Tag Archives: thomas bernhard

Thomas Bernhard Interview

This appears to have been conducted in 1984, on the eve of the publication of his novel Woodcutters.

Gotta love this. Right off the bat:

FLEISCHMANN: The blurb of your latest book mentions “its first-person narrator, in whom the combination of fiction and autobiographical fact is more pronounced than ever before.” What is the relationship there? What is real? What is invented?

BERNHARD: Well, everything is invented, and everything is also real. That’s the nature of the mixture. And the person who perceives himself as real will find himself in it, and he will also perceive even what’s invented as real.

And more of Bernhard being Bernhard:

FLEISCHMANN: And what happens now if these friends recognize themselves in this book?

BERNHARD: Well, of course they can’t help recognizing themselves, even though all their names have been changed. The uninitiated reader won’t know who has been targeted; the target will know with a hundred-percent certainty who it is when he feels himself being hit.

Gabriel Josipovici on New Finnish Grammar by Diego Marani

Gotta love a guy who can start a review with an extended quote from Wordsworth:

One of the most mysterious and disconcerting episodes in The Prelude concerns Wordsworth’s encounter in London with a blind beggar “who, with upright face,/Stood, propped against a wall, upon his chest/Wearing a written paper, to explain/His story, whence he came, and who he was”. The sight, the poet tells us, sent his mind spinning, “As with the might of waters”, for it seemed an “apt type . . . of the utmost we can know,/Both of ourselves and of the universe”. Can this be true? Is the blind beggar, his name written on his chest but unable to read it, an emblem of ourselves?

The idea is shocking to most of us, who believe that we are transparent to ourselves and that the world is, to a certain extent, open to our understanding.

Diego Marani’s remarkable novel sets out to explore these questions . . .

Also read his essay on Thomas Bernhard in the same periodical.

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.


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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