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.