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Thomas Bernhard’s Comic Materialism

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

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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.

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Index 193

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abolition of class 132–4, 158, 161, 176 Anschluss 6, 31, 70, 74, 84 anti-Semitism 179–82 Astoria dining 161 Bachmann, Ingeborg 69 Baudrillard, Jean 33 n.50 Bayreuth Festival 165 Bell, David 33, 34, 35 Benjamin, Walter 140, 148, 151 Bernhard, Thomas Alte Meister 36, 80, 89, 134 Englishman, The 149–53 Amras 88, 91 Bernhard’s Businessman’s Prize 175–6 Ereignisse 88 Kalkwerk, Das 39–85 Keller, Der 11, 18, 35, 80, 82 “Mütze, Die” 88, 93–9, 151 Ungenach 11 n.12 Watten. Ein Nachlass 18, 42, 57, 61–6, 75, 99–108, 113 Wort in der Zeit 17 Bordonesaal 176 boss–worker relationship 49–58 Braverman, Harry 49 n.21, 56 n.26 Brecht, Bertolt 139 n.9 Brueghel 176 capitalism, Keynesian 33 Chomsky, Noam 136–7, 147, 151, 152 Christian Socials 24 Cold War 10 Dahrendorf, Ralf 33, 34, 35 Dollfuss, Engelbert 5, 103 economics, neo-liberal 7 Eisenstädter Erklärung 45 end of the working class 7–8 Engels, Frederick 88, 109, 113, 116–23, 173 Habsburg dynasty/myth 20–2, 26–9, 164 Handke, Peter 8, 14 Innerhofer, Franz 8 Kreisky, Bruno 2, 7, 31, 45 labor, unalienated 111–14 Lebert, Hans 69 Lueger, Karl 176 Macartney, C.A. 178–9 Marx, Karl 109, 111–14, 116–23, 173 materialism, crude 139 Mauthausen 68 Menasse, Robert 2, 3, 4, 31, 61–4, 111 n.27 Miller, Henry 125–34, 172 Mozart, W.A. 165 Nazi era 66–108 Parity Commission 4, 15, 47, 102 parliamentary power, lack of 14–16 Poulantzas, Nicos...

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