Thomas Bernhard: “I Am a Story Destroyer”
From Ferry Radax's 1970 Film Three Days, Now in Book Form
Over the course of three days, June 5, 6, and 7 in 1970, simply sitting on a white bench in a Hamburg park, Thomas Bernhard delivered a powerful monologue for Three Days (Drei Tage), ﬁlmmaker Ferry Radax’s commanding ﬁlm portrait of the great Austrian writer. Radax interwove the monologue with a variety of metaphorically resonant visual techniques—blacking out the screen to total darkness, suggestive of the closing of the observing eye; cuts to scenes of cameramen, lighting and recording equipment; extreme camera distance and extreme close-up. Bernhard had not yet written his autobiographical work Gathering Evidence, published originally in ﬁve separate volumes between 1975 and 1982, and his childhood remembrances were a revelation. This publication of Bernhard’s monologue and stills from Radax’s artful ﬁlm allows this unique portrait of Bernhard to be savored in book form.
I don’t know what people understand a writer to be, but every idea regarding this is certainly wrong . . .
As far as I am concerned, I am no writer, I am somebody who writes . . .
At the same time, letters arrive from Germany, from wherever, from provincial towns, from cities, or from broadcasters or certain event organizers . . .
You get there, you are introduced as . . .
a tragic, gloomy poet, and on it goes so that you are introduced that way too in laudatory speeches, and in pseudo-scholarly papers.
Which is to say, this is an author, a writer who is to be classiﬁed in such and such a way, and the books are gloomy, the characters are gloomy, and the landscape is gloomy, and so that means—the man now seated before us too is gloomy . . .
During such a speech, in fact all that is left is some kind of gloomy . . .
lump in a dark suit . . .
Well, I am considered a so-called serious writer, the way Béla Bartók is a serious composer, and this reputation spreads . . .
This is essentially a very bad reputation . . . I am absolutely discomforted by it.
Then again, of course I am hardly a cheery author, no storyteller; I basically detest stories.
I am a story destroyer, I am the typical story destroyer.
In my work, at the ﬁrst sign of a story taking form, or if I catch sight of even a trace of a story, rising somewhere in the distance behind a mound of prose, I shoot it down.
The same is true of sentences—I almost want to annihilate in advance whole sentences that even possibly could develop.
From Thomas Bernhard: 3 Days. Courtesy of Blast Books, New York.