Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Thomas Bernhard's Acceptance Speech for the 1967 Austrian State Prize for Literature

Honored Minister, Honored Guests,
  There is nothing to praise, nothing to damn, nothing to accuse, but much that is absurd, indeed it is all absurd, when one thinks about death.
  We go through life impressed, unimpressed, we cross the scene, everything is interchangeable, we have been schooled more or less effectively in a state where everything is mere props: but it is all an error! We understand: a clueless people, a beautiful country- there are dead fathers or fathers conscientiously without conscience, straightforwardly despicable in the raw basics of their all makes for a past history that is philosophically significant and unendurable. Our era is feebleminded, the demonic in us a perpetual national prison in which the elements of stupidity and thoughtlessness have become a daily need. The state is a construct eternally on the verge of foundering, the people one that is endlessly condemned to infamy and feeblemindedness, life a state of hopelessness in every philosophy and which will end in universal madness.
  We're Austrians, we're apathetic, our lives evince the basest disinterest in life, in the workings of nature we represent the future as megalomania.
  We have nothing to report except that we are pitiful, brought down by all the imaginative powers of an amalgam of philosophical, economic and machine-driven monotony.
  Means to an end when that end is destruction, creatures of agony, everything is explained to us and we understand nothing. We populate a trauma, we are frightened, we have the right to be frightened, we can already see in the dim background the dim shapes of the giants of fear.
  What we think is secondhand, what we experience is chaotic, what we are is unclear.
  We don't have to be ashamed, but we are nothing, and we earn nothing but chaos.
  In my name and in the name of those here who have also been selected by this jury, I thank all of you.