A short book that will be enjoyed by those interested in literature, the often-phony world of cultural prizes, and Thomas Bernard.
I have not read any other of the works of this now deceased Austrian writer, but I know from reading this one that he was gifted at his craft and possessed an intelligent mind capable of understanding and expressing the absurdity of much of Europe's twentieth century history.
While I cannot be sure due to my own language limitations, it seems to me that Carol Brown Janeway provides an excellent translation of Mr. Bernard's work.
on January 14, 2012
I read this short but interesting book when it was first published about a year ago. I read it quickly and didn't bother to post a review, but recently I reread it and I think that fans of Bernhard the novelist might find interesting this account of the circumstances around various prizes he received. At a minimum, it gives Bernhard fans a glimpse into the writer as diarist.
Many autobiographical details emerge here; for example, we learn that Berhard drove a truck for a famous Austrian brewery. His dream was to drive a truck in Africa, delivering medicine. After writing 'Frost,' he considered abandoning literature altogether. Fans can be thankful he did not because we would not have such masterpieces as 'The Lime Works,' 'Correction,' 'Concrete,' and 'Extinction,' to name a few.
It's almost impossible to review this book without giving some of its content away, so be forewarned that a spoiler or two follows.
After accepting awards for books he'd written early on such as 'Frost' (1963) and 'Gargoyles' (1967), Bernhard decided that the accepting of awards and the taking of prize money that came with the awards was false and absurd. So even if he had been selected to win an award for, say, 'Correction,' he would have declined the nomination.
For the sake of this book, however, we as admirers of Bernhard's work can be grateful that he accepted the awards and the prize money. What he does with the prize money in two instances is astonishing and totally in character with Bernhard the existentialist. One impulsive incident in particular reminds me of the kind of joie de vivre Camus's Mersault experiences in 'The Stranger.'
There's plenty of contempt for "the state" (Austria) here, and more than a few comical observations by Bernhard about people who live in large towns (small cities?). For example, Bernhard must travel to Regensburg, Germany, to accept an award and prize money. He's happy to be meeting up with "the poet Elisabeth Borchers," but he's repulsed by Regensburg, saying, "How I hate these medium-sized towns with their famous historical buildings by which their inhabitants allow themselves to be perverted their whole lives long."
'My Prizes: An Accounting,' though a slender book, provides a glimpse into the thinking of a man who turned detesting massive groups of people into an art form.
Includes the full text of the acceptance speeches, and -- I almost neglected to mention -- a reference to a piece titled 'Morbus Boeck.' (I have not heard of this work by Bernhard.)
on May 25, 2013
i was laughing before i'd finished the first page, and bernhard is not what i would call an amusing writer. just a wonderfully honest, perceptive satirist. he so enjoys making fun of pomp, traditions that never made any sense, etc., etc., etc. when i was young i wanted someone like berhnard but had to do with aldous huxley. bad compromise. if you want wit that stings, i recommend bernhard. and how can you resist a brand new book for a penny.