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Thomas Bernhard and the Art of Failure

When: Thursday, May 1
Where: Austrian Cultural Forum: 11 East 52nd St.
What time: 7–8.30 p.m.

With Horacio Castellanos Moya, Paul Holdengräber, Fatima Naqvi, and Dale Peck; moderated by Jonathan Taylor


Free and open to the public. Reservations required.

Reservations: [email protected] or (212) 319-5300, ext. 222

 

Fundamentally we are capable of everything, equally fundamentally we fail at everything, he said, I thought.

—Thomas Bernhard, The Loser

Austrian novelist, playwright, and poet Thomas Bernhard (1931–1989) said that an attempt to adequately express a truth, like any artistic or other human endeavor, was doomed to failure. But in a fitting paradox, he said it in some of the most commanding narratives of modern literature. Bernhard’s gleeful embrace of exaggeration, repetition, and contradiction dramatizes the mind’s confinement within language so perfectly that he gives an enthralling sense of conquering it—a false sense, he would be the first to suggest. “Bernhardian” deserves to join “Kafkaesque” among English terms eulogizing the individual fated to be conscious in the 20th century.

Bernhard’s strenuous confrontation with the futility of satisfactorily completing—or even beginning—a written work has made him a stern yet liberating influence on writers who think critically about their art and realistically about its place in modern societies. Join us for this discussion of Bernhard’s work and his exaltation of artistic failure.

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