Category Archives: thomas bernhard

More on My Prizes

With that dim experience in mind, I read “The Grillparzer Prize” vicariously. Here, Bernhard and his “aunt,” a constant companion who features prominently in this book, are ignored by everyone when they enter the hall of the Academy of Sciences, and remain so until the last moment, when they’re spotted in the audience. He tells a factotum that he won’t go up on stage with his aunt until the president of the academy comes to his aisle and personally invites him. “I’m not going to go and meet them, I thought, just as (in the deepest sense of the word) they didn’t meet me.” While he’s on the stage the minister for sciences falls asleep and the president reads out names of works not written by Bernhard. He receives “a so-called award certificate of a tastelessness, like every other award certificate I have ever received, that was beyond comparison.” (That descriptor ‘so-called’ recurs throughout My Prizes.) At the end he is ignored once more, and when he hears the now awake minister wonder, “in a voice in which inimitable arrogance competed with stupidity,” where the “little poet” is, he and his aunt leave. It’s only later that he finds there’s no money in the prize, just the honour of receiving it. “My own humiliation then struck me as common impudence.”

More from Jeff Bursey at The WInnipeg Review on the angry Bernhard’s My Prizes. Also my own review in The Quarterly Conversation, and E.J. Van Lanen’s essay on Bernhard in the most recent Quarterly Conversation.

Bernhard for You

Asymptote’s first issue has published a short story from the recent Thomas Bernhard short fiction collection, Prose. The story is “Is it a Comedy? Is it a Tragedy?”

The rest of Asymptote is well worth a look. There are a lot of new translations (from authors decidedly less widely known than Bernhard), plus some feature essays on international works and some critical essays. I look forward to seeing what Issue 2 holds in store.

J.J. Long's Thomas Bernhard Book

I’ve been reading my Bernhard lately, which means I’ve been scouring the Internet for all the decent Bernhard criticism out there. Turns out that J.J. Long’s study of a substantial chunk of Bernhard’s works is available on Google Book, almost in its entirety. For those who prefer the hard copy, you can find it at The Novels of Thomas Bernhard: Form and Its Function, and it will cost you a cool $60.00.

If you’re wondering why the name J.J. Long sounds so familiar, it’s probably because he wrote an excellent study of another German-language author, one W.G. Sebald (read my review here).

Profanity in Blurbs?

The Literary Saloon thinks it's uncovered a can't-miss blurb for any publisher willing to translate Thomas Bernhard's Meine Preise:

While we're not big fans of blurbs we would, however, also urge that the US/UK publisher include one very prominently on the cover of the book — from Maxim Biller's review in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung:

Das Arschloch Thomas Bernhard, und das sage ich, obwohl ich ungern schlecht über Tote rede, das Arschloch Bernhard hat ziemlich sicher nur ein einziges gutes Buch geschrieben. Dieses Buch erscheint erst jetzt, obwohl er es schon 1980 geschrieben hat, und es zeigt, was für ein Arschloch er war

[The asshole Thomas Bernhard — and I say this even though I dislike speaking ill of the dead — the asshole Thomas Bernhard, it's fairly certain to say, only wrote a single good book. This book appears only now, even though he already wrote it in 1980, and it demonstrates what an asshole he was.]

This raises an interesting question: undoubtedly this would get some attention, and a large part of the appeal hinges on Biller's use of the term asshole, but would a profane blurb create the right kind of attention or the wrong kind?

I can't say that I can recall ever seeing profanity in a blurb before (not even in a positive sense, like "a fucking good read!"), although Bernhard would seem to be a good choice to break the profanity line. But I do worry . . . if a publisher does go profane, and if it does work out well, will that usher in a new era of potty-mouthed bookcovers?


The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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