The Sage of the North or the Idiot of the South
If you go around acting like a nice person, you’re finished. Because you’re written off as a cabaret artist. Of course in Austria they turn everything serious into cabaret and by doing that they defuse it. Every serious person takes walks in the funny papers and so the Austrians will tolerate seriousness only in the form of funniness. Of course I’m quite a serious person myself, but not non-stop, because that would drive me crazy and on top of that it would be pointless.
Everybody dissimulates; the old proverb that everybody is a better dissimulator than the next man always hits the mark; you can’t deny it. But I just have to say that absolutely nothing ever succeeds, that nobody ever succeeds at anything. You’re always trying and always blowing your stack about everything, and the final result can only ever be a washout. And it’s that way with everything you do, and then you shove it all out of the way again. You have another go at it, and to that extent you’re producing something, but whatever it is that you really want or that the world calls a finished piece of work is never realized. Just consider how many philosophers there have been so far, and how many billions of people! As of now we’ve made no progress whatsoever, and nobody knows what electricity is either, whether it’s a gift from God or not. No progress whatsoever yet. Despite the fact that we can produce plastic and things like that. But of course not even the people who make it know what it is. It’s exactly the same with so-called works of art.
Everything that happens is a result of calculation. Even a little baby cries calculatedly, because it knows that if it cries, something will happen to it. Until their last gasp, they’ll all do everything calculatedly. I guarantee it. Basically nothing exists apart from calculation. Even emotions are summoned up on account of it.
And if you reinforce your opinions with the great philosophers, you’re even stupider. Because you can glean something different from each of them. They’re really just a bunch of poor people who couldn’t make ends meet any other way. In their office at home or in a law office, in a castle or in a cottage, whether they were the sage of the north or the idiot of the south, it ultimately always comes to the same thing. These people die, rot, and are gone for good, and they get a little roadside cross, if things go well. Later on of course there are people who take pleasure in what they’ve written. But even then only occasionally.
Source: Kurt Hofmann, Aus Gesprächen mit Thomas Bernhard (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1991), pp. 129-130.
Translation unauthorized but Copyright ©2017 by Douglas Robertson