Thursday, January 13, 2011
From The New Statesman, understanding humor in Thomas Bernhard.
But take this passage from Old Masters:
In fact, [Adalbert] Stifter always makes me think of Heidegger, of that ridiculous petit-bourgeois nationalist socialist in golfing trousers. If Stifter has totally kitschified . . . high literature . . . Heidegger, the philosopher of the Black Forest . . . has totally kitschified philosophy . . . I see him always sitting on the bench in front of his house in the Black Forest, next to his wife, who . . . knits for him without pause stockings made of wool, shorn by herself from the backs of their very own Heideggerian sheep . . . his wife who, all her life, has totally dominated him and knitted for him all his stockings and his nightcaps, and who has cooked his bread and woven his sheets and even made him his sandals . . .
This is an onslaught on Heidegger and his cult of place, but above all a bravura comic riff on the theme of Heidegger and the Black Forest, more Rabelais than Swift, more New York cabbie than Voltairian assassin. And it is not even Bernhard saying this, but his character Reger, as reported by the narrator of Old Masters. Do we side with Reger against Heidegger? Do we laugh at Reger for his absurd rant, and at the narrator for reporting it without comment? Do we simply sit back and enjoy the comic rhetoric? Or can we do all these things at once?
Bernhard's riff on Heidegger, that ridiculous petit-bourgeois nationalist socialist in golfing trousers, gave me a chuckle, and doesn't seem that far from a Voltairean sort of wit--though we can still read Guru Heid., can't we or at least the cliffsnotes and smile at his provincial aspects--though some may not find him too amusing. That pic of MH sitting with the brownshirts in the Munich beergarden in the 30s was not so komedic.

Bernhard' s point on MH as "a woman's philosopher" or something to that effect was a bit interesting as well. Many PoMo's--including femmes-- consider Heidegger's ontology ...a triumph over all preceding philosophy, if not science and western thought as a whole--at times that seems a bit..premature. Like Voltaire, Bernhard doesn't quite accept...... the cozmic debris. (tho, granted Diogenes... has his own limitations)
If one must explain comedy, it's missed the mark. Those who don't need an explanation will smile.
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