Thursday, 13 February 2014

Twenty-Five Years Yesterday

Yesterday was the twenty-fifth anniversary of Thomas Bernhard's death. I suppose he's not the kind of writer whose birth one would celebrate.

Anyway, people got excited. Someone wrote on Facebook that Thomas Bernhard once took him to the zoo as a child, prompting many oohs and ahs. There were articles in the papers. The German writer Joachim Lottmann visited Bernhard's favourite places in Vienna and more or less repeated what Bernhard said about them: old brown café = good, painting of old man = good, everything else appalling. A younger Austrian writer, Alexander Schimmelbusch, had a party in Berlin to celebrate his novel Die Murau Identität, in which Bernhard didn't die after all. I didn't go and I can't really be bothered to read it. There's a review at The Complete Review.  

I don't know. I've read his early stories in Martin Chalmers' translation, coming away nonplussed, and I read and was very, very keen on Alte Meister because I appreciated the style a great deal. But as that impression fades – I read it because someone said nothing happened in it, but that wasn't the case at all – all I'm left with is a grumpy man, to whom other grumpy men look up. I come across a fair amount of people who make it their business to be grumpy about everything, and I suspect that must make it hard to be enthusiastic about anything. Like Nein Quarterly, maybe. You can't imagine his persona just going home and enjoying a slice of cake. I remember there was a tiny spark of hope in Alte Meister, something to do with art being imperfect in a good way. Or that's how I remember reading it.  

Anyway, gloomily enough, someone stole the marble memorial plate from Bernhard's grave, and according to Lottmann his half-brother says he's not going to replace it. 


Margaret said...

Love Bernhard.
Have you tried his autobiography - ein Kind etc.?
Not a barrel of laughs of course.

kjd said...

I will. I think he's a great stylist, I'm just confused by the fuss over his person.

Tony Malone said...

I tried 'Holzfällen' last year and loved the style. I think I'll stick to the writing and ignore the persona...