Sunday, September 30, 2007

Taming Thomas Bernhard?

I came across this a little while back, thought I will link it here alongwith an excerpt from Extinction. The Austrian embassy using a somewhat misleading quote from Thomas Bernhard, there is something really funny about it.

Bernhard is actually very popular in Austria and the German speaking world. In his will he famously prohibited the staging of any of his plays in Austria ("in whatever way the state defines itself") after his death but this didn't stop his admirers from arranging to have his plays staged in the neighbouring Czech republic and going there. More details here. A more detailed article in the TLS gives an overview of his reception and rise in popularity after his death. It also talks of an exhibition of his private papers.

In case someone is wondering what the ruckus is all about, a sample excerpt from Extinction:

I recalled that only a few days before this unbearably tasteless funeral I had said to Gambetti, Just to think of Austria, a country that's disfigured, degenerate, and done for, is enough to make you vomit, to say nothing of the utterly degenerate state, whose vulgarity and baseness are unparalleled not only in Europe but in the rest of the world -- a state that has for decades been run by unprincipled, degenerate, brainless governments, and a people that's been mutilated beyond recognition by these unprincipled, degenerate and brainless governments. First by the vulgar, vicious National Socialist regime, then by the no less vulgar, vicious and criminal pseudosocialism that succeeded it. I had told Gambetti on the Pincio, as I now recalled, standing by the open grave. The destruction and annihilation of our country has been encompassed by National Socialism and pseudosocialism, aided and abetted by Austrian Catholicism, which has always cast its blight upon Austria. Today Austria is a country governed by unscrupulous profiteers belonging to parties devoid of all conscience. In the last few centuries, Gambetti, Austria has been cheated of everything and had all its sense knocked out of it by Catholicism, National Socialism and pseudosocialism. In the Austria of today, Gambetti, vulgarity is the watchword, baseness the motive, and mendacity the key. Every morning when we wake up we ought to be utterly ashamed of today's Austria. Time and again I tell myself that we love Austria but hate the Austrian state, Gambetti. Whether we are in Rome or anywhere else in the world, Austria no longer concerns us. Wherever you go in Austria today you are surrounded by lies. Wherever you look, you find only mendacity. Whoever you talk to, you're talking to a liar, Gambetti, I said, as I now recalled, standing by the open grave. This ridiculous country and this ridiculous state are basically not worth thinking about, and to think about them is just a waste of time. But woe betide anyone in this country who isn't blind, I said, who isn't deaf, and still has his wits about him! To be an Austrian today is a death sentence, and all Austrians are subject to this death sentence, I had said, as I now recalled, standing by the open grave. Everything Austrian is characterless, I said. Whenever one comes back to Austria, one feel dirty, I thought, standing by the open grave.

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