Show Less

Thomas Bernhard’s Comic Materialism

Class, Art, and «Socialism» in Post-War Austria


Russell Harrison

Twenty-two years after his death, Thomas Bernhard’s work continues to fascinate, irritate, and please readers. This book analyzes Bernhard’s writings in the light of post-war Austrian history, challenging the prevailing formalist and psychological reception of his work. It does so by revealing the close connection between individual texts and contemporaneous economic and political events, such as the relationship of the 1969 story Watten. Ein Nachlass to the incipient decline of the social-partnership state, or the connection of the 1970 novel Das Kalkwerk to the shifting balance of power between bourgeoisie and proletariat. Furthermore, the book argues that much of Bernhard’s engagement in public life was an attack on the «pseudo-socialism» of the Austrian socialist party and especially of Bruno Kreisky. Bernhard’s critique is effected through what the author terms a «comic materialism» – an unrelenting focus on the material aspects of life – evident in his protagonists’ ludicrously obsessive fixation on the objects of everyday life and in his comic critique of Viennese society.


Show Summary Details
Restricted access

Acknowledgements xi


Acknowledgements I wish to thank George Caf fentzis, Tom Couser, Neil Donahue, Lisa Dres- ner, David Friedkin, Zane Friedkin, Nancy Kennedy, Greg Pell, and my anonymous readers for their helpful comments on early drafts of parts of this book. I also want to acknowledge the encouragement given me by the late Wendelin Schmidt-Dengler and his having given generously of his time. I want, also, to thank Hans Adler for his encouragement and Jost Hermand for his willingness to publish my book in his Oxford series German Life and Civilization at Peter Lang. Finally, and above all, I want to express my gratitude to Hans Höller for his time and for his positive response and willingness to accept my outside-the-box Marxist/marxisant approach to Bernhard’s work. I remember with pleasure our conversations in Salzburg and Gmunden. I also want to thank Hans Adler for granting me permission to republish my essay, “The Social(ist) Construction of Art in Thomas Bernhard’s Alte Meister,” in my book. It first appeared in Monatshefte, Volume 101, Number 3, Fall 2009. I want, as well, to thank Provost Herman Berliner and Dean Bernard J. Firestone of the College of Arts and Sciences. My project was facilitated by a junior faculty leave and by consistent and generous funding through Hofstra’s Faculty Research and Development Grants and its Presidential Research Awards for the purchase of texts and for research trips to Austria. I am also grateful to the Thomas Bernhard Archives in Gmunden and especially to Astrid Hinterholzer....

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.