bernhard and unseld


Bernhard was not easy to love. In his first letter to Unseld, dated October 22, 1961, he was formal and professional, mindful that he was addressing the German publisher of Hermann Hesse, Samuel Beckett, Bertolt Brecht, Theodor Adorno, T.S. Eliot, Marcel Proust, George Bernard Shaw and Walter Benjamin. “I possess a few books produced by you and they are among the best of the recent time,” Bernhard wrote in one of the hundreds of letters collected in Der Briefwechsel von Thomas Bernhard, Siegfried Unseld (2009). (An English translation of selections from the volume is forthcoming from Seagull Books.) He requested a conversation, explaining that he knew people who knew Unseld, and then declared, “But I go it alone.” This was the first hint of Bernhard’s obsession with independence. Once, in September 1971, Bernhard turned up in Unseld’s office, requested the original of a contract he had signed the day before, tore it out of the publisher’s hands and crossed out one of its clauses. (“It was a definite low point,” Unseld noted in his chronicle of the meeting.) The main character in his novel Correction (1975) channels Bernhard’s frustration: “Our ambition is to get out of these contracts and written agreements, for life.” Though he often needed and demanded safety nets, Bernhard feared becoming entangled in them and struggled constantly against their embrace.

more from Holly Case at The Nation here.