Class, Art, and «Socialism» in Post-War Austria
Excursus - The Ohlsdorfer Bauernbündler and the “Little Shit” from Brooklyn: Thomas Bernhard in the Light of Henry Miller 125
Excursus The Ohlsdorfer Bauernbündler and the “Little Shit” from Brooklyn: Thomas Bernhard in the Light of Henry Miller I think it safe to say that Henry Miller is not the first, nor the second, nor the tenth – maybe not even the nth – writer that comes to mind when musing on kindred literary spirits of Thomas Bernhard. Indeed, American writers generally cast barely the slightest of shadows over Bernhard’s writ- ings as, for that matter, does America itself (with the notable exception of the 1944–5 American bombing raids on Salzburg, which cast a good deal more than shadows). The “high”-art, extraordinarily successful Austrian is seemingly leagues away from the coarse, vulgar, failed petty-bourgeois and self-proclaimed “little shit from Brooklyn.” But there exist striking similari- ties between the two authors, and these suggest aspects of Bernhard that reveal him as an at times distinctly plebeian, indeed materialist writer.1 I look at four areas that reveal these meaningful, though sometimes surpris- ing, similarities between Miller and Bernhard: 1) an intense subjectivity (and its subset: stereotypy); 2) the deauraticization of Western “High” Art; 3) a fondness for pre-capitalist economic systems and 4) the attempt to abolish social class. 1 Hans Höller, in his biography of Bernhard, was one of the first to point to this aspect of Bernhard’s writing (Thomas Bernhard 71). 126 Excursus Intense Subjectivity The marked subjectivity – the apparently global refusal to acknowledge the other, the idealizing tendencies of both writers’ protagonists – is the most obvious of the...
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