Class, Art, and «Socialism» in Post-War Austria
Chapter Three - Alienated Labor and the Abolition of Class Society: Thomas Bernhard and the Proletarian 87
Chapter Three Alienated Labor and the Abolition of Class Society: Thomas Bernhard and the Proletarian The vast and impressive secondary literature on Thomas Bernhard’s oeuvre has produced little about its relationship to the working class, a remark- able oversight (though understandable as an attempt to de-politicize his writings).1 Nevertheless, the proletarian is an important and, I argue, determining (if not always direct and continuous) presence in a number of his most successful texts.2 Reading Bernhard’s texts from the perspec- tive of the working class has high explanatory value; indeed, I think it goes some way in elucidating the problem Schmidt-Dengler noted that when reading Bernhard criticism one senses “nicht selten ein Unbehagen” rooted “in dem undeutlich faßbaren Gefühl, daß die Literaturwissenschaft, eben diesem Gegenstand, also dem Werk Thomas Bernhard, nicht genügend würden” (“Absolute” 10). 1 Social class, generally, is rarely a topic in Bernhard scholarship. See, though, Long’s excellent essay in Companion. 2 I should make clear that I do not claim that Bernhard self-identifies as a proletarian writer in the ways that members of and sympathizers with the Bund Proletarisch- Revolutionärer Schriftsteller once did, for example. Nor did he ally himself with the Dortmunder Gruppe 61, active at the time he began his career as a writer. Objectively, however, the latter group might easily have seen a number of Bernhard’s texts – the best among them – as sympathetic to, and expressive of, their own concerns – above all, Der Keller, one of the great proletarian...
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