To the Editors:
I read Amity Shlaes’s article on Thomas Bernhard (“Thomas Bernhard and the German Literary Scene,” January, 1987) with interest. Although I agree with her on several points, I am not sure that admiration for this Austrian writer is less justified because of his inextricability from the South German socio-political milieu.
Bernhard’s notably Austrian world view accounts not only for the overriding themes in his work but also for his particular wit—the poignant black comedy of self-mockery and that peculiarly Viennese cantankerousness known to natives as das Schimpfen. When Bernhard debunks Austria’s image as the happy land of waltzes, Lippizaner stallions, and boys’ choruses, it is hardly intended as a private joke. Rather, it has real relevance to anyone who cares to know something about East Central Europe.
Like Kafka before him, Bernhard chronicles the harsh,...