Feb 012013

A great piece about Thomas Bernhard and his publisher. They don’t make publishers like this anymore, or writers, for that matter.


Bernhard knew that he existed on a thin and arbitrary boundary between sanity and insanity. Comparing himself to his friend Paul Wittgenstein, who did several long stretches in a mental hospital, he wrote that Wittgenstein “has so to speak been overcome by his insanity; while I have taken advantage of and controlled mine.” Bernhard also had a keen sense of Unseld’s perception of his “neurosis” and sought to make the most of it. During a walk with his neighbor and friend, a pork wholesaler named Karl Ignaz Hennetmair, the writer confided, “With Unseld I have the freedom of a madman (Narrenfreiheit), I can do whatever I like.”

Safety Net: On Thomas Bernhard and Siegfried Unseld | The Nation.

  7 Responses to “Freedom of the Madman: On Thomas Bernhard and his publisher @ The Nation”

  1. I am reminded of a statement by Karl Jung, that the difference between James Joyce and his schizophrenic daughter Anna was that the illness controlled the daughter while the genius of the author not only controlled the illness but turned it into art. Although he couldn’t persuade Joyce to enter into therapy with him to prove his anima/animus theory, he based his findings on the fragmented thought pattern, that stream-of-consciousness, found in the novels. Am new to Numero Cinq and await each day’s submissions with excitement. Thank you! BB

    • Byrna, It’s absolutely delightful to see you here. Many thanks for joining in and adding to the conversation. I did not know that about Jung and Joyce. I wonder how Jung invited Joyce to engage in analysis, what kind of conversation took place.


      • DG, This from my memory of reading a biography of Joyce many years ago. Joyce’s daughter was Jung’s patient at the time he was developing his Anima/Animus theory. Joyce asked Jung to enter into analysis with him, not only to help the daughter. Joyce refused so Jung had only the daughter and the author’s writings to go with.

        Didn’t I meet you, driving from SSSA at Fort Sanity with Sara MacDonald now O’Leary around the time you and maybe Leon Rooke was teaching there? 1984 maybe? Have you read my “Forest Horses?” BB

        • Byrna, Yes, that sounds about right. I knew I had met you somewhere along the way. Was Leon around then? That would have been just after a conference in Saskatoon where I met Dave Carpenter.

          Sad to say I have not read Forest Horses. I shall put it on my list.


          • I think it’s time to find a way to bring you back to Saskatchewan. Will work on it.

            CARP? April 1st is the launch of a new book he edited, the Literary History of Saskatchewan, published by Coteau. It is comprised, I understand, of essays written by academics, mostly about the early history of literature here, but does begin to catch up with critiques on Vanderhaege and Birdsell. I also understand there is one chapter by Dave Margoshes on our lost Summer School of the Arts. Will it capture the renaissance for those of us who sat at the feet of Kroetsh and Wiebe learning from their passionate arguments about magic realism, who climbed the Calling Hills at sunrise to become part of the legend of lost lovers calling to each other? And yes, there was Mandel and his Rules of Poetics and Rooke raving that the metaphor was dead and Gordon Lish and our Mother Poet Anne Szumigalski and earlier W.O. Those were just the teachers. Our Sask. Arts Board is 65 years old this year. I think we need a reunion and you can come. Watch for Carp’s book! BB

            • 🙂 You bring back memories. Those were golden days.

              Hardly anybody makes the connection, but I turned my experience of Fort San into a story called “A Piece of the True Cross.” Former tuberculosis sanitarium, old medical records and chest x-rays spilling out of boxes in disused rooms (did you ever sneak into the basements?), ruined greenhouses where they grew vegetables for the patients, forgotten graves, etc. It’s in my book 16 Categories of Desire.


              • Many stories, many poems, many novels were written at Fort Sanity. Besides a reunion we need an anthology. Stories from Fort Sanity. Have you heard about Szumigalski conjuring up ghosts with her wedgie board and the personal ghosts some writers conjured? Now, that’s a story. Everyone frightened. They lugged their mattresses down to the lounge and slept together, execpt for Redhat Reg Silvester who slept in his car.

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