The Threepenny Review

Thomas Bernhard (1978)

WHEN, JUST over a month ago, Thomas Bernhard’s last play, , premiered in Stuttgart—a play in which the philosopher from Königsberg, accompanied by a servant, a parrot, and his wife, undertakes a long, long sea voyage to New York—most German critics, apparently still unaccustomed to the Austrian writer’s subtle, intelligent sense of humor, asked sadly why Bernhard had picked on Kant in particular; after all, Kant never left his native city, never married, and what’s more—as one very well-informed journalist from Baden-Württemberg and , met with the same degree of suspicion, bewilderment, and alarm. And yet Bernhard not only won both of Austria’s most important literary prizes, he also won the Georg Büchner Prize, one of the most prestigious and sought-after literary awards in Germany. This leads one to think that, however lacking in insight in certain areas and however commonsensical their humor, the Germans can at least recognize a great writer when they see one.

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