“Lead us into temptation, and deliver us from no evil” (Thomas Bernhard)

“I used to take sleeping pills,” he said, “and slowly boosted the number of pills I took. In the end, they had absolutely no effect on me, and I could have gulped any number of them, and still not have got to sleep. I repeatedly took such high dosages, I should have died. But I only ever vomited them up. Then I would be unable for days to pursue the least thought, and it was precisely this inability to think that got me through long periods of complete horror … You have to be careful you don’t end up living for longer than your natural lifespan,” he said. “Life is a court case which you lose, whoever you are, and whatever you do. That was decided before any human being was even born. The first man fared no differently from us. Rebellion against this only leads to deeper despair,” he said. “And no more distraction. From the age of thirteen, no more distraction. After the first sexual experience, no distraction. Do you understand?” The only variety was thunderstorms, “and lightning the only poetry.” He said: “Seeing as you’re locked up, locked up in solitary confinement, you’re increasingly thrown back upon yourself.” The questions one asked oneself slowly became one’s death. “But you know, we’re all dead anyway from the outset.” There were simply “no more forms of assistance.” One lay on the floor of one’s cell, along with the shattered limbs of past millennia. “Deceits and subterfuges,” he said. Just as the handling of facts injected insignificance into the brain, whatever question one asked oneself. “Every question is a defeat.” Every question wrought devastation. Disinclination. With questions, the time passed, and the questions passed in time, “so meaningless that everything is just ruins … There, you see,” said the painter, “it’s quite black down there. Last night, I dreamed the workers climbed up the mountain, and flooded the village and the inn and everything. In their thousands and tens of thousands, they swarmed up here, and whatever didn’t belong to them, they trampled underfoot, or it was suffocated in their blackness. How calm it is now! Listen!” The butcher greeted us, and we greeted him back. The houses of Weng seemed jumbled together, as though crushed at the foot of the cliff. “Earlier,” said the painter, “I used to have no pity for human frailty. Any pain seemed to me unnatural! Suddenly I saw myself confronted with an abundance of frailty.” He said: “Will you be playing cards tonight? The knacker is a good cardplayer. The engineer as well. They’re all of them good cardplayers. I don’t know why I’ve always had such an aversion to cardplayers.” He muttered something about cretinism in the mountain valleys, in the high Alps. And then: “Our Father, who art in Hell, unhallowed be Thy name. No Kingdom come. Thy will not be done. On earth, as it is in Hell. Deny us this day our daily bread. And forgive us no trespasses. As we forgive none of those that trespass against us. Lead us into temptation, and deliver us from no evil. Amen. That one works just as well,” he said.

From Thomas Bernhard’s novel Frost.



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