Literary prizes gave Thomas Bernhard yet another reason to rant
by Thomas Bernhard
translation by Carol Janeway
$22.00 List Price
I can't remember whether it's the author (played by Charlotte Rampling) or her publisher (Charles Dance), but in François Ozon's film The Swimming Pool one of them remarks that literary prizes are like hemorrhoids: Sooner or later, every asshole gets one. This sentiment might have been used as an epigraph to the Austrian author Thomas Bernhard's My Prizes, an "accounting" of the many literary awards that began coming his way in the mid- 1960s. Being Thomas Bernhard, of course, it's not just the recipients of these prizes who are "All Assholes"—"a whole row of assholes," to be precise—it's also the people who decide which "scribbling asshole" gets the prize, namely Austria's Cultural Senate, which is "full of assholes . . . Catholic and National Socialist assholes plus the occasional Jew for window-dressing." Since it is a grievous insult, "a huge dirty trick," to be awarded a prize by this bunch of "washouts and bastards," one might have expected Bernhard to have done the Nobel thing—à la Sartre—and turned all his prizes down. Fat chance. He did not contemplate that for a moment because, being "a bastard" like the rest, he was "greedy for money," eager to pocket the dough, however tainted, attached to this and any other prizes offered to him—at least up until the age of forty, at which point he declined "all further honors."
In truth, this is one of Bernhard's weaker rants, and My Prizes is a weakish book—if it can properly be called a book. The jacket copy says it was written in 1980, nine years before his death at the age of fifty-eight. An introduction might have
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