22.5.14

Thomas Bernhard, Three Days

An English translation of "Drei Tage" by Douglas Robertson

From The Philosophical Worldview Artist:
…my first impressions, on my way to register at the elementary school, on the very first day of first grade…my route took me past a butcher’s shop, and on its open doors there were hooks, hammers, knives hanging in rows, all very nicely organized, on the one hand bloody, on the other hand glaringly white and tidy, slaughtering-gun apparatuses…then the sound of the horses, as they quite suddenly slump to the ground, those enormous bellies that are swelling, collapsing, bones, pus, blood…then from the butcher’s a couple of flights of stairs up to the cemetery, a hall for lying in state, a tomb…I still cannot quite recall my first day of school, a pale youth in the hall for lying in state, a cheese-maker’ s son…and from there, my heart pounding, to the classroom…a young schoolmistress.

My grandmother, who always took me with her, by the way—in the morning I would walk through the cemetery on my own, in the afternoon she would go with me into the charnel-houses—would lift me up, say: “Look there’s another woman laid out.” People who were dead and nothing else…And this is of considerable significance for everybody…and one can draw conclusions about everything from it…

Childhood is just one piece of music after another, of course they’re all non-classical pieces. For example: in 1944 in Traunstein I had a rather long walk to school. My grandparents lived [just] outside the city limits, hence four kilometers from the school. And halfway to the school [there was] a thicket, I don’t know what else. And every time I walked past it, a woman would jump out and scream: “I’ll get your grandfather packed off to Dachau yet.”

In 1945 another story, another piece of music, perhaps a twelve-tone composition. A friend of my brother, who was seven years old, I was fourteen, stuck his hand into the barrel of a bazooka, and he was completely blown to bits. The place is called Vachendorf. And I go with my brother to the funeral there on our bicycle. And so I can just barely get my feet past the top tube, and he is sitting on top, in front on the handlebars.[1] Along the way we pick flowers. But halfway to the site of the funeral a young man suddenly jumps out of the woods, pulls my brother and me off the bike, tears up the flowers, and stomps the bike flat—in other words starting with the spokes, then he cuts the handlebars to pieces, then he ruins the mudguards, then he boxes my ears, then he throws my brother into the creek. And it all struck me as so--I don’t know whether he was a Pole or a Czech…it was quite remarkable. And we sat there on the bank of the creek and cried and went back on foot, and so there was no more talk about the funeral. And then when we got home we told this remarkable story. And there’s an entire series of stories just like it. [Read More]

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