Thursday, October 08, 2009

Noted: Thomas Bernhard

This is "Impossible", one of the 104 one-page-or-less stories in Bernhard's The Voice Imitator, translation by Kenneth J. Northcott:
A playwright whose plays have been performed in all the major theaters made it a matter of principle not to go to any of these productions, and for years, enjoying greater and greater success, he was able to hold fast to this principle. He had resolutely rejected all invitations from theater managements to see their productions, leaving most of their requests unanswered. Besides, there was nothing he hated mroe than theater managers. One day he broke with his principle and went to the Düsseldorf theater--considered at the time one of the best houses, which, in the nature of things, means that the Düsseldorf theater was in fact one of the best theaters in Germany--and saw his latest play being performed there, not, in the nature of things, on the opening night but at the third or fourth performance. After he had seen what the Dusseldorf players had made of his play, he filed a complaint in the Düsseldorf court that had jurisdiction over such matters, and this was enough to have him committed, before the trial took place, to the famouse Bethel lunatic asylum in nearby Bielsfeld. He sued the manager of the Düsseldorf theater for the return of his play, which meant nothing short of demanding that everyone involved in his play in any manner whatsoever produce and return anything that had the least connection with his play. Of course he also demanded that the people in the audiences, nearly five thousand of them, who had already seen his play return to him what they had seen.


Rhys Tranter said...

The Voice Imitator is a fantastic collection. I skipped through it at a local library recently, and now badly want a copy for myself.


Richard said...

Yeah, it is. I just picked it up used for $5 the other week; glad I did.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

As it happened, this was the one of first of Bernhards' books I spotted a couple years ago in a local used bookstore. Ten books later my favorite is still EXTINCTION. "The Voice Imitator" makes me wonder what if Bernhard's prodigious imagination had exploded every one of these capsule tales into a whole novel (in his commanding style with no paragraphs, no less). Curiously, and as a mirror to that speculation, I notice that each of his highly vocal, endlessly deep novels seems quite short, once I close it.

Richard said...

Hi Lloyd. I haven't read Extinction yet. You're not the only one who considers it his best, so I have high hopes. I'm waiting for a good time, when I'm most awake (ditto Handke's Repetition on that front). At the moment, I'd say my favorite is Gathering Evidence.

The stories in The Voice Imitator are indeed like "capsule tales"--in fact, it's almost as if we've encountered some of these people elsewhere in Bernhard's fiction, though I know we haven't.