Bernhard, on the observer

I was copying quotes about the observer from the novels I read, here, in Turkish. This one is the first attempt in English. The friend here is Paul, Wittgenstein’s Nephew, the one in the psychiatric hospital. As Bernhard informs, he’s a restless observer, like Thomas. I hadn’t noticed that the accusations were the integral part of the observer. That makes the figure less naive than I imagined.

Finally, toward the end of his life, when he was under extreme pressure as a writer and obviously found that verse came more easily to him than prose, he wrote a number of poems—with the left hand, as it were— which were really amusing, full of madness and wit. Just before being readmitted to one of his madness and wit. Just before being readmitted to one of his madhouses, he would read out the longest of them to anyone willing to listen. There is a tape recording of this poem, which centers upon himself and Goethe’s Faust; listening to it, one is highly amused and at the same time deeply disturbed. I could recount not just hundreds, but thousands of Paul’s anecdotes in which he is the central figure; they are famous in the so-called upper reaches of Viennese society, to which he belonged and which, as everybody knows, have lived on such anecdotes for centuries; but I will refrain from doing so. He was a restless character who always lived on his nerves and was perpetually out of control. He was a brooder, endlessly philosophizing and endlessly accusing. He was also an incredibly well-trained observer, and over the years he developed his gift for observation to a fine art. He was the most ruthless observer and constantly found occasion to accuse. Nothing escaped his accusing tongue. Those who came under his scrutiny survived only a very short time before being savaged; once they had drawn suspicion upon themselves and become guilty of some crime, or at least of some misdemeanor, he would lambaste them with the same words that I myself employ when I am roused to indignation, when I am forced to defend myself and take action against the insolence of the world in order not to be put down and annilihilated by it. In the summer we had our regular places on the terrace of the Sacher, where we spent most of our time in accusations. Whatever came within range became a target for fresh accusations. We would sit on the terrace for hourse over a cup of coffee, accusing the whole world, root and branch. Having taken our places on the terrace of the Sacher, we would switch on our well-tried accusation mechanism behind what Pau, called the arse of the opera. (If one sits on the terrace in front of the Sacher and looks straight ahead, one has a rear view of the opera house.) He took pleasure in such formulations as the arse of the opera, even though this one denoted the rear elevation of the house on the Ring which he loved more than anything else in the world and from which he had for so many decades drawn virtually everything requisite to his existence. We would sit on the terrace for hours and watch the passerby. I still know of no greater pleasure—in Vienna—than to sit on the terrace of the Sacher in summer, watching the world go by. Indeed, I know no greater pleasure than observing people, and to observe them while sitting in front of the Sacher is a particular delight that Paul and I often shared.

Thomas Bernhard, Wittgenstein’s Nephew, translated by David McLintock, Faber & Faber, 2013 [1982], p. 60-1.

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