there, but still assert that he’s got a cough and pressure in his chest so that he can be thoroughly tested for “Bocke’s” and come back with a firm confirmation that he hasn’t got a case of  “Bocke’s” sitting in his chest.  Thomas agrees with me.  As I took my leave I invited him to come over to my house at 7:00 in the evening.
Before I leave Thomas also tells me that he felt the earthquake at exactly 12:05 p.m.  He said that it was impossible he was mistaken, because he was lying on the divan when suddenly flames starting shooting out of the stove, as if the stove was about to explode.  At the same time he was being shaken towards the stove.  Whereupon he leapt to his feet and wrote down the time, 12:05, on a slip of paper.  So, he said, it was impossible he was mistaken, because he knew what TV show he’d been watching, and it hadn’t aired at 11:00 a.m. or whatever other time was reported in the news.  He said it was really sloppy work to report a wrong time for the earthquake, because he had distinctly felt it, and that was most certainly at 12:05.  In the meantime I’ve read in the paper today that an aftershock was felt in the Vöcklabruck area.  So Thomas really hadn’t been mistaken, but the aftershock wasn’t announced in yesterday’s news.

At 7:00 Thomas came by as scheduled.  During dinner he told me that today he’d mailed replies to two letters that he’d received some time ago.  One was to the general manager of the Burgtheater, who had written him a five-page letter about a fortnight ago.  But he, Thomas, said that he found it impossible to write a full reply to such a long letter.  That he couldn’t understand how the general manager of a theater could ever write such a long letter to an author, a letter with so many little details, etc.  That that wasn’t appropriate either for the general manager or for the author.  But that just goes to show what small fry these people are.  He only wrote a very brief reply to Klingenberg, didn’t go into particulars in the letter and notified him that he’d have to come see him.

He wrote the second letter to his female friend in Hamburg, and in it he offered her his ticket for the premiere in Salzburg.  You see, in the meantime she’s written him a very nice letter, and she’s supposed to sit next to Hede at the premiere while he waits for us in the coffeehouse.  I show Thomas my tickets for the premiere, which I received today.  He sees that they’re seats at the back behind the central box and says, these seats are very good; he’s had a seat like that quite often, and if I can’t see anything I should simply bash the person at the front of the box on the head.  He has always just thwacked away at the people in front until they just got tired of it and let him have a proper view.

Then came the highpoint of the evening, when we went up to the second floor to watch the TV news program The Age in Images in Granny’s apartment.  Right at the beginning of the news Granny pulled Thomas’s stiletto out of his buckskin breeches.  I noticed this, and because Granny had been playing this same practical joke every two months for as long as I could remember, I said to her: Omi, if you do that one more time, Thomas is going to stab you.  Yes of course, said Thomas.  Let’s do it right now, I said, so that we can report your actual age in the newspaper.  I’m 72, as you know full well, said Granny.  Thomas says, That’s the age when that Japanese guy Kawabata killed himself; it’s a very good age to die at.  Where do you want to be buried, I asked Omi, next to Grandpa in Ottensheim or in Ohlsdorf?  Then Thomas drafted a half-dozen newspaper headlines: Writer Stabs to Death 72-Year-Old Granny, Blood-Dripping Knife Recovered from Crime Scene, etc.

In Granny’s apartment on the second floor of Karl Ignaz Hennetmair’s house, the viewing schedule was dominated by five channels: “Austrian Channels 1 and 2, German Channel 1, and Thomas in an Austrian accent and in a Bavarian one.(Diary entry, June 27, 1972).

When footage of the Socialist Party’s conference in Villach is shown, Thomas starts acting like a ventriloquist as he mimics the political promises in a high voice and then announces the price and tax hikes in a very deep voice.  He keeps switching between the two; he makes promises in a high voice, and in a deep voice he admits that the opposite of what’s promised will happen.  As Governor Sima’s speaking a few really lame sentences, Thomas says, people like this make political programs, we’re ruled by people like this.  They’ve simply got no personalities, and the Austrian People’s Party has also hit rock bottom; they haven’t got any personalities either.  What can possibly happen next, when the people believe all that stuff, when they’re duped by such inanities.   After the news on the German channel, we turn off the set, and because Granny was planning to go to Linz early tomorrow morning, she went to bed.

When were alone afterwards Thomas said that he had received a long letter from Musulin.  Musulin is so nice and…He writes whether he can help me, because I’m so ill, etc.  Naturally it’s true I’m ill, but there’s obviously no help for it.  I have no idea what I’m supposed to write in reply; is he expecting some sort of tear-jerking letter from me, or what?  If he already knows how execrable and lousy I’m feeling, he must have noticed from my telegram that it’s not all about my illness, even though I wrote “cordially Thomas.”  If it had really been only about my illness, I would have added a couple of words to a telegram like that, for example, that I was “unfortunately” condemned to inactivity.  If that had been genuinely true, I would have had to limit my telegram to a few words like that.  But he’s so…, he doesn’t realize that at all, something like that never occurs to him. “For two months I’ve been ill and condemned to complete inactivity, cordially Thomas,” so if he’s intelligent, he’s absolutely got to realize that this isn’t just about my illness.  But am I supposed to stop writing “cordially,” so that he’ll realize what a monster I actually am?  If he knows what a horribly unpleasant person I am, he’s simply got to comprehend a telegram like that.  But apparently he still doesn’t understand me at all.  A person simply can’t expect anything from me; of course, I don’t expect anything from people either.  I’m not even going to do the interview with Kaut, which we were planning on doing before the festival and that I promised him.  Tell me, said Thomas, how am I supposed to do that, before the festival?  I’m sure that starting in May the reporters from all the newspapers will descend on me, and I’ll be expected to say something about my play.  Before the premiere they’ll all impose themselves on me, but I won’t say anything at all.  I’ve got nothing to say.  The play is there, and there’s nothing to say about it or any need to interpret it.  Everything I’d say would certainly just be stupid, and in ten years I myself wouldn’t be able to listen to it.  On top of that journalists leave out sentences or distort what you’ve said because they cut something out.  I feel so strong that I’m not going to get involved in anything.  Naturally, I say, like that one time when you said “narcissism” [Narzissmus] and they left out the “r,” even if it was just out of sloppiness; you’re constantly exposed to the danger of your meaning being distorted, and you’re at their mercy.  They can select and publish the worst bits instead of vice-versa.  But what’s the best way for me to escape from their clutches? says Thomas.  Well, I say, you should lock yourself in your house again and not budge, and since you’ve recently stopped interacting with your neighbors altogether, they don’t know where you are, and they’ll say maybe he’s at the Krucka or in Vienna.  And if you’re actually confronted by somebody from the newspaper, because he happens to chase you down, you’ll say you’re stuck in the middle of a great work; that you’re totally preoccupied with it, that you can’t possibly be torn away from it.  You’ve got to rebuff a person like that just that bluntly.  I gave him some advice to the effect that he should walk in the deepest part of the forest, so that your walks won’t be noticed by the neighbors and they can’t give away any information, etc.  On account of the daily mail and the newspapers that he’ll want to read in the coffeehouse, holing up in the Krucka for several weeks is out of the question.  In the end Thomas justifies his plan not to give the newspapers any information at all and not to let anything be written about the performance beforehand, on the grounds that there’s no point to it. Because either the play will be a success, in which case it isn’t necessary to try do anything on its behalf beforehand, or it’ll be a flop, then everything that’s been written beforehand will have been for nothing.  That’s why he’s not going to do the interview with Kaut, the president of the festival, either.  So the only good thing to do is to do nothing.  Thomas sang and even warbled and stayed until 11:00.  It’s like a weight being off his chest again, the idea that he’s not going to take on any further obligations whatsoever.

Because tomorrow I’m planning to go to bed quite early, because I’m going to go to Vienna at three in the morning on Wednesday, I promise to bring him his mail early tomorrow and visit him at about 8:00 in the evening just so that we can see each other.  

April 18, 1972

At 7:15 in the morning I took Granny to the train in Steyrermühl.  Afterwards I picked up the mail in Ohlsdorf and took it to Thomas.  I gave him Granny’s warm regards.  She said he should sharpen his knife while she’s away; she’ll be back on Friday.  Then we’ll see right away whether Granny’s waterproof and stab-proof, said Thomas.
Because I was planning to leave for Vienna at three in the morning, I told Thomas that I’d visit him at about 5:30 p.m., at 6:00 at the latest, and that I’d then go to bed early.  Because I had a ton of things to take care of, it was 6:30 p.m. sharp when I knocked on Thomas’s door.  The gate is locked from inside, and when after I’ve knocked twice there’s no sound of anybody stirring, I went around to the back of the house to see if Thomas had left the courtyard through one of the back gates, and to peer through the crack in the gate to see if he was in the cellar or the stable.  When I observed that he wasn’t in the cellar and hadn’t left the courtyard through the back, I continued circling around the house to my car and drove off immediately.  There wouldn’t have been any point in sticking around, because he would have been in a bad mood when he came to the door.  He waited for me from 5:30 on, counting every minute, and in my mind I can see him furiously locking the door just after 6:00.  As I was driving away I felt that he was watching me, and I didn’t look back at the house even for a second so that he’d get the impression that I couldn’t have cared less whether he came to the door or not.

On top of that I didn’t want to see him in a peevish mood.  Obviously he hadn’t had any opportunities to vent his spleen anywhere lately, so that I myself was in more and more danger of being a target of it.

April 19, 1972

I was planning to be back from Vienna at about 11 a.m.; but we ended up not being back until six in the evening.  As we were walking in, our daughter Reinhild said that Bernhard had stopped by a half an hour earlier and asked where I was.  When he heard that I hadn’t yet returned from Vienna he said that he was worried.

April 20, 1972

At 1:00 p.m. Wieland Schmied and his three-year-old daughter walk into my house.  We shoot the breeze for an hour so that we can drive over to Thomas’s together.
Naturally Thomas wasn’t at home.  I realized this as soon as I noticed that the key to the gate outside the house was in its usual “stowage space.”  But Dr. Schmied pulled himself all the way up to the window-grates to see if the car wasn’t parked in the courtyard and Thomas himself actually inside the house.   He said he wouldn’t put it past Thomas to stow the key to make people think he wasn’t at home even though he actually was.  Then I said to Dr. Schmied: That really wouldn’t make any sense, because of course the only person who knows where the key is stowed is me; he puts it there so that I can fetch cider, or in case he’s been burgled, I can get into the house immediately if he isn’t here.  Doing that for strangers who wanted to visit him wouldn’t make any sense.  Well, I dunno, says Dr. Schmied; he knows I’m coming, so maybe he’s taking cover.  I say that at the moment Thomas tends to be in a fairly good mood, because he’s lucked out in purchasing those woods over there.  As I say this I point at the woods.  You see, by then we’d walked round to the backside of the house and were headed towards those woods.

After this Dr. Schmied wanted to go to Gmunden to make a telephone call.  Because I wasn’t sure whether he’d run into Thomas in the course of the day, I told him that he and his wife should come to my house at seven in the evening. Thomas is sure to show up at my house around then, because by then we won’t have seen each other in a full day; he’ll surely stop by.  Aha, said Dr. Schmied, you’ve still got your usual time in the evening.  Yes, I said, at least when things are normal.  But Dr. Schmied said he wasn’t sure exactly when in the evening he’d be able to stop by, because his wife was on the road with her boss, Dr. Willi Keller, and he couldn’t come over until she got home.  Because he’s used to a nocturnal existence, I said he could even stop by at 10 or 11 p.m., that it wouldn’t inconvenience me in the slightest.  In addition,  I said, I’d stop by and see him in Lederau in the afternoon, because I had some stuff to do in the area.   By doing that I’d learn if he hadn’t already run into Thomas in Gmunden.

Then at about 4:30 I was in Lederau.  Dr. Schmied showed me the new larch floorboards in the hallway, in the ribbed vault, etc.  He hadn’t run into Thomas yet; his wife hadn’t gotten home yet either.

Afterwards I drove to Thomas’s house at Nathal.  He met me in the courtyard and said: Mrs. Schmied is here.  They ran into each other on the street towards Ohlsdorf; Thomas was on his way home, and Mrs. Schmied wanted to visit Thomas.  It was at about 5:15 when I walked into Thomas’s house, and so I got the impression that the visit had been going on for a while already.  Thomas was incredibly rude to Mrs. Schmied, so that she eventually said: You’re really a monster.  Whereupon I said: You’re saying that as though he’s only become a monster just now; you’ve got to admit that he’s always been a monster.  He just keeps becoming more and more of one.  You don’t want the doctor, by whom I meant her boss, getting the idea that Thomas is just being a monster today.  That would be a huge misconception.  Thomas Bernhard, I said, will evolve into an even bigger monster from year to year; after all, he’s getting older.  Thomas nodded at my words, and I noticed that he had no problem with being described as a proper monster in the presence of this new visitor, the doctor who had arrived with Mrs. Schmied.  Thomas poured Mrs. Schmied and me some schnapps.  The doctor, who hardly said a word, declined to take any.  Because he has a low tolerance for it, said Mrs. Schmied.

Then we got started talking about Aunt Hede, who’s still in the hospital, who’s already been there for four weeks.  She wrote that she would have to stay there another four weeks.  Thomas said: She simply hasn’t been eating enough; she only weighs 44 kilos now, so that her little gastric ulcer has gotten bigger.  I said: Because she’s been taking too little nourishment, the little gendarmes have simply crawled into the bigger ones, so that they’ve still got something to digest.  Whereupon Thomas gazed at me reflectively and said: What more is there to say about this? 

Then—it was about 5:25—Thomas said that he still had to mail an express letter at the post office before 6:00.  On top of that, after I’d told him about my plan to have everybody meet up at my house after 7:00, he said that he was already too weak for an evening get-together today.  That he might still just manage to stop by Lederau very briefly.  But that he was still feeling very enfeebled by his illness.  This is the reason that he still wants to send the express letter to Mrs. Gertrud Frank from Residenz Publications in Salzburg today, to keep Elias Canetti from coming to visit him this coming Sunday.  That he’s simply in no condition to entertain Canetti and engage in a taxing conversation with him for several hours.  Thomas said that he had written that not seeing him (Canetti) would pain him.  At the same time, he said, he’d be glad if he didn’t see him, because incessantly speaking about death with him was unpleasant.  Even though he likes him, Canetti, very much, he’ll be glad if he doesn’t visit him.  Because it’s revolting to discuss your current problems.  Everybody’s got to follow his own path and solve his own problems. 

By then it was ten minutes to six and more than high time to take the letter to the post office.  But because Thomas didn’t want to chuck us out, he said that tomorrow he’d send a telegram in lieu of the letter.  Then I said: But you can’t write in a telegram that it’ll pain you not to see him.  It’ll be better if the letter is still sent off today.  I’m ready to take it the post office right away.

I really found it quite pleasant to get away in such an auspicious way.  Because in the first place, Thomas was already getting quite annoying, and in the second place I wanted to see at least the second and third periods of the international ice hockey game between the U.S.S.R. and Czechoslovakia.  So I’d still be able to see if the Czechs had won the world championship after I’d dropped off the letter.

April 21, 1972

At 12 noon sharp Thomas came to my house.  He likes coming by at midday on Fridays, because he knows there will be a good desert then, and he’s a huge desert-lover.  After lunch Thomas talks about what happened with Dr. Schmied yesterday evening.  He says that they had dinner at Roith’s Tavern.  The whole time, until two in the afternoon, he heaps abuse on Schmied’s wife.  He says that she’s insufferably loud, that with the looks of a 40-year-old she behaves as ridiculously as a 20-year-old and deliberately plays the role of a 20-year-old.  That he, Dr. Schmied, plays along.  He plays the role of a 25-year-old.  Schmied has all the charm of a ten-schilling plastic bucket; his opinions are just that trite and stupid.  Their kid is spoiled rotten; she’s been taught no manners whatsoever; she just keeps doing the opposite of what her parents want her to do.  Her parents bicker about her manners in front of her; each of them expects the other one to make her behave.  For him it was a nightmare, this evening; he was scarcely able to endure it.  He doesn’t like saying anything against Schmied, because he’s quite fond of him; but he says that this squabbling of theirs is even worse than the squabbling between the Hufnagels, that he can’t put up with it anymore either.  What kind of marriage is this, when they’re constantly saying you’ll have to let me have this, and you can hold onto that, and constantly talking about divorce, etc.
Just before 2:00 p.m., Thomas was lying on the cushioned bench next to the stove, with his feet propped up on the chair in a very comfortable position; I told him that I had to be in Wels at 3:00 and had to leave no later than 2:30.  Whereupon Thomas beseeched me to come with him to Nathal first so that I could help him hang up the portrait of the French diplomat.  He said that I’d hammered the nails for pictures into the wall so well already a few times that he wanted me to hammer the nail into the wall this time as well. We drove to Nathal right away.  I wanted to hang the picture about 5 cm higher, but he insisted on leaving it at the height it ended up being, above the table in the little room on the ground floor.  I was persistently of the opinion that the picture would have a better effect if it were hung about 5 cm higher, but Thomas stuck to his guns.  Then Thomas showed me a telegram from Klingenberg, the general manager of the Burgtheater, in which the latter wrote: “Contract with Axer (the director Thomas had wanted) finalized, but no letter will follow.” 

Obernathal 2: the ground-floor room with the portrait of the French diplomat

Thomas said, Klingenberg has obviously realized that I’m none too keen on receiving letters from him because I answered his five-page letter so curtly.  On top of that I can’t help assuming he realizes I’ve got a sense of humor, because of course otherwise he wouldn’t have added “but no letter will follow.” So far in all his telegrams he’s always written: Letter will follow.  But now he obviously realizes that I couldn’t care less about his letters.  Because if Axer’s going to direct the play, if he’s the one who’s going to be calling all the shots from now on anyhow, what more have the two of us got to write to each other about it? Now maybe Boris at the Burgtheater will actually be good.  On the top of that it’ll be included in the season ticket subscriptions, so I’ll be getting my 450,000 schillings whether or not anybody attends the performances. 

Then Thomas showed me the literature section of the Parisian newspaper Le Monde and a note from a family in Brussels he’s friends with [the Uexkülls] that says, if you can’t translate this, just come and see us.  Under a banner headline there was a review of his novel Gargoyles.  Very positive, said Thomas, at least as near as I can tell.  He said his high school French was so bad that he was always embarrassed when he was alone at their apartment in Brussels and the telephone rang.  Then he just stands there and can’t communicate with the caller at all.  Then they think, What kind of dope is that on the other end of the line?  The most he can be sure of is that the review is very favorable is because in the event that there’d been a negative reaction there’d have been just a short note or even nothing at all in Le Monde.

I’m running a bit behind schedule when I leave for Wels.  Before I took off Thomas showed me the script of The Ignoramus and the Madman.  Thomas is glad that it’s exactly 99 pages long.  I perused the conclusion, where Winter the waiter is summoned and the diva asks: “Did you send the telegrams to Stockholm, Copenhagen, etc.?” Winter says: “Naturally, madam.”  I said the word “not” was obviously missing from the script.  Thomas said: No, I left it out; it’s better that way; don’t mention it to me anymore; everything else, the “Thank God” and the whole conclusion, is going to stay the same.  It’s dark, and nobody knows who’s sweeping the glasses off the table. 

At 6:30 in the evening Dr. Wieland Schimed comes with his daughter Franziska and without his wife; he says she isn’t feeling well.  Thomas has already told me in the afternoon that Schmied would probably be coming this evening; he said it was debatable whether his wife would come, because he had insulted her.  Dr. Schmied said that he was driving straight to Thomas’s, that he just wanted to check in and would come right back with Thomas.  After supper everybody stuck around till 10:00.  All the way through our conversation Thomas was tearing into Dr. Schmied in a massive way.  He said that everything he exhibited and sold was trash.  That people were just being talked into believing it was modern art, but that Dr. Schmied had absolutely no understanding of his own business, that he was certainly no expert, because if he were he’d never, ever sell such trash.  People only buy it because they’re being asked to shell out so much money for it, and because they’re stupid, they think if it’s expensive it’s a work of art, etc.  Then the conversation turned to Lehmden.  Dr. Schmied didn’t remember that he had once given me a book by Lehmden.  Then his castle in Deutschkreutz was eviscerated by Thomas.  So far he’s had eight rooms refurbished.  It’s lunacy to live in a castle like that.  In Vienna they’ve got a tiny apartment; his wife never goes to see him anymore at Deutschkreuz because she can’t endure being in that castle.  And it really is unbearable and sheer lunacy, says Thomas.  He’s constantly running around from one place to another looking for subsidies for that castle, even Schaffler’s stepped in for him, but a whopping white elephant like that will never amount to anything.

When I asked Dr. Schmied what he thought of the painting from the eighteenth century, the portrait of the French diplomat, Thomas said: “How can you ask Wieland a question like that, when he doesn’t know a single thing about paintings; he knows nothing about modern art and even less about old art.”  Thomas subsequently got more and more aggressive and vehement in his evisceration of Dr. Schmied.  But the latter just let it all wash over him; he knows Thomas all too well and knows that there’d be no point in fighting against it.  On top of that I got the feeling that Thomas was right and that Dr. Schmied just sells that trash for the money and that he’s just talked himself into believing it’s art.  Only a few of Lehmden’s things were good, Thomas said, and a he liked a few other individual pictures, but Thomas eviscerated the vast majority of them.  Thomas is scheduled to have lunch at Pabst’s with the Hufnagls and O’Donells at noon tomorrow.  Thomas said that Dr. Schmied should come too.  Dr. Schmied agreed to do so, but not firmly, because he’s going to be leaving tomorrow, and probably he’d also be “worked over” too heavily by Thomas.

Now, after scaring away his brother, Thomas the monster has found another victim to get him riled up.  Lately I’d been very careful not to let him get started on anything with me, because he didn’t have his aunt around to argue with either, and I knew it was high time for Thomas to be able to get properly “riled up” up again.  He needs that.  It’s also possible that that’s the reason he asked Canetti not to come from Salzburg to visit him on 4/23, because he was afraid that there’d be a quarrel or some friction on account of the state of his health.

April 23, 1972

Towards 7:00 in the evening Thomas came to my house in consternation and said: “Now I’m going have to move away from Nathal for a year.”  My wife and I were utterly flabbergasted to hear such a thing.  Thomas said that he had just heard that they were going to be drilling for oil just next to Maxwald’s property near his farmhouse.  That the site had already been unplugged.  That now of all times, when he was about to throw himself into his work again, he’d be completely unable to deal with that kind of noise pollution.  That on top of that, those workmen worked with spotlights on all night long, which was something he really couldn’t be expected to put up with.  At the time there had last been drilling, in Ruhsahm, when there had been some woods between the drilling site and his farmhouse, he had been terribly disturbed and unable to sleep.  Thomas conferred with me about whether he should immediately write to the minister of culture and education, etc.  I told him that approval would have to be granted by the Ohlsdorf municipal government first and that no matter what, a hearing with the neighbors about the drilling would have to take place.  That during the time of that drilling in Ruhsam I myself had received an invitation to the hearing about the construction even though my property had been very far away on the street and next to the woods.  I told Thomas that he’d surely be heard before the drilling site was approved and surely have the opportunity to stall it in a few appeals courts, so that because they wouldn’t be able to start drilling quickly, they’d switch to another site.  Because of course the drilling equipment will have to be used, and the oil company surely won’t want to get involved in a long string of appeals. 

Thomas said he was going to sue them for expenses for a hotel stay and lost income, etc.  Thomas spewed abuse and argued with me until 11:00 p.m.  He had arrived on foot, and because I was already exhausted from our conversation, I let him walk back home.  On all other occasions I’ve offered him a lift in my car.

Before he left, Thomas asked me if I’d go with him to Ohlsdorf Town Hall at 7:30 a.m., because he wants to learn more there.  He wants me to be with him then.

April 24, 1972

At 7:15 in the morning Thomas came to my house and said that last night he’d hardly been able to sleep a wink, but today he was up by 5:00 and then wrote a letter to the Ohlsdorf municipal government.  That he had come to the conclusion that it would be better to address the letter with all its arguments etc. to the municipal government.  Here, read it, he said.  It was a crowdedly handwritten page with a few lines on its other side.  Thomas stated his entire case, which we had talked over the day before, and informed the municipal government that he would be sending a copy of this letter to Governor Wenzel and to Mr. Sinowatz, the minister of culture and education.  When I’d read the letter, Thomas said, this way I’ll be saving myself the effort of writing two more letters, because I’ll send the carbon copies to Wenzl and Sinowatz, and now the whole thing will be ready to hand everywhere.  Now for once the ministry of culture and education will have to show why it exists and what it can do.  It’ll just have to get down and dirty with the ministry of commerce, or whoever else is responsible. 

Along the way Thomas told Granny that he had already gotten over yesterday’s shock; and they were already once again talking about how they wanted to stab each other.  Granny wanted to test the blade of his knife on Thomas, but Thomas said he wasn’t going to stick it in because we was too much of a coward.  Granny said she wanted one good stab before “the curtain falls.”  The “iron curtain,” said Thomas.  A “slime curtain” will fall if the drilling takes place, I said.  Did you see the way the whole neighborhood and the trees looked the last time?  Everything was covered by a ten centimeter-thick layer of slime, when an eruption of gray slime was shot out of the borehole after the drilling.  The fire brigade had to come to remove the slime from the courtyard and the trees.  You can’t move away, I said to Thomas.  That’s no solution; obviously you’ve got to stay here on account of the “slime curtain.”  Any day something might happen that will require you to be here.
Thomas took this doom-mongering of mine very unkindly, and later, after the letter had been mailed in Ohsldorf and we were parting company, he said to me: You’re a monster, Hennetmair; see you.

April 26, 1972

Today at 8:00 in the morning I ran into Thomas at the Ohlsdorf post office.  I reported to him that yesterday I had been at the house of his 82-year-old female neighbor at 99 Grasberg and done some bargaining in connection with the acquisition of some additional land next to the Krucka, an acquisition that he had asked me to take care of.  I told Thomas that she told me that she had already told the “Krucka man” (she was referring to Thomas) that she couldn’t say anything.  Because I understood the mentality of these people, I said to Thomas, I patiently and slyly tried to figure out what she “couldn’t say.”

In the course of further conversation with the 82-year-old woman, it turned out that another male neighbor, namely Druckenthaner the farmer, had also been interested in acquiring this piece of land for years.  That Druckenthaner had even offered to let the sellers settle for life in a house much further uphill, a house that already had electric lighting and wasn’t as hard to get to from the village, etc.  But that on account of their uncle from Salzburg, who comes from Salzburg every weekend expressly to help them with the work, they didn’t want to sell it.  Upon my declaring that this uncle surely wasn’t going to move there and would surely sell the property, the old woman said that the uncle wanted to move there himself and was planning to have lighting installed.  From this, I said to Thomas, I gathered that a sale of the land either to him or to any of the other interested parties was out of the question during the old people’s lifetime.  It will be necessary to have a timely discussion with the uncle and make him a proper offer to buy in the event of an emergency.  Originally we, especially Thomas, were planning to “outplay” the uncle.  But he’s got much more influence with the old woman than we had expected.  Most of the time “legacy hunters” like the uncle from Salzburg fall by the wayside and come away empty-handed.  But the old woman believes that the uncle would like to live there himself, and she’s too heavily under his influence.
But Thomas and I are convinced that the uncle from Salzburg will be glad to have Thomas buy the property from him in the event that he inherits it, because nobody else will think it’s worth the price that Thomas will offer to pay for it as a neighbor.  Thomas also says: Since you’ve got gym class tonight, I’ll come see you tomorrow.  Yes, at the latest, I said.  I’d been firmly expecting you yesterday evening.

Thomas also asked me if I had stopped by his house, the Krucka; he was curious to learn how it was looking. I walked up the hill and walked back down the hill.  I walked past Druckenthaner’s tenants’ house with the four dogs.  There was a lot of fresh snow on the ground, and I found it too slippery, I said, otherwise I would have stopped by your house.  Ah yes, said Thomas, it did snow a lot yesterday.

April 27, 1972

At 11:30 a.m. Thomas came to see me.  When he saw me, he said he could tell that I had been playing cards for a very long time.  Yes, I said, at 11:30 I stepped in for somebody; we had been planning to play tarot until midnight, but before we knew it was two in the morning.  All three partners swore and cursed about the fact that we were stupid enough to play for so long when we left off at two.  Yes, it’s always like that, said Thomas.  A few days ago I played blackjack with Mrs. Schmied at Pabst’s, and I stipulated the exact time, down to the last minute, when we’d call it quits.  And of course the winnings and losses aren’t paid back; rather, whoever’s losing at the end has actually lost, said Thomas.  I won a thousand schillings, and when the clock showed the exact minute, I took my winnings and said: I’m sorry we agreed to do it like this.  Because I don’t know anything; to be sure, the Hufnagls don’t play it often, but whenever they do, they play it like that.

Then Thomas told me that he had also sent a copy of the letter to the mayor regarding the oil-drilling to the mining office in Salzburg and to Schaffler (at Residenz Publications).  In each case I only wrote a couple of additional lines.  I wrote that the nature of the problem would become clear from a reading of the enclosed letter to the mayor, that they had to stop this from happening, and a closing.  I expected that eighty percent of the recipients would chuck the letter into the wastepaper basket, ten percent would reply to it, and another ten percent, meaning Schaffler, would actually do something for me.

Then I showed Thomas Mrs. Barbara Peymann’s letter of 4/23/1972, which I received this morning and have also already replied to.  Even so, I didn’t show Thomas the text of my reply and didn’t even tell him that the reply was already in the mail.  Thomas read the letter and said that he wouldn’t write to Barbara Peymann, that of course he didn’t know her at all.  But he said he’d still write to her husband, Claus Peymann, to inform him that the accommodations in Pfaffstätt were ready.  But it’s awfully cheeky of her to write that they’ll be coming to Salzburg in the middle of the week and get in touch with me from there.  Obviously the first thing they should do is inform me directly that they’ll be coming.  On Wednesday of next week I’ll be in Vienna and taking my aunt to Wolfsegg and not waiting here to find out if this lord and his lady will be coming.  I seconded Thomas’s opinion and said that the letter was ineptly written.  How so, said  Thomas, that’s the way they write out there.  Didn’t you notice the closing, “For today I am yours with very friendly regards, Barbara Peymann”?  What does “for today” mean, I say, tomorrow and nothing else?  It’s a cliché, said Thomas.  Yes, but a stupid, mindless cliché; you wouldn’t write something like that would you?  There’s never any call to write clichés, I say.  Well, most people could never write a proper letter, said Thomas.  Eighty percent of people would never be able to figure out how to write to me, and so they don’t write to me.  Ten percent write me lousy letters, and at most ten percent of the letters I get are good.  Those would be the short letters, I said, and the telegrams.  Thomas laughed and nodded in agreement.  Then Thomas said: Yesterday I received another insufferable letter from the wife of Ruepricht the actor, a man I’ve never liked to begin with.  She wrote: “I know that you don’t want this.  Nevertheless, I’m coming to see you this coming Saturday afternoon.  Get ready for it.”

As we were speaking, I invited Thomas over for lunch, and Thomas told me that yesterday he and O’Donell were over at Dr. Jungk from the agricultural commission’s house, and that Jungk gave him ridiculous preferential treatment there, as if he were some sort of prizewinning animal or God only knew what sort of great personality, to such an extent that O’Donell and he himself were astonished.  Well now, I said, it’s not every day that he gets to hang out with a Büchner prizewinner; in fact not even every year or ever again in his entire life.  On top that I know from my aunt that Jungk is a very nice person, because he was the best schoolmate of my cousin who was killed in the war.

Then Thomas told me that Ruepricht’s wife, the woman who’s coming this coming Saturday, had ridiculously pompous stationery with a huge letterhead with Attersee and Litzlberg Castle and that both her Vienna apartment and her Litzlberger address were printed above it.  The mere sight of stationery like that horrified him from the outset.  Thomas also said that he had written to his publisher Unseld that his new novel would be called Correction, and that even as he was writing to Unseld he was nailing himself to the resolution that the novel would be finished by the end of 1972 and published in 1973.  You know, he said, I need that; I’ve got to set myself deadlines, otherwise I don’t manage to get any work done, otherwise a novel never comes into being, if I haven’t got to write it, if I haven’t got to meet a deadline.

So far with everything I’ve done, I’ve always worked under duress.  Because I’ve got to work on my new novel Correction, I’m not going to get involved in anything whatsoever.  Kaut is in for a surprise when he throws a reception and a certain person doesn’t show up.  I’ve delivered my play, I’ve also got the money now, and if the press or television wants something on account of the forthcoming premiere in Salzburg, I won’t show my face anywhere.  I won’t say anything at all or about anything at all.  If the play is good, they’ll want something from me again anyway, and if it’s a flop, I’m done for whether I give an interview beforehand or not. Kaut is now apparently worried whether he won’t have the nerve to go through with what he’s signed up to do.  But it makes no difference to me, I couldn’t care less what they do with my play.  Hermann plans to come to see me next week without letting me know beforehand.  That just isn’t going to be possible.  People can’t get away with thinking that just because they’re in Salzburg they can drive straight to Bernhard’s house.  Something like that deserves to be scheduled beforehand, but at the right time.  Next week I’m going to be in Vienna.  On Tuesday Aunt Hede will be getting out of the hospital, she’s got an appointment for a checkup at the Baumgartner Höhe on Thursday.  I’ll go to Vienna no later than Wednesday, if not as early as Tuesday afternoon.  Right afterwards I’ll take Aunt Hede to Wolfsegg.  She’s already told them she’ll be coming.
I’ve received some cough syrup from Mrs. Schaffler.  So I don’t know what it is.  It doesn’t taste like anything at all, and I don’t even know how much of it I’m supposed to take.  There was no note with it; she just sent me the bottle on its own.  Of course she’s learned that I’m ill, because I wrote that I couldn’t receive a visit from Canetti, and then she sent me the bottle right away.  But Canetti is so far gone that anybody can invite him over.  He’s old and senile and gives a reading in a different village every eight days.

By then Thomas had asked me several times what I thought of the title Correction, whether it was good or bad, or if I liked it, what I thought of it.  I kept saying that the title was a very good flash of inspiration, that it couldn’t be better.  That it was a title that let you write about anything, that it didn’t tie you to a specific theme.  Yes, exactly, that’s just what I’m planning to do, says Thomas, so I can write completely freely about everything; on top of that there will probably be a lot of corrections.

We talked so much that I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to notice everything well enough to write it all down afterwards.  Accordingly I fetched a number of courses of food from the kitchen myself and secretly took some notes every time I was there.  This time I used the back side of a congratulatory telegram as my notepaper.
At 2:00 in the afternoon, as Thomas was saying goodbye, I invited him to come over at 7:00 in the evening, and he said: Fine, we’ll see each other again in a couple of hours.
After Thomas had left, I started taking down these notes.  Whenever I’m working on these notes, my wife’s standing guard so that she can warn me so that Thomas won’t walk in on me and see that I’m writing about him.  At 3:30 my wife raises the alarm: Bernhard’s coming, she shouts into the room at me.  Thomas still saw me clearing my stuff away, but to keep him from noticing anything, I picked up a few business letters and receipts and pretended that I’d been doing some business work.

Thomas said, now the catastrophe has started.  A Caterpillar has already pushed the dirt away; they’re already working on the drill.  What am I supposed to do? Thomas asked me to go with him to the post office and to the mayor’s office right away.  He said that he wanted to call Schaffler in Salzburg right away, that he would have to make the mining office stop the work immediately. We drove to the post office; Schaffler was out of town, but the secretary knew the whole story and said that a letter was on its way to Bernhard, that the mining office was going to inspect the site and that until they had, no work whatsoever would be allowed to take place.  To be sure, if the owner of the oil company has already signed the contract, it will be somewhat difficult to cancel the job.  No matter what, a hearing about the drilling with all the neighbors will be held.  Armed with this news we went to the town hall to ask the mayor to stop the work.  But we had to visit the mayor at his house in Ruhsam because he wasn’t at the hall.  He said that the work ought to be stopped immediately, that he was going to send a certain municipal official, Siegerl Pesendorfer, to the site to demand that the work be stopped.  After a telephone call to the town hall it transpired that Pesendorfer was at a hearing about a water conduit and might not be back in less than an hour.  Because such a huge bulldozer can move mountains of earth in an hour, I said: We’ll drive Pesendorfer to the entrance of the drilling site ourselves and announce to the driver of the bulldozer that the work is being stopped.

From time to time Thomas would say that his career would be ruined if a drilling station were built there.  At the building site the foreman of the bulldozing operation was already ready to finish the work.  He told us that only yesterday his boss had ordered him with the greatest urgency to get started and that a second bulldozer was supposed to be arriving shortly, that then the work would be finished very quickly.  And even as we were speaking a flatbed truck arrived with a second bulldozer.  This new man hesitated to follow the order to stop, and so I gave him my card and also wrote Thomas’s address on it.  I gave it to him and told him that before he began he should go to the mayor himself and ask whether it was true that the work was being stopped.  Then he believed us and made a very complicated U-turn so that he could drive back to Mondsee, where the headquarters of Kothmaier the transport company is.  But shortly after he left for Mondsee the official, Pesendorfer, arrived, made the announcement to the two men, and the case was closed.  Thomas was delighted, and we went to Maxwald’s, a.k.a. Haumer’s, house to share the news of this situation with him.  We drank five shots of schnapps with Maxwald.  By then it was six in the evening, and Thomas said to me: We’ll celebrate this today; I’m treating you to supper.  You can pick where we go.  I said: Fine, but we’ll have to stop by my house first so that I can tell my wife where I’ll be.  We stopped by Thomas’s even before that, dilly-daddled and shot the breeze, so that it was a quarter to seven when we got to my house, where I told my wife that I was leaving to have dinner with Thomas.  But by then I was already so tired and exhausted that I told Thomas that I’d prefer it if we stayed at my house, because here I could prop my feet up on a chair and be comfortable.  Thomas had no problem with this, and as my wife was fixing something to eat, we were both overcome with fatigue; probably the schnapps was also having its usual effect.

Then the front doorbell rang, and the Hufnagls came in.  Both of them were very loud and brought commotion into the house.  Thomas asked me to tell the Hufnagels all about what had happened today.  Because the two of them weren’t immediately sorry for Thomas on account of that and even started laughing, Thomas got more and more irritated at the Hufnagls.  On top of that they couldn’t grasp the thread of the whole thing.  When Hufnagl finally said they’d come there to find Thomas to invite him to dinner at Pabst’s, Thomas said: It’s impossible, I’ve been invited to have dinner here.  I added that my wife wasn’t ready to receive visitors, that otherwise I’d gladly invite them to join us for dinner.  After the Hufnagels had left, Thomas said: I don’t know how you could ever be prepared for that much commotion.  Tonight I couldn’t have put up with it a moment longer; it was good that you didn’t insist on their staying; I never could have put up with that.  Thomas very courteously thanked me for having helped him in this fashion today.
By then we had eaten, and I asked Thomas to write his overdue letter to Peymannn.  Well then, let’s get down to business, Thomas said.  He typed it on my typewriter; I made sure to keep a carbon copy, which I attach.

Ohlsdorf 4/27/1972

Dear Cluas Peymann,

Hennetmair and I have inspected the house in which you are all supposed to lodge; I cannot imagine a more ideal refuge for your entire collective.  So please thank the man in writing; he is a genius.  From Kaut I hear that you’ve been phoning around in search of accommodations long after we’ve found them for you.  How stupid! From Salzburg I’m getting nothing but lousy news, skimpy but lousy news.  As far as I’m concerned the story’s over until the rehearsals; at that point I’ll allow myself to surface once or twice so that you can curse me.  I found proofreading the play The Ignoramus very taxing.  
Hermann and Bickel are bound to come, because I myself sagely didn’t agree to their coming.

From May the second onwards I’ll be in Vienna for four or five days, which means I won’t be here.

At the moment I’m throwing everything I’ve got into a heroic war against an English oil company and the government, who are both determined to drill for oil in the immediate neighborhood of my workhouse and to ruin me.
The excavator has already dug up all the dirt, but today thanks to me the machine was stopped and pulled away.  For the time being. I abhor the use of armed force.  Especially against excavator drivers and oil magnates.

Rest assured you are a horrible human being.

What sort of director you are remains to be seen.
Very sincerely,
Thomas B.    

Thomas stayed till 11:00 in the evening, and we agreed that early tomorrow morning he would bring me the documents signed by the owner of the drilling site, Baldinger, for photocopying, so that we’d have the documents that were signed there ready to hand.

April 28, 1972

At 7:15 a.m. Thomas is at my house and hands me the documents signed by Alois Baldiner in the envelope in which Uexküll had sent him the review from Le Monde.  As I had things to do in Gmunden throughout the morning, I told Thomas that he should come to my house at 2:00 p.m., that then I would try to help him get Baldinger to withdraw his signature.  Because I think that will be necessary even if the construction project is halted for the short term.  Thomas saw that I had a pile of documents in front of me, and I told him that I’d like to fetch the mail from the post office at 8:00, but that I still had a lot things to take care of beforehand.   Fine, said Thomas; of course it’s still a bit too early for my visit to the town hall anyway, but I don’t wish to disturb you any further.  I’ll come back at two in the afternoon.
At 6:00 p.m. I saw Thomas’s car in front of the town hall; I went into the post office.  There I ran into Pesendorfer, the official.  He told me that everything had changed again today, that the work had already been resumed and that the building contractor was asking the mayor for a damage settlement for the unauthorized cessation of the work.  In the presence of the contractor and Bernhard the mining authority and Salzburg was phoned, and from there it was explained that no official permission was required for the excavation of the topsoil or for the bulldozing.  That a cessation of the work could not be ordered.  I didn’t have time to go to Thomas at the town hall to help him, because in the meantime I had learned that that at the tavern Baldinger was on the verge of tears because the gentlemen at the oil company had threatened him with a lawsuit if he didn’t sign.  But I also learned that he had been absolutely opposed to having any drilling done on his property, but that in order not to have to deal with the lawsuit, he had signed.  It was clear to me that from then onwards everything boiled down to getting Baldinger to withdraw his signature, which had been extorted from him.  But in order to do that it was necessary for me to go immediately to Gmunden to have the photocopies of the originals in my possession made so that we could undertake something by means of the photocopies.  In Gmunden I ran into Mrs. Hufnagl, who had visited me with her ex-husband the previous day.  I asked her to come immediately with me to Tausch the tax adviser’s office, where I was having the photocopies made.  I told Mrs. Hufnags that she would have to follow me to Ohlsdorf in a taxi right away because Thomas was in a tight spot.  He needs help and the documents.  I also said that on the way she should keep an eye out to see if Thomas wasn’t already heading to Gmunden on the other side of the road.  Towards 11:00 a.m. I was back at home and preparing the text that Baldinger was to sign.

At 1:30 p.m. Thomas came to my house in the company of Mrs. Hufnagl.  Thomas said to me that the construction work had been stopped yet again at 10:00 a.m. because at 10:00 the head of the mining office had called from Ohlsdorf town hall and stated that not even any preliminary work was allowed to be carried out.  He stated that he would take personal responsibility for the cessation when the latter told him that he would be receiving a bill from the construction company for the losses the cessation would occasion usw.  Whereupon Thomas said that now it would be a good idea to go straight to Baldinger and ask him for the retraction of his signature from the agreement of 4/15/1972 etc.  I showed Thomas my draft of the letter to the oil company.  Thomas was elated.  That’s exactly right, said Thomas; Baldinger is just blind; he really couldn’t read it; that’s why it’ll be the way that you say.  I’m quite certain of it.  This is why Baldinger will also sign this letter.  But to keep me from operating as an amateur lawyer, let’s go to the town hall and have Secretary Möser write the letter.  We did this, and then Thomas drove with Maxwald to Baldinger to get his signature.  In Maxwald’s house I waited for the two of them with Mrs. Hufnagl, who accompanied us all along the way.  A fair amount of time passed before Thomas came back with Maxwald, because Baldinger had had to be fetched from the woods first.   Baldinger naturally signed and in conversation confirmed that the gentlemen had threatened him with a lawsuit if he didn’t sign.  I said to Thomas: now the head of the mining office [Franz Prezelj] is completely covered, because even his cessation wasn’t yet legally binding.  He will be glad to find this letter available this coming Tuesday, on which he has agreed to make a personal appearance.  Thanks to Baldinger’s signed letter of April 28, 1972, the mayor and the head of the mining office are covered.  Therefore before the end of the day I will also leave a photocopy at the town hall and at the same time take the letter to the post office.
By then it was 4:30 p.m., and Thomas drove with Mrs Hufnagl to Lederau to see Mrs. Schmied.  They were all planning to meet in Laakirchen in the evening.  Before they could do that Hufnagl the architect would have to get back from Wörgl, where he’s involved in the construction of that school.

April 29, 1972

At 8:30 a.m. my wife came into the bedroom and said to me, Thomas is here.  If I want to, I should get up, but I don’t have to; he’d like to speak to me, but only if it’s convenient; otherwise he’ll come back later.  Naturally, I jumped right into the shower.  I was fine with getting out of bed.  Thomas wanted to know how things were going to play out, whether the gentlemen from the oil company wouldn’t badger Baldinger again and bring him round to signing, whether those gentlemen wouldn’t insist on everyone’s sticking to the 4/15 and, and who would have to reimburse the workers involved in the bulldozing.  I said to Thomas: I don’t know how things are going to play out, because I’m not a clairvoyant.  I’ve hardly been the judge and jury of the case; one again you want to know what’s going to happen and how things are going to play out.  One thing is certain—that these gentlemen won’t insist on the legality of the signature of 4/15 and that they’re not going file a lawsuit about it either, because they themselves will let sleeping dogs lie.  Because otherwise, it would of course come to light that in acting on the agreement they had been in violation of the law.  Because they hired the workers illegally, they are legally obligated to reimburse them and will have to restore the property to its original state.  Yes, says Thomas, but if Baldinger is bowled over again, if he doesn’t dare say that they threatened him with a lawsuit and that he didn’t want the thing to happen, etc.  What’s more, there are quite a lot of witnesses here who know how it was realized.  Baldinger can only tell the truth, as he told it to everybody and to you and even to Maxwald.  Having been pacified in this way to some extent, Thomas left after an hour.

April 30, 1972

At 6:00 in the evening Thomas came to me and said he wanted to stay till 7:00, when he would be meeting the Hufnagls and O’Donell for dinner at Pabst’s in Laakirchen. 
I asked Thomas if he had run into Mrs. Rueprecht from Litzlberg.  I ran away, said Thomas.  Yesterday I was at the Hunting Lodge Restaurant in Offensee with O’Donell.  Archduke Johann was having a VW bus washed with a hose when we got there.  There were only four tables, where lunch was being served.  The whole building is execrable, both inside and out, and it doesn’t fit into the neighborhood either.  Whereupon I said to Thomas, I said the same thing to my wife when I was there a few weeks ago.  When you see that, you’ll say that.  I am entirely of your opinion.  But of course, said Thomas, that kind of architect talked the dopey boy into something, and he simply did it.  But in financial hindsight it’s turning out to be a complete washout.  The food is wretched, and everything about the décor and furniture is atrocious.  To avoid coming home too early I walked around the lake with O’Donell afterwards, and then we also went to the Forellenhof.  The staff there also just stand around like at the Offensee.  The whole thing’s a washout, there’s no business, how is something like that supposed to pay off?  What enormous investments!  People just don’t want such pubs, everything made out of glass, etc.  Like an actual woodcutter’s hut, that’s what pubs should be like.  Small, a space in which the guests sit all mixed together and where you’ve got to associate with the locals.  The old Hunting Lodge should have been turned into a guesthouse but also left the way it was.

When I got home, said Thomas, there was naturally no sign of Mrs. Rueprecht there.  But Erika (Dr. Wieland Schmied’s wife) had thrown in a note to me stating that she had already gone home to Germany.  When she got back from supper at Pabst’s, there were six men in her bed.  People had already squatted in the house in the past; probably once again people were thinking there was nobody in the house.  On top of that, Erika wrote, she had been at the police station for four hours and had a minor accident.  Whether she was there in connection with the six men or the accident or as a witness, I can’t figure out why she was at the police station so long.  I said to Thomas: We should go over there in a few days.  Then at the office we’ll learn all about what was going on.  Because it’s interesting, whatever might have happened.

Thomas also told me that he had seen the car accident that happened between Steyermühl and Vorchdorf, which was reported in today’s Kronen Zeitung.  Thomas looked at the clock; it was 7:00 p.m.  They’re already waiting on me now, he said, I’ve got to leave; otherwise it’s completely off.  With that Thomas said good night. 


Translation unauthorized but Copyright ©2019 by Douglas Robertson .  Source: Karl Ignaz Hennetmair,Ein Jahr mit Thomas Bernhard.  Das versiegelte Tagebuch 1972.  Sankt Pölten: Residenz Verlag, 2014.