thomas-bernhard-faber

Faber and Faber is reissuing five Thomas Bernhard novels with new artwork designed by Leanne Shapton. Concrete and Extinction arrive on 7 March 2019, followed by The Loser, Wittgenstein’s Nephew and Woodcutters later in the year. Beautiful!

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Clarice Lispector in 1961.

Went cycling to Cardiff Bay barrage with Jennifer this morning. We sat for some time in the sunshine, before deciding to return to the cool shade of the apartment. I’m still reading Tolstoy‘s Anna Karenina, which is just superb. I have also come across a number of interesting articles, reviews, and commentaries from around the web:

12 visual artists interpret Radiohead‘s seminal 1997 album, OK Computer • (Re)reading Don DeLillo‘s White NoiseFalling Man, and Cosmopolis in dark times • Sam Jordison on the publication of A Confederacy of Dunces David Hering on Alan Clarke‘s ‘hypnotic junkie odyssey’, Christine • On the diaries of T.S. Eliot‘s first wife • And 17 brilliant short novels you can read in one sitting, including works by Marguerite DurasThomas BernhardRoberto BolañoCormac McCarthyClarice Lispector, and more.

A new fully-illustrated volume offers a fascinating portrait of Austria’s most significant post-war writer
Thomas Bernhard, 3 Days: From the Film By Ferry Radax (Blast Books, 2016)
Thomas Bernhard, 3 Days: From the Film By Ferry Radax (Blast Books, 2016)

In the summer of 1970, experimental filmmaker Ferry Radax arranged to meet with the Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard. Over the course of three days, Radax recorded the writer amid the pleasant surroundings of a park in Hamburg. For readers familiar with Bernhard’s work, the setting was incongruous: his novels Frost (1963), Gargoyles (1967) and The Lime Works (1970) portray dark, grotesque landscapes of murder, ignorance, and obsession. As Bernhard himself admits, ‘I am hardly a cheery author’. And yet, in such bright and affable settings, Radax manages to capture a revealing portrait of the writer George Steiner called ‘the foremost craftsmen of German prose after Kafka and Musil.’

Blast Books, an independent publisher in New York, has taken a great deal of care to adapt Radax’s film, entitled 3 Days, into a book. The beautifully presented hardback volume includes Thomas Bernhard’s own reflections on Radax’s film, and a fully-illustrated record of the documentary translated from the German by Laura Lindgren. Also included is a critical afterword by film scholar Georg Vogt, and a fully-illustrated appendix of Radax’s notes for the filmmaking. The book makes considered use of space, word, and image to capture the spirit of Radax’s documentary, and the rhythms and emphasis of Bernhard’s monologues. (more…)

From the Austrian writer’s memoir
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Thomas Bernhard as a child, pictured with his grandfather Johannes Freumbichler

Grandfathers are our teachers, our real philosophers. They are the people who pull open the curtain that others are always closing. When we are with them, we see things as they really are – not just the auditorium but the stage and all that goes on behind the scenes. For thousands of years grandfathers have taken it upon themselves to create the devil where otherwise there would have been only God. Through them we see the drama in all its fullness, not just a pathetic bowdlerized fragment, for what it is: pure farce. Grandfathers put their grandchildren’s heads where at least there is something interesting to see, even if it is not always easy to understand; and by always insisting on what is essential they save us from the dreary indigence in which, were it not for them, we should undoubtedly soon suffocate.

Excerpted from Thomas Bernhard, ‘A Child’ in Gathering Evidence: A Memoir (translated by David McLintock).

An extract from one of Steiner’s literary reviews
I’ve been poring over a collection of George Steiner’s articles from The New Yorker magazine. It’s a fascinating selection that includes shrewd reflections on an impressive range of writers and thinkers. Among them are essays on Graham Greene, George Orwell, Jorge Luis Borges and Samuel Beckett. But for now, Steiner’s remarks on the work of Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard are catching my eye. Steiner was one of the first critics writing in America to recognize the significance of Bernhard’s work, and his 1986 essay for The New Yorker offers an insightful and enthusiastic appraisal…

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Author of Wittgenstein Jr and the Spurious trilogy of novels describes Bernhard’s devilish sensibility

Thomas Bernhard is a kind of figurehead for many authors, I think. I’m reminded of what Henry Rollins said of Mark E Smith in a documentary about The Fall:

He really is that guy you really hoped you could be. If you were in a band, you really don’t want to care what people think, but you do. And you really want to crank out a record every nine months, but you can’t. And you’d love to keep surprising people and baffling your critics by every third album turning out your best music.

Bernhard’s reclusiveness from the literary scene, his intransigence, the barbed acceptance speeches he gave for literary prizes, make him an exemplar. He just doesn’t care what the literary world thinks. At the same time, he writes and writes, one masterpiece following on the heels of another. (more…)

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New open-access journal launched to celebrate Roland Barthes’ centenary

Introducing Barthes Studies

Neil Badmington

And lead us not into doxa… I have an uneasy feeling that Roland Barthes, were he still alive, would have doubts about this venture. An academic journal bearing his name and devoted to his work? In English? The noun ‘studies’, with its ring of stillness and seizure? The implicit claim to a field or a fold? Is not the very idea of a publication called Barthes Studies at odds with the drift, the unlearning, the reinvention, the non-arrogance, the escape, the non-vouloir-saisir, and the ‘desperate resistance to any reductive system’ which so often fire the pages of Roland Barthes? Might not this journal set or settle at once into doxa – that fatal term enlisted repeatedly in Barthes’s work to describe established knowledge, common sense, the obvious, the natural, what-goes-without-saying? Have I forgotten that Barthes told the audience at the conference held in his honour at Cerisy-la-Salle in 1977 that he had twice refused the invitation, and that he only accepted on the third occasion because he did not wish to create the image of ‘hewho-refuses-conferences-in-his-name’?

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A new collection, published in English for the first time
Thomas Bernhard,On Earth and In Hell: Early Poems
Thomas Bernhard, On Earth and in Hell: Early Poems

From Three Rooms Press:

November 13 marks the release date of one of our proudest moments here at Three Rooms Press: the release of the first English translation ever of world-renowned Austrian author Thomas Bernhard’s first book, On Earth and in Hell, early poems, translated from the German by the remarkable Vienna-based poet Peter Waugh.

The book caught the attention of famed poet Edward Hirsch, who raves, “These hard won-poems, these furious convulsions, by turns savage and tender, mark the beginning of Thomas Bernhard’s true work, his first startling blows. It is deeply illuminating to have them so wonderfully translated into English.”

National Book Award Winner Jaimy Gordon (Lord of Misrule) was likewise impressed. In her introduction, she writes, “In these poems, written in Bernhard’s mid-twenties . . . all the matter of the subsequent malicious laughter is there—the self-splitting disgust and nostalgia, the hyperbolic despair, the failed (desired but also scorned) glory, the juxtaposition of village idyll and doom, of scathing superiority and terminal degradation, of sex and nauseated frailty and exhaustion.” (more…)

“Never in my whole life have I read a more engrossing and elemental work, and at the time I had never read such a long one. It had the effect of a powerful drug, and for a time I was totally absorbed by it. For some time after my return home I refused to read another book, fearing that I might be plunged headlong into the deepest disappointment. For weeks I refused to read anything at all. The monstrous quality of The Demons had made me strong; it had shown me a path that I could follow and told me that I was on the right one, the one that led out. I had felt the impact of a work that was both wild and great, and I emerged from the experience like a hero. Seldom has literature produced such an overwhelming effect on me.”

— Thomas Bernhard, Gathering Evidence

Never in my whole life have I read a more engrossing and elemental work, and at the time I had never read such a long one. It had the effect of a powerful drug, and for a time I was totally absorbed by it. For some time after my return home I refused to read another book, fearing that I might be plunged headlong into the deepest disappointment. For weeks I refused to read anything at all. The monstrous quality of The Demons had made me strong; it had shown me a path that I could follow and told me that I was on the right one, the one that led out. I had felt the impact of a work that was both wild and great, and I emerged from the experience like a hero. Seldom has literature produced such an overwhelming effect on me.

— Thomas Bernhard, Gathering Evidence

Espen Terjesen’s beautifully drawn essay on Bernhard’s writing

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I’m very excited to share a beautiful and concise ‘graphic essay’ on the work of Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard. The essay was written, drawn, and designed by Espen Terjesen, an illustrator, cartoonist, pixel artist, teacher/lecturer, and writer working in Bergen, Norway. In addition to the original essay, Terjesen has also been kind enough to provide me with an English translation.

Terjesen’s work not only presents themes from Bernhard’s writing with striking, icy accompaniments, but offers a playful approach to the traditional academic essay. By combining elements of literary criticism with the graphic novel, Terjesen’s reading of Bernhard becomes, in itself, a creative act. What we are left with is something both thought-provoking and accessible.

To see the strip in its original format, please find links to Terjesen’s essay at the bottom of this post. In its complete form, the essay includes a number of footnotes and recommended reading. You can click any of the images to enlarge them. Enjoy! (more…)