Monday, 5 January 2009

Biller Bitches on Bernhard

The FAZ features a great vitriolic piece by Maxim Biller on Thomas Bernhard, and why Biller thinks he was a bigoted, Catholic, maudlin, cowardly arsehole. The proof, Biller says, is in his posthumous book Meine Preise, in which he catalogues all the literary awards he won and explains what was shite about them all. But he accepted them anyway, for various reasons which Biller finds hypocritical and arbitrary. Bizarrely enough, Biller loves the book; maybe because it confirms all his dislikes.

Biller writes:

I think the mendacious hero of our mendacious chattering classes was never as honest in any of his books as in Meine Preise. But that's always part and parcel if you want to be a great writer. At last, he stopped hiding behind his almost columnist-like, unliterary, unjustifiable hate for others and behind his all-darkening, redundant abrading style that hypnotises and lulls the readers to sleep until they don't even know what they're reading, apart from that they're reading, and that's something German speaking and german not-thinking semi-thinkers always love doing: pretending – pretending to love literature, pretending to want to understand what they read, pretending they want to make the world more beautiful, truer, better. This lie has always been the basis of the whole anti-enlightenment Hölderlin, Thomas Mann and Rainald Goetz conspiracy, and I'll give anyone who can prove the opposite the Ilf and Petrov Prize and ten rubles.

You can get Biller's short stories, Love Today, in English translation by Anthea Bell. The reception has been, well, mixed.

4 comments:

David said...

Nice piece by Biller, even though I am one of those Bernhard-admirers he despises.

How would you translate "Kaffeehaus-Schreihals"?

kjd said...

D, I don't think I dare...

Poet in Residence said...

If Biller took the trouble to read Meine Preise properly he would see that Thomas Bernhard doesn't "catalogue all the literary awards he won" (he mentions 9 from 13) and he wasn't "shite about them all". There is one in there that delighted him.

kjd said...

PiR - In Biller's defence, he probably did read the book properly. I, on the other hand, only read the article and summed it up in a rather offhand way, playing for laughs.

I like your Bernhard translations, by the way - I find it much more exciting when translators try and create their own versions rather than word-for-word reflections.