An Extract From Thomas Bernhard’s Correction on Death and Taxidermy

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bernhard

… [But] one day I too shall no longer find a way out, everyone is destined, one day at some moment which is the crucial moment, to find no further way out, that’s how a man is made. … As I ‘d heard something that was different from what I’d been hearing till then, I’d gotten up and gone to post myself at the window, to look outside. The darkness was kept at bay by the workshop lights, Hoeller was busy stuffing a huge bird, I couldn’t see what kind of bird. It was a huge black bird which Hoeller held on his knees, cramming polyurethane into it with a stick. It was eleven o’clock, and inasmuch as Hoeller always got up at four in the morning, all his life, even as a child, he’d always gotten up at four in the morning, because his father also had always been up by four in the morning, everybody in the Aurach valley got up between four and five o’clock in the morning, and so because Hoeller is always up at four in the morning, keeping such late hours, such very long late hours as these in these circumstances, will undermine his health, I thought. From my window up in the garret I kept watching Hoeller down there in his workshop stuffing that huge black bird, how he kept cramming it with more and more stuffing, I thought I’ll watch him from this excellent vantage point until he’s finished stuffing that bird, and so I stood there motionless for a good half hour until I saw that Hoeller had finished stuffing the bird. Suddenly Hoeller had thown the stuffed bird down to the floor, he’d jumped up and run off into the back room where I couldn’t see him anymore, but I waited, looking into the workshop, until I could see Hoeller again, he came back and sat down on his chair again and went back to stuffing the bird, now I noticed a huge heap of polyurethane on the floor beside Hoeller’s chair and I thought this huge heap of polyurethane is now going to be crammed into thi bird which I’d supposed had already been crammed full long since. By stuffing this bird he is making the night bearable for himself, I thought (122-3).

A note by Gitta Honegger from her biography on Thomas Bernhard, and the function of Bernhard’s narrators, exemplified from a scene in A Child from Gathering Evidence:

Two Bernhards are watching: the writer in the process of writing and the young man being written. … As he restages moments from that time, among them repeated visits to his grandfather’s grave, he introduces again and again the site of the observations and the main actor–that is, himself at eighteen–suspended in the act of observing,: the pour-page passage contains six references to his sitting on the tree stump. In the theater of Bernhard’s mind the sanitarium grounds are transformed into a theatrical setting that yields multiple stages within stages. One of the German terms for stage, Schauplatz, generally refers to the place of action, the setting, but its literal meaning is a plate to look, to see. The young man’s tree stump is the Schauplatz from which he observes the Schauplatz below. Behind the tableau vivant of the circling men staged by the middle-aged Bernhard through the eyes of his younger self is another scenario, which opens into yet another, and so on: stages within stages, boxes within boxes, layers of actions and their perceptions bleeding into one another in ever-receding frames of time. Everything is repeatedly brought back on track with a reference to the performative site and action: sitting on the tree stump. The last time the site is introduced, narrator and observer are catapulted toward the central question: “Sitting on the tree-stump, I pondered my origins, asking myself whether I really ought to be interested in knowing where I came from, … Was I now in the mood to surrender myself, with only myself as a witness?”

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2 thoughts on “An Extract From Thomas Bernhard’s Correction on Death and Taxidermy

  1. Bernard’s serpentine sentences require care in transcription. There are two typographical errors here. One doesn’t matter; the other one does matter. So – ‘keeping [not 'keep'] such late hours’ will imperil Hoeller’s health.

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