11.7.10

Forthcoming Thomas Bernhard Works

English translations of Bernhard's prose and drama soon to be released
Thomas Bernhard

The Constant Conversation reports that four books by the late Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard are to be published in English for the first time. They are as follows:

Victor Halfwit: A Winter's Tale

Thomas Bernhard, 'Victor Halfwit: A Winter's Tale'
Translated by Martin Chalmers. With Illustrations by Sunandini Banerjee
Seagull Books
Publication date: January 2011

Synopsis

One night in the middle of winter, as deep snow covers the mountains and forests, a doctor is crossing the ridge in Austria from Traich to Föding to see a patient. He stumbles over a body in the darkness and fears it is a corpse. But it’s not a corpse at all. In fact, it’s wooden-legged Victor Halfwit, collapsed, but still very much alive. So begins this dark and comic tale by celebrated Austrian playwright, novelist, and poet Thomas Bernhard.

We discover that Halfwit, for whom the book is named, foolishly made a bet with a local mill owner that Halfwit could cover the distance between Traich and Föding in an hour or less—despite his wooden legs, the darkness of the night, the deep snow, and the brutal mid-winter cold. Thanks to the serendipitous presence of the doctor, Halfwit wins the bet and thus will be able to buy the new boots that he desired; yet he has destroyed his wooden legs in the very process of winning.

Victor Halfwit may have originally been conceived as an absurd fable for children, but Bernhard’s masterly grasp of the intersection of tragedy and comedy renders this a story for all ages.

Praise
The feeling grows that Thomas Bernhard is the most original, concentrated novelist writing in German. His connections . . . with the great constellation of Kafka, Musil, and Broch become ever clearer.

George Steiner, Times Literary Supplement
What is extraordinary about Bernhard is that his relentless pessimism never seems open to ridicule; his world is so powerfully imagined that it can seem to surround you like little else in literature.

New Yorker
Read more at the publisher's website

My Prizes: An Accounting

Thomas Bernhard, 'My Prizes: An Accounting'
Translated by Carol Janeway
Random House
Publication date: November 2010

Synopsis

A gathering of brilliant and viciously funny recollections from one of the twentieth century’s most famous literary enfants terribles.

Written in 1980 but published here for the first time, these texts tell the story of the various farces that developed around the literary prizes Thomas Bernhard received. Whether it was the Bremen Literature Prize, the Grillparzer Prize, or the Austrian State Prize, his participation in the acceptance ceremony—always less than gracious, it must be said—resulted in scandal (only at the awarding of the prize from Austria’s Federal Department of Commerce did Bernhard feel at home: he received that one, he said, in recognition of the great example he set for shop-keeping apprentices). And the remuneration connected with the prizes presented him with opportunities for adventure—of the new-house and luxury-car variety.

Here is a portrait of the writer as a prizewinner: laconic, sardonic, and shaking his head with biting amusement at the world and at himself. A revelatory work of dazzling comedy, the pinnacle of Bernhardian art.

Read more at the publisher's website

Prose

Thomas Bernhard, 'Prose'
Translated by Martin Chalmers
Seagull Books
Publication date: May 2010

Synopsis

“His manner of speaking, like that of all the subordinated, excluded, was awkward, like a body full of wounds, into which at any time anyone can strew salt, yet so insistent, that it is painful to listen to him,” from The Carpenter. The Austrian playwright, novelist, and poet Thomas Bernhard (1931–89) is acknowledged as among the major writers of our time. The seven stories in this collection capture Bernhard’s distinct darkly comic voice and vision—often compared to Kafka and Musil—commenting on a corrupted world.

First published in German in 1967, these stories were written at the same time as Bernhard’s early novels Frost, Gargoyles, and The Lime Works, and they display the same obsessions, restlessness, and disarming mastery of language. Martin Chalmer’s outstanding translation, which renders the work in English for the first time, captures the essential personality of the work. The narrators of these stories lack the strength to do anything but listen and then write, the reader in turn becoming a captive listener, deciphering the traps laid by memory—and the mere words, the neverending words with which we try to pin it down. Words that are always close to driving the narrator crazy, but yet, as Bernhard writes “not completely crazy.”

Praise
Bernhard's glorious talent for bleak existential monologues is second only to Beckett's, and seems to have sprung up fully mature in his mesmerizing debut.

Publishers Weekly, on Frost
Read more at the publisher's website

Heldenplatz

Thomas Bernhard, 'Heldenplatz'
Translated by Meredith Oakes
Oberon Books
Publication date: In print

Synopsis

Thomas Bernhard is widely considered to be one of the most important German playwrights in the post-war era. Highly acclaimed, he has written over twenty plays and novels and gained a reputation as one of Austria’s most controversial authors. He wrote Heldenplatz in 1988 as a response to the fiftieth anniversary of the Anschluss (annexation) of Austria by Hitler’s Germany. Highly controversial in Austria, the play concerns a Jewish professor who returns to Vienna after the Second World War and discovers that his fellow Austrians are as anti-semitic as ever. ‘Heldenplatz’ is the square in Vienna where the Austrian-born Hitler made his first speech after the Anschluss.

Praise
Bernhard's dialogue already evokes so stirringly and with such cliche free precision what it feels like to live in the shadow of the Holocaust

Robert Shore - The Metro (London)
What is initially strange continues to be strange, but the sheer strangeness becomes mesmerising, and then marvellous.... Deftly translated by Meredith Oakes and Andres Tierney

Jeremy Kingston, The Times
…it is as much an absurdist comedy as a piece of toxic rhetoric…this is an important European play that pins down a particularly fearful moment in Austrian history with ferocious elan.

Michael Billington, The Guardian
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