The Bright Side Of Ignorance: Thomas Bernhard Analysis Part I
September 12, 2010 § Leave a comment
Hailing from Austria, Thomas Bernhard has been known for being caustic in his satire of the world he perceives and entwining it with black humor in the most understated and acumen fashion to where he becomes more than a critic, but a, no pun intended, voice imitator; a living, breathing, and uncompromised joke to mirror what most are simply unconscious of, something that makes his plays all the more sincere and his prose subtly sinister in ways that entice a second glance so you can process that, yes, he was betided as your caricature. In his micro-fiction collection The Voice Imitator, Bernhard touches on a great amount of topics, emotionally, politically, and socially, across 104 stories, two of which invoke an elaborative need to discover a resolve, or rather a reason to resolve.
An excursionist, who had attached himself to us en route to the so-called Giant World of Ice near Werfen because he was probably of the opinion that we were more entertaining than the other people in our train, which was making its way along the valley, told us he was deeply unhappy over the fact that he had advised one of his colleagues, a bank employee like himself, who had asked him where he should spend his vacation so as to get some relaxation, to take a cruise on the Adriatic and the Mediterranean, something he himself on one occasion had much benefited from. The very ship on which his colleague was bound for Dubrovnik, Corfu, and Alexandria had sunk – for reasons that are still unknown to this day – in the vicinity of Crete, and along with all the other who had gone on this “disaster cruise”, as the excursionist called it, his colleague had drowned. He had probably gone down with the ship, which had sunk very rapidly. The loss of the ship and the death of his colleague by drowning had affected him so deeply that for years now he had been unable to find peace. He asked us what he should do to be freed from his guilty conscience, but we dared not give him any advice.
When Oscar Wilde said that “a little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal”, was this in reference to self-criticism? He must have been sensitive to the means of censuring his own work, or rather was keener on leaving said works unfinished so as to justify the palette and exposition of his progress in life. Thus, if he was the “attentive” listener from this story, I feel he would have not done the same if only to witness a reaction of unbeknownst false hope, for surely this excursionist would torture himself to his own death, so why not enhance the process with patronizing absurdity? The listeners in the story clearly want anything but to share the guilt this man has embedded in their ears for the whole trip, for they must relate to the excursionist on some level where it’s too clear to them that their regrets have swallowed their own sense of choice, and to acknowledge a new path for the excursionist to venture, only to surely hear about it in the obituaries soon after, would be hilariously depressing.
Perhaps the listeners are too pre-emptive in this state of affairs…or perhaps they don’t relate to him at all, in which case they perceive the excursionist as transparent, and irony befallen upon him is too cataleptic to reveal to someone whose mind has been tainted with the fallacy of regret. Either way, it seems that this excursionist cannot suffer from the advice not given, and as he returns to the lie that is his conscience, can only whittle away, so perhaps Mr. Wilde should have been there to feed the corpse to the sharks….or is there a manner of reversing the guilt on an old dog? Is there a message that one gives up too easily on his fellow man? No, it couldn’t be. That would gesture benighted pride and bliss.