It's a major work that has enjoyed very minor exposure in the English-speaking world until now: What the public at large has denied Bernhard -- novelist, poet, playwright and essayist, who died exactly twenty years ago today and whose work is still so relevant -- classical music lovers should try to give back, at least in part.
Bernhard is an old master, a merciless mind and a steadfast critic of his country, Austria, who was promptly accused, in life, of being a "Nestbeschmutzer", someone who likes to soil his own nest. There's so much to remember him by: the astonishing beauty of his language, his honorable commitment to tell uncomfortable truths, his unrelenting bleak view of human nature. But today it's good to quote something that has been written about him and needs to be repeated: that he was morally committed as a writer to always look under the surface, no matter how ugly -- or self-defeating -- that would be.
"In his autobiography,"Gathering Evidence," Bernhard describes how one
day, out of the blue, he decided not to take his usual route to school,
but to walk in the opposite direction. He ended up in a shabby quarter
of Salzburg he hadn't known existed; it was a neighborhood of the
downtrodden, the ostracized, and the unemployed on the dole. It opened
his eyes to what lurked behind the smug façade. He promptly got a
menial job in a grubby convenience store in a basement and never went
back to school. Walking in the opposite direction would become a
stubborn habit for the rest of his short life."