Thomas Bernhard, one of the most prolific and provocative writers of German literature, published about fifty volumes, representing all the major genres of literature. He is best known for his ten novels, fourteen plays, and seven volumes of memoirs, and most of his prose and dramatic works were translated into English and the other world languages. In his work and in his life, Bernhard publicly castigated the values, institutions, and cultural and political personalities in post-World War II Austria.
The publication of a Bernhard novel or the premiere of one of his plays was always a noteworthy event in Austria. Indeed, Woodcutters, a roman à clef, unleashed a tumultuous scandal in Austria because the major characters were so thinly disguised. The Austrian writer Jeannie Ebner was Jeannie Billroth, Maja Lampersberg was Auersberger’s wife, the choreographer Joana Thul was Joana, and Bernhard himself was clearly the narrator. Gerhard Lampersberg, the composer portrayed in the character of Auersberger, sued for defamation of character, to which Bernhard responded by prohibiting the sale of all his books in Austria for the next fifty years. Newspaper editors and literary critics entered the fracas with debates on the freedom of expression in the arts and for the press. By the time the entire affair was concluded three months later, even more copies of the novel had been sold than anticipated by the publisher.
It is, however, ultimately less important to know about the historical...
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