Hardback, 112 pages
Publisher: Seagull Books (April 2016)
Languages: English, German
Selected by Tank
A collection of four stories as bleak and biting as any of Bernhard’s best. In each, the Austrian master summons Wittgenstein and Montaigne, tracing his abiding engagement with the philosophy of doubt. Elegantly translated by James Reidl, translator of Franz Werfel and Georg Trakl, this slim and elegant volume offers a perfect introduction to Bernhard’s uncompromising indictments of the delusions of modern life.
While I always expressed myself too loudly, and especially the word misery always too loudly, I said it was invariably typical of him to invariably say everything too softly, something that made it difficult throughout our time together, especially when we so often went walking in the forest every day, as it had been our custom towards the end of winter, speaking not a word to each other in self-evident consent, as I said emphatically, without hesitation; we had become accustomed to the rhythm of our walking, I said, the rhythm of our feelings and thoughts, although I was more in keeping with my feelings and thoughts than to his, and from this rhythm of walking one developed this entirely appropriate rhythm of speech, especially in the High Alps, where we had so often gone with our parents, who went twice a year to the mountains and always made us go with them to the mountains, even though we hated the mountains. He hated the mountains just as much as I did and, from the beginning of our relationship, our hatred of the mountains was just the means that brought us close for the first time and finally bound us together for years and decades. Even the arrangements of our parents for the mountains made us turn against them and furious with the mountains, with the fresh air, and with our parents’ unalleviated, long-awaited peace and quiet, which they believed they could find in the mountains and only in the mountains, but never did they find it in themselves, as we knew; even when they spoke of their latest impending Alpine holiday, when they packed their Alpine paraphernalia and confronted us with this packing of their Alpine paraphernalia, it made us furious with their Alpine intentions and with their Alpine passion and ultimately with their Alpine madness, and we were as much repelled by their Alpine intentions and passion as we were by their Alpine madness. Your parents had a much greater Alpine passion than mine, I said, and I said it again too loudly for him, which is probably why I didn’t get his answer, so with that I said his parents always had bright green wool stockings, not like mine, ones of bright red, that his pulled on these bright green stockings so as not to at all stand out in their seeking nature, while mine pulled on bright red so as to stand out in nature, his parents had always spared nothing in asserting their intention to not stand out in nature, while mine had always spared nothing to stand out in this nature, his parents had always said they wore bright green stockings in order not to stand out in nature, my parents had always said they wore bright red in order to stand out in nature, and his justified their bright green stockings with the same tenacity as mine did their bright red. And then at every moment they made a point of how they had knitted those bright green and bright red stockings themselves, your mother I always saw knitting those bright green stockings, I said, mine the bright red as though she had nothing other on her mind, I said, when it grew dark, than knitting those bright red ones and yours those bright green. And your parents always had on bright green caps in their bright green stockings, I said, mine bright red. Indeed, in the High Alps, accident victims will more easily be found wearing bright red stockings and bright red caps than other ones, I said to him, but he didn’t answer. His parents had always treated me with suspicion, I said, always letting me into their house with suspicion and it was always unnerving for me to visit his parents’ house given this suspicion, but my parents were always just as much suspicious of him, and so his parents very often prevented me from coming to see him, and mine did the same when he came to see me, when I wanted nothing more deeply than his coming to see me, for I had long felt throughout my childhood and long afterwards that he was my liberator from the prison house of my parents that I had always found deadly.
Thomas Bernhard, 1931-1989, was an Austrian novelist, poet and playwright. Known for the dark quality of his writing, his work has often garnered controversy; his last play Heldenplatz opened to demonstrations and censorship after he stated, “Inside every Viennese there is a mass murderer.”