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Saturday, March 8, 2008

Bernhard on War and Childbirth

Here is a typically grotesque yet captivating passage from Bernhard's Gathering Evidence, p. 166:

"The war [i.e., WW II] was always topic number one among the men [i.e., residents of a Salzburg slum, the Scherzhauserfield Project, where Bernhard worked as a grocer's assistant from age 13 to 15]. War is the poetry of men, by which they seek to gain attention and relief throughout their lives. They all took refuge, each in his own way, in viciousness and depravity and regenerated themselves in a state of complete and pitiful apathy. From an early age they had learned to hate, and in the Scherzhauserfield Project hatred was developed to a fine art as a means to be used against everything. Hatred breeds hatred, and they hated one another and the rest of the world unremittingly to the point of exhaustion. And their states of exhaustion served only as means to an end, the end being self-destruction; in these states of exhaustion they devised new miseries for themselves, new sicknesses and new crimes. They fled from one misery to another, one misfortune to another, each one deeper and more inescapable than the last . . . . "

And there's more. In an interview cited in Gitta Honegger's biography, Bernhard is quoted as follows, in a twisted yet bewitching temporal fast-forward to the point of lunacy:

"[P]eople are mistaken to think they bring children into the world . . . . They're getting adults, not babies. They give birth to a sweaty disgusting beer-bellied innkeeper or mass murderer, that's whom they're pregnant with, not children. People say they're expecting an itty-bitty baby, but in reality they get an eighty-year-old who's drooling and wetting himself all over, who stinks and is blind and limps and can't move from gout, that's whom they bring into the world."

Bernhard, not surprisingly, never married, dying in 1989, never having known the joy of raising a child.

Thomas Bernhard: The Making of an Austrian (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2001), p. 41.


Patty McNally Doherty said...

Typical male.

Richard McNally said...

I added a line at the end of this post to try and get it out of the gutter.