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Thomas Bernhard
Thomas Bernhard.jpg
Thomas Bernhard in 1987.
Born (1931-02-09)9 February 1931
Heerlen, Netherlands
Died 12 February 1989(1989-02-12) (aged 58)
Gmunden, Upper Austria, Austria
Occupation Novelist and playwright
Nationality Austrian
Period 1957–1989
Literary movement Postmodern
Notable works Correction
Extinction
The Loser
Woodcutters

Signature
Website
www.thomasbernhard.org

Thomas Bernhard (German: [ˈbɛʁnhaʁt]; born Nicolaas Thomas Bernhard; February 9, 1931 – February 12, 1989) was an Austrian novelist, playwright and poet. Bernhard, whose body of work has been called "the most significant literary achievement since World War II,"[1] is widely considered to be one of the most important German-speaking authors of the postwar era.

Life[edit]

Thomas Bernhard was born out of wedlock in 1931 in Heerlen, Netherlands, where, at the time, his mother worked as a maid. Since the autumn of 1931, he lived with his grandparents in Vienna until his mother, who had married since, moved him, in 1937, to Traunstein, Bavaria. Bernhard's natural father died in Berlin from gas poisoning; Thomas had never met him.

Bernhard's grandfather, the author Johannes Freumbichler, pushed for an artistic education for the boy, including musical instruction. Bernhard went to elementary school in Seekirchen and later attended various schools in Salzburg including the Johanneum which he left in 1947 to start an apprenticeship with a grocer.

Bernhard's Lebensmensch (a predominantly Austrian term, which was coined by Bernhard himself [2] and which refers to the most important person in one's life[3]) was Hedwig Stavianicek (1894–1984), a woman more than thirty-seven years his senior, whom he cared for alone in her dying days and whom he had met in 1950, the year of his mother's death and one year after the death of his beloved grandfather. Stavianicek was the major support in Bernhard's life and greatly furthered his literary career. The extent or nature of his relationships with women is obscure. Thomas Bernhard's public persona was asexual.[4]

Thomas Bernhard's House, Video by Christiaan Tonnis, 2006

Suffering throughout his youth from an intractable lung disease (tuberculosis), Bernhard spent the years 1949 to 1951 at the sanatorium Grafenhof, in Sankt Veit im Pongau. He trained as an actor at the Mozarteum in Salzburg (1955–1957) and was always profoundly interested in music. His lung condition, however, made a career as a singer impossible. After that he began to work briefly as a journalist, mainly as a crime reporter, and then became a full-time writer.

Bernhard died in 1989 in Gmunden, Upper Austria. His attractive house in Ohlsdorf-Obernathal 2 where he had moved in 1965 is now a museum and centre for the study and performance of Bernhard's work. In his will, which aroused great controversy on publication, Bernhard prohibited any new stagings of his plays and publication of his unpublished work in Austria; however, this was annuled by his heir in 1999. His death was announced only after his funeral.

Work[edit]

Often criticized in Austria as a Nestbeschmutzer (one who dirties his own nest) for his critical views, Bernhard was highly acclaimed abroad. Nevertheless, while critised for political reasons by some, he was, during his life time, also highly acclaimed in Austria, winning a number of major awards, and was seen by many as the pre-eminent writer of the time.

His work is most influenced by the feeling of being abandoned (in his childhood and youth) and by his incurable illness, which caused him to see death as the ultimate essence of existence. His work typically features loners' monologues explaining, to a rather silent listener, his views on the state of the world, often with reference to a concrete situation. This is true for his plays as well as for his prose, where the monologues are then reported second hand by the listener.

His main protagonists, often scholars or, as he calls them, Geistesmenschen, denounce everything that matters to the Austrian in contumacy-filled tirades against a "stupid populace". He also attacks the state (often called "Catholic-National-Socialist"), generally respected institutions such as Vienna's Burgtheater, and much-loved artists. His work also continually deals with the isolation and self-destruction of people striving for an unreachable perfection, since this same perfection would mean stagnancy and therefore death. Anti-Catholic rhetoric is not uncommon.

"Es ist alles lächerlich, wenn man an den Tod denkt" (Everything is ridiculous, when one thinks of Death) was his comment when he received a minor Austrian national award in 1968, which resulted in one of the many public scandals he caused over the years and which became part of his fame. His novel Holzfällen (1984), for instance, could not be published for years due to a defamation claim by a former friend. Many of his plays—above all Heldenplatz (1988)—were met with criticism from many Austrians, who claimed they sullied Austria's reputation. One of the more controversial lines called Austria "a brutal and stupid nation ... a mindless, cultureless sewer which spreads its penetrating stench all over Europe." Heldenplatz, as well as the other plays Bernhard wrote in these years, were staged at Vienna's famous Burgtheater by the controversial director Claus Peymann.

Even in death Bernhard caused disturbance by his, as he supposedly called it, posthumous literary emigration, by disallowing all publication and stagings of his work within Austria's borders. The International Thomas Bernhard Foundation, established by his executor and half-brother Dr. Peter Fabjan, has subsequently made exceptions, although the German firm of Suhrkamp remains his principal publisher.

The correspondence between Bernhard and his publisher Siegfried Unseld from 1961 to 1989 – about 500 letters – was published in December 2009 at Suhrkamp Verlag, Germany.[5]

Works (in translation)[edit]

Novels[edit]

  • Frost (1963), translated by Michael Hofmann (2006)
  • Gargoyles (Verstörung, 1967), translated by Richard and Clara Winston (1970)
  • The Lime Works (Das Kalkwerk, 1970), translated by Sophie Wilkins (1973)
  • Correction (Korrektur, 1975), translated by Sophie Wilkins (1979)
  • Yes (Ja, 1978), translated by Ewald Osers (1991)
  • The Cheap-Eaters (Der Billigesser, 1980), translated by Ewald Osers (1990)
  • Concrete (Beton, 1982), translated by David McLintock (1984)
  • Wittgenstein's Nephew (Wittgensteins Neffe, 1982), translated by David McLintock (1988)
  • The Loser (Der Untergeher, 1983), translated by Jack Dawson (1991)
  • Woodcutters (Holzfällen: Eine Erregung, 1984), translated by Ewald Osers (1985) and as Woodcutters, by David McLintock (1988)
  • Old Masters: A Comedy (Alte Meister. Komödie, 1985), translated by Ewald Osers (1989)
  • Extinction (Auslöschung, 1986), translated by David McLintock (1995)
  • On the Mountain (In Der Höhe, written 1959, published 1989), translated by Russell Stockman (1991)

Novellas[edit]

  • Amras (1964)
  • Playing Watten (Watten, 1964)
  • Walking (Gehen, 1971)
    • Collected as Three Novellas (2003), translated by Peter Jansen and Kenneth J. Northcott

Plays[edit]

  • The Force of Habit (1974)
  • Immanuel Kant (1978); a comedy, no known translation to English, first performed on 15 April 1978, directed by Claus Peymann at the Staatstheater Stuttgart.
  • The President and Eve of Retirement (1982): Originally published as Der Präsident (1975) and Vor dem Ruhestand. Eine Komödie von deutscher Seele (1979), translated by Gitta Honegger.
  • Destination (1981), originally titled Am Ziel.
  • Histrionics: Three Plays (1990): Collects A Party for Boris (Ein Fest für Boris, 1968), Ritter, Dene, Voss (1984) and Histrionics (Der Theatermacher, 1984), translated by Peter Jansen and Kenneth Northcott.[6]
  • Heldenplatz (1988)
  • Over All the Mountain Tops (2004): Originally published as Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh (1981), translated by Michael Mitchell.
  • The World-fixer (2005)

Miscellaneous[edit]

  • Gathering Evidence (1985, memoir): Collects Die Ursache (1975), Der Keller (1976), Der Atem (1978), Die Kälte (1981) and Ein Kind (1982), translated by David McLintock.
  • The Voice Imitator (1997, stories): Originally published as Der Stimmenimitator (1978), translated by Kenneth J. Northcott.[7]
  • In Hora Mortis / Under the Iron of the Moon (2006, poetry): Collects In Hora Mortis (1958) and Unter dem Eisen des Mondes (1958), translated by James Reidel.
  • My Prizes (2010, stories): Originally published as Meine Preise (2009), translated by Carol Brown Janeway.
  • Prose (Seagull Books London Ltd, United Kingdom, 2010, short stories); originally published in Germany, 1967.
  • Victor Halfwit: A Winter's Tale (2011, illustrated story)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Peck, Dale (December 24, 2010). "Book Review - 'My Prizes' and 'Prose' by Thomas Bernhard". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ Honegger, Gitta. Thomas Bernhard: The Making of an Austrian. Yale University 2001, p. 59. 
  3. ^ "Wiktionary entry 'Lebensmensch'". 
  4. ^ Honegger, Thomas Bernhard, pp. 61-63.
  5. ^ Der Briefwechsel Thomas Bernhard/Siegfried Unseld, Suhrkamp Verlag, 2009-12-07
  6. ^ Histrionics: Three Plays, Thomas Bernhard (University of Chicago Press, 1990)
  7. ^ "The Voice Imitator by Thomas Bernhard - five stories excerpted". Press.uchicago.edu. Retrieved 2011-08-24. 

Sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Reviews

Films[edit]

  • Ferry Radax: Thomas Bernhard - Drei Tage (Thomas Bernhard - three days, 1970). Directed by Ferry Radax and based on a written self-portrait by Thomas Bernhard.
  • Ferry Radax: Der Italiener (The Italian, 1972), a feature film directed by Ferry Radax and based on a script by Thomas Bernhard.

External links[edit]


Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Bernhard — Please support Wikipedia.
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5149 news items

Sveriges Radio

Sveriges Radio
Mon, 17 Aug 2015 22:59:42 -0700

Utplåning blev hans sista roman. Ännu en sån där som likt Korrigering som kom på svenska förra året skriver sin egen upplösning tills inget återstår. En sorts text- och egendomsförstörare, för som det heter, för vår räddnings skull. Förstöra för att ...

T24

T24
Thu, 20 Aug 2015 10:22:18 -0700

Thomas Bernhard, hayatını anlattığı bir beşleme yazmıştı ve bunlar Türkçeye çevrilmeye başladı. Bernhard, ilk kitap Neden'de, bugünü gözde gezi kenti Salzburg'un kendisindeki acı dolu yerini anlatıyordu. Sahte bir güzelliğe sahip olduğunu söylediği ...

Hungary Today

Hungary Today
Wed, 26 Aug 2015 05:22:30 -0700

On September 14, works of the sceptic, always pessimistic Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard will be evoked in the Festival Theatre by Hungarian actors and actresses. Mihály Mosonyi, a Hungarian composer born in Burgenland 200 years ago, will be ...

New York Times

New York Times
Thu, 06 Aug 2015 19:02:08 -0700

Her first translation for Knopf was Lothar-Günther Buchheim's “Das Boot,” which she followed with, among others, Bernhard Schlink's “The Reader” (1997), Sandor Marai's “Embers” (2002), Thomas Bernhard's “My Prizes” (2010), Margriet de Moor's “The ...

NPR

NPR
Tue, 11 Aug 2015 07:04:51 -0700

The experience is equal parts Thomas Bernhard, Kelly Link and Muriel Sparks. Because of Prodigies' unusual style, it requires great care and thoughtfulness to read. It cannot be rushed through or casually scanned. An impatient reader will abandon this ...

Wiener Zeitung

Wiener Zeitung
Thu, 12 Feb 2015 06:15:46 -0800

"Der Normalfall, dass Vater, Mutter und Kind eine Familie bilden, entspreche einfach nicht mehr der Realität." Diesen haarsträubenden Unsinn liest man in der Parlamentskorrespondenz vom 5. Februar im Bericht über Äußerungen einer grünen Bundesrätin ...

The Times (subscription)

The Times (subscription)
Mon, 17 Aug 2015 12:30:00 -0700

Among the works she made accessible to English speakers were Bernhard Schlink's The Reader (1997), Thomas Bernhard's My Prizes (2010) and Daniel Kehlmann's F (2014). The Scottish-born Janeway had been recruited in 1970 as a vice-president, ...
 
The Bookseller
Tue, 04 Aug 2015 01:48:42 -0700

From Bernhard Schlink to Thomas Bernhard and Ferdinand von Schirach, the sheer range of the fiction she carried into English bears witness to her virtuosity and versatility. More recently, through her creative alliance with the brilliant Daniel ...
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