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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 in 1931 in Heerlen, Netherlands 1936 occasioned a move to Traunstein in 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, then as 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. 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.

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 tirades against the "stupid populace" that are full of contumely. 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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Die Kunstnaturkatastrophe Thomas Bernhard

German documentary about Thomas Bernhard, master of invective and greatest writer of German prose since the war. Can't remember where I found this, unfortunately the original is no more to...

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Interview mit Krista Fleischmann 1986.

Lauter schwierige Patienten 08 - Reich-Ranicki über Thomas Bernhard

Thomas Bernhard - TV-Dokumente 1967-88

"Meine Triebfeder ist, das zu schreiben, von dem niemand spricht." ("Das war Thomas Bernhard", ORF 1994)

Thomas Bernhard - Ein Gespräch (1978)

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Thomas Bernhard - Monologe auf Mallorca [1/5]

DVD bestellbar auf http://www.suhrkamp.de/buecher/monologe_auf_mallorca_und_die_ursache_bin_ich_selbst-krista_fleischmann_13504.html sowie auf Amazon.

Frances Wilson on Thomas Bernhard's My Prizes

Frances Wilson, who introduced Notting Hill Editions' title My Prizes by Thomas Bernhard, here discusses Bernhard, the enfant terrible of Austrian literature, and the prizes he accepted with...

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Das ganze Programm von Georg Schramm. Besucht uns auf Facebook für mehr Kabarett: https://www.facebook.com/kabarettsatire.

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7276 news items

Haaretz

Haaretz
Sun, 26 Apr 2015 02:57:06 -0700

One festival performance I saw recently was “Woodcutters” (“Holzfällen”), based on a novel by the Austrian author Thomas Bernhard and adapted and directed by Polish director Krystian Lupa. The play was produced by the Polish Theater in Wroclaw but was ...

El Nuevo Herald

El Nuevo Herald
Sat, 04 Apr 2015 09:00:53 -0700

“Efectivamente: el mejor personaje de Thomas Bernhard es... Thomas Bernhard. Toda su obra puede considerarse como una extensa autobiografía, llena, eso sí, de exageraciones e inexactitudes. Por eso, a pesar de los cambios de género literario, escena ...

Diário Digital

Diário Digital
Mon, 20 Apr 2015 04:36:44 -0700

A Companhia de Teatro de Braga prepara-se para mais uma apresentação do espectáculo «No Alvo», de Thomas Bernhard. Depois da estreia, a 9 de Abril, no Theatro Circo em Braga, a próxima apresentação do espetáculo será já no domingo, dia 26 de ...

Sydney Morning Herald

Sydney Morning Herald
Sat, 11 Apr 2015 07:15:37 -0700

In the contemporary section it's very pleasing to see Gerald Murnane's Inland there, along with Thomas Bernhard and Roberto Bolaño. They're there along with Margaret Drabble's The Radiant Way, initiating a fine sequence which gets quite a wrap, even if ...

The Guardian

The Guardian
Tue, 14 Apr 2015 05:12:14 -0700

Every so often a novel comes along that tickles my fancy so much that it actually makes me suspicious: that it has not so much been written by an independent mind unaware of my existence, as reverse-engineered in order to make me say “brilliant!” as I ...

Zaman Gazetesi

Zaman Gazetesi
Tue, 07 Apr 2015 15:40:40 -0700

Sevindirenlerden başlamak belki de daha iyidir: Bu yazarı keşfetmemi ve bugüne kadar ondan 15 kitap çevirmiş olmamı mutluluk olarak algılıyorum, çünkü özellikle Avusturya'yı, oradaki mentaliteyi ve Thomas Bernhard'ın Avusturya'dan yola çıkarak ...
 
PezCycling News
Sat, 11 Apr 2015 07:31:58 -0700

Sky: Bradley Wiggins, Geraint Thomas, Bernhard Eisel, Andy Fenn, Christian Knees, Salvatore Puccio, Luke Rowe, Ian Stannard. Team Europcar: Alexandre Pichot, Jimmy Engoulvent, Antoine Duchesne, Yohann Gene, Vincent Jerome, Yannick Martinez, ...

The Arts Desk

The Arts Desk
Mon, 04 Aug 2014 23:15:33 -0700

Some years ago I read a piece about a novel of Thomas Bernhard, Wittgenstein's Nephew. Bernhard (1931-1989) was perhaps the most famous Austrian writer of his time, but unknown to me. In this article he was described as intense, manically obsessive, ...
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