Old Masters by Thomas Bernhard
Original title – Alte Meister. Komödie
Translator – Ewald Osers
Source – Personnel copy
Well usually I start with a bit of a biography about a writer .But I have already twice before mention Bernhard’s Life for those who want to know more there is loads online to examine about him .Also in recent weeks I have watch a couple of pieces on You tube with Bernhard in .Well all this research has for me firmed Bernhards place in my mind as one of the most important post war writers in any language ,as later in the week when I review his non fiction piece My prizes his memoir and a couple of speeches .Bernhard was a one-off and that what makes his fiction so unique ,but also as my earlier piece written by Andrej Nikoladis showed an influence on many present day writers .So to Kick off Thomas Bernhard week (I am a day late but maybe at some point I’ll tell you why I ve been away recently ).
Although I had arranged to meet Reger at the Kunsthistorches Museum at half past eleven ,I arrived at the agreed spot at half past ten in order ,as I had deided to observe him for once ,from the most ideal angle possible and undisturbed ,Atzbacher writes
The opening lines of the Old Master
So old master actually has a subtitle A comedy ,on the whole it is a little lighter and maybe more accessible than some of the other books I have read by Bernhard .We meet Reger ,his is a critic ,a music critic to be precise .He spends every day sitting in the Viennese art museum on the same bench opposite a painting of an old man by Tintoretto (we get a whole spiel on how he manages to get the same bench every day his friendship of sorts to the guard that has like Reger been in the same room for a number of years so makes sure this strange man gets his seat everyday ) Any Reger has summoned his friend to meet him Atzbacher ,he is a philosopher yet to be published .What follows is the usual Bernhard traits Reger of course hates the music on the whole he reviews ,we find out why he spends everyday watching the same picture .But we also have some humour great descriptions from Reger of the difference of nationalities as they visit the museum how each has a way of going round and viewing the pictures .What we meet is two men slightly (well a hell of a lot really ) fed up with the status Quo .For Reger you could have the narrator of the woodcutters or the loser (a book that was mentioned by Nikolaudis in his post and one I will be reviewing later this week as well ) .
My father was an unmusical person ,he said ,my mother was musical as I believe ,even highly musical ,but her husband over the years had riven her musicality out of her .My parents were a frightful couple ,he said they secretly hated one another but were unable to separate.
Reger on growing up ,maybe why he is a music critic now .
Michael Hofmann summed up Bernhard by saying his books had no moving parts .That is it these aren’t action books more books of thoughts and Bernhards favourite subject to Kick” the Art society” the pretensions folk ,the hierarchy and of course top of the list to be kicked is Austrian art .Bernhard is like an old curmudgeon he blows and puffs ,but in his case what he writes is so engrossing and yet again this is the case with the Old Master its easy to see Bernhard in his characters both Reger and Atzbacher seem to have traits of Bernhard the man .He like music and Choose Glenn Gould as a character in one of his books ,in fact the loser .He also has had Philosophy as subject in a couple of others .As for the writing it is his usual style of full on the book is really a 250 page paragraph ,he blurs at times it is hard to tell who is talking as I say I often feel Bernhard characters are just a mouthpiece for him so at times it gets blurred who is speaking but in this case it doesn’t matter its like coming back from a great night out you remember something brilliant was said but you struggle to remember who has said it .I was asked at the start of this project which to suggest and at that time I had said the woodcutter ,but now I think this book is a great entry point for new readers of Thomas Bernhard .
Have you read The Old Masters ?