Thursday, July 7, 2011

And of course a book exists only as a consequence of antitheses

This is what happens when you move from the page onto your own staked paths through the embedded white screens of the internet: an inevitable resonance. Here Stendhal (Beyle), fuelled by contempt, intent on his focus on what 'appears' to him 'at certain moments':

I declare once again, and once for all, that I supremely and sincerely despise M. Pariset, M. de Salvandy, M. Saint-Marc Girardin and the other braggarts, the mercenary and Jesuitical pedants of the Journal de Débats; but that doesn't make me think myself any closer to the great writers. I don't consider myself to have any genius, which would guarantee my worth, other than that of painting a faithful likeness of Nature, which appears to me so clearly at certain moments; in the second place, I am sure of my perfect honesty, of my adoration for the truth; and in the third place I am sure of the pleasure I take in writing, a pleasure which reached frenzy in 1817, at Milan, at M. Peronti's, Corsia del Giardino. (p.188)
And Douglas Robertson's translation of Krista Fleischman's interview with Thomas Bernhard just after the release of Woodcutters in 1984:

FLEISCHMANN:  Woodcutters—the book is subtitled “An Excitation.”

BERNHARD: Yes, because the style of the book is somewhat excited; its very subject, musically speaking, can’t be written about in a peaceful key, and has to be written about in an excited key.  You can’t write about this stuff in complete calm, as you do in conventional prose; instead, you sit down and straightway you’re excited by the very idea itself, and when you actually start writing, you’re still excited by the style.  The book is written in an excited style.

FLEISCHMANN:  And would you say the excitement increases the closer one gets to the conclusion? 

BERNHARD: An excitation is something that keeps increasing until the very end.  And so the book naturally ends in a state of total excitation by the city of Vienna, in embraces and annihilation all at one go, in a hug-like chokehold on Vienna, and [in my saying] Vienna, you are the best and at the same time the most horrible of all cities, as I daresay anybody else would about his home town.

FLEISCHMANN: So [the excitation emerges] out of [these] antitheses?

BERNHARD: Well, yes; those are the basis of a person’s existence; and of course a book exists only as a consequence of antitheses.  If a book, even a book that’s not an excitation, is one-sided, then it’s simply worthless.

FLEISCHMAN: Was it the period you [were writing] about that excited you so much?  Or was it something else that got you so riled up?

BERNHARD: [It was] my memory [of it].  Thirty years after the fact it’s certainly not the period [itself] that excites you, but the memory [of it], which you make present to yourself, and then you notice that it’s all basically [composed of a bunch of] more or less open wounds; you squirt a bit of poison into them, and the whole thing catches fire, and then an excited style materializes.  And then, you know, certain people cross your path and when you see them, they, you know, drive you crazy, and then you introduce them into just this genre of book, namely an excitation.

FLEISCHMANN: But surely with distance one ought to be able to write about the past more composedly.

BERNHARD: That’s the big cliché about contemplating the past, and it’s obviously totally false.  Old people can write books like that when they’re sitting paralyzed in their armchairs, but it’s not my mode, not yet; maybe the day after tomorrow I’ll still be excited; whenever I write anything, even something peaceful, I’m still basically excited.  In any case, excitation is a pleasant condition; when your blood is sluggish, excitation gets it moving, pulsing; it keeps you alive, and consequently keeps the stream of books flowing.  Without excitation there’s absolutely nothing; you might as well stay in bed.

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