. . . just as I find it unbearable when I hear one of our big-bellied or thin-bellied singers kill the Winterreise with his singing, you understand, because that lieder-singing singer wearing tails and resting his hand on the piano while singing The Crow is always unbearable to me and ridiculous, he is a caricature from the outset, there is nothing more ridiculous, Reger said, than a lieder- or aria-singing singer leaning against the grand piano in tails. How magnificent is Schubert’s music when we do not see it being performed, when we do not see those abysmally dull-witted conceited curly-haired interpreters, but we do, of course, see them when we are in the concert hall and everything as a result becomes embarrassing and ridiculous and an acoustic and visual disaster. I do not know, Reger said, if the pianists are more ridiculous and more embarrassing than the singers by the piano, it is a question of the state of mind we happen to be in at the moment. Of course anything we see while music is being performed is ridiculous, a caricature, and therefore embarrassing, he said. The singer is ridiculous and embarrassing, he may sing as he will, no matter whether tenor or bass, and all women singers are invariably even more ridiculous and embarrassing, no matter how they are gowned or what they sing, he said. A person bowing or plucking on the podium — it is too ridiculous, he said. Even the obese smelly Bach at the organ of Saint Thomas’s Church was only a ridiculous and deeply embarrassing figure, there can be no argument about that. No, no, all artists, even if they are the most important ones and, as it were, the greatest, are nothing except kitschy and embarrassing and ridiculous. Toscanini, Furtwängler, the one too small and the other too tall, ridiculous and kitschy. And if you go to the theatre the ridiculousness and the embarrassment and the kitsch make you feel positively sick. No matter what or how the people speak, they make you feel sick. If they speak classical parts they make you feel sick, if they speak popular parts they make you feel sick. And what else are all those classical and modern so-called high or popular dramas but theatrical ridiculousness and kitschy embarrassment, he said. The whole world today is ridiculous and at the same time profoundly embarrassing and kitschy, that is the truth. Irrsigler was stepping up to Reger and once more whispering something in his ear. Reger stood up, looked about himself and left the Bordone Room with Irrsigler.
Thomas Bernhard, Old Masters:A Comedy
Pittioni, the geography teacher who was tormented by his pupils the
whole time he taught in a secondary school, failed to return from a
vacation. He had gone to Hüttschlag just to study the works of
Humboldt and to relax, but he hanged himself in the room to which
he had retired for just a few days. In his will he left everything he was
possessed of to his pupils. They should not think he hated them now
that he had drawn the only conclusion open to him, he wrote in his will.
On the contrary. They had not accepted his love for them, no matter how
Much he had done for them. Whatever the reason, he hoped for their forgiveness.
Thomas Bernhard, The Voice Imitator: 104 stories.
A photograph showed Thomas his striking resemblance to his absconded actual father, and he realized that his mother, in her hatred of the man who had fed her promises and flatly deserted her and her child, had been constantly provoked to vent her anger upon her first born son who was the unwitting image of the father he had never seen.
Sophie Wilkins, afterforward to On the Mountain by Thomas Bernhard Quartet Books 1993
She [my mother] always made me feel that all my life I had stood between her and complete happiness. When she saw me she saw my father, the lover who had deserted her. In me she saw all too plainly the man who had destroyed her. I had the same face, as I know, because I once saw a photograph of my father. The likeness between us was amazing. It was not just that my face was similar to my fathers; it was the same face.
Thomas Bernhard Gathering Evidence : A Memoir
We even understand a philosophical essay better if we do not gobble it up entirely and at one go, but pick out a detail from which we then arrive at the whole, if we are lucky. Our greatest pleasure, surely, is in fragments, just as we derive the most pleasure from life if we regard it as a fragment, whereas the whole and the complete and perfect are basically abhorrent to us. Only when we are fortunate enough to turn something whole, something complete or indeed perfect into a fragment, when we get down to reading it, only then do we experience a high degree, at times indeed a supreme degree, of pleasure in it. Our age has long been intolerable as a whole . . . only when we perceive a fragment of it is it tolerable to us. Thomas Bernhard, Old Masters; A Comedy trans Ewald Osers, p18
In the Belgian city of Bruges a few hundred years ago, a nine-year-old chorister who had sung a wrong note in a mass that was being performed before the entire royal court in the Bruges cathedral is said to have been beheaded. It seems that the queen had fainted as a result of the wrong note sung by the chorister and had remained unconscious until her death. The king is supposed to have sworn an oath that, if the queen did not come round, he would have not only the guilty chorister but all the choristers in Bruges beheaded, which he did after the queen had not come to and had died. For centuries no sung masses were to be heard in Bruges. Thomas Bernhard
We even understand a philosophical essay better if we do not gobble it up entirely and at one go, but pick out a detail from which we then arrive at the whole, if we are lucky. Our greatest pleasure, surely, is in fragments, just as we derive the most pleasure from life if we regard it as a fragment, whereas the whole and the complete and perfect are basically abhorrent to us. Only when we are fortunate enough to turn something whole, something complete or indeed perfect into a fragment, when we get down to reading it, only then do we experience a high degree, at times indeed a supreme degree, of pleasure in it. Our age has long been intolerable as a whole . . . only when we perceive a fragment of it is it tolerable to us.
Thomas Bernhard, Old Masters; A Comedy trans.Ewald Osers