Interview Thomas Bernhard

I just read an - only recently published -
and very long interview
from the year 1986, with the late Austrian author Thomas Bernhard (1931 - 1989), internationally acknowledged as one of the greatest 20th century writers.

Asked about translations of his books, he answered:

"Doesn't interest me at all, because a translation is a different book. It has nothing to do with the original at all. It's a book by the person who translated it. I write in the German language. You get sent a copy of these books and either you like them or you don't. If they have awful covers then they're just annoying. And you flip through and that's it. It has nothing in common with your own work, apart from the weirdly different title. Right? Because translation is impossible."

Another question: Your characters and you yourself often say they don't care about anything, which sounds like total entropy, universal indifference of everyone towards everything.

T.B.: "Not at all, you want to do something good, you take pleasure in what you do, like a pianist, he has to start somewhere too, he tries three notes, then he masters twenty, and eventually he knows them all, and then he spends the rest of his life perfecting them. And that's his great pleasure, that's what he lives for. And what some do with notes, I do with words. Simple as that. I'm not really interested in anything else. Because getting to know the world happens anyway, by living in it, as soon as you walk out the door you're confronted with the world directly. With the whole world. With up and down, back and front, ugliness and beauty, perfectly normal. There's no need to want this. It happens of its own accord. And if you never leave the house, the process is the same."

The complete interview, including the description of the Viennese coffee house and friends coming by at Sign and Sight.


Anonymous said...

He really did hate the Austrian state, didn't he? I read "Corrections" a few years ago and enjoyed the descriptions of Cambridge and Austria.


francessa said...

Hi freelank,

you're quite right about his hatred of the Austrian state - but the emphasis is really on state, it's not the people or the country.

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