Thomas Bernhard - Ereignisse (Occurrences)

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    THOMAS BERNHARD

    EREIGNISSE (OCCURRENCES)

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    ranslated 2012 by Douglas Robertson

    shirtysleeves.blogspot.com

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    WO YOUNG PEOPLE fee into a tower, which serves as the towns deensiveortication, and ascend it without uttering a single word. Tey intend not toextinguish their silence with a betrayal and they set about their scheme withthoughtless speediness. Halway up the tower they glimpse an incalculable de-

    tail o the landscape in which the tower is situated. Te coldness o the wallscauses them to stagger upward as i through the inside o a block o ice: withmouths open and arms stretched to the ront in the idea that by means o thesehal-sincere gesticulations the distance they wish to cover might be articiallydiminished. Now it becomes evident that the girl by orce o imagination iscapable o pressing orward with greater speed than the intellectually limitedyoung man, and it is important to remark that the girl, although climbing eightor ten steps behind the young man, her lover, is in reality een or twentystep-lengths ahead o him. Te completely windowless tower is an incipienceo darkness and quite distinctly recognizable as such. When they nally reachthe top they undress and all naked into each others arms.

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    HE GIRL is sitting on a bench under an apple tree next to the ront door o acastlesque building that stands in a loy valley and that a distinguished gentle-man has discovered on one o his rambles, which is leading him rom churchto church and rom one unusual architectural structure to another. He is stand-ing perectly still behind the garden ence and is ascinated by the beauty o thegirl, who wears her hair in long pigtails. He pretends to be writing somethingin his notebook, but in act he is observing the girl uninterruptedly. He is being

    observed by the nuns who are working in the vegetable garden; but he does notnotice this. He wants to avoid destroying the tension that exists between thegirl and him; or this reason he does not step up to address her. But at a giveninstant he will introduce himsel, he thinks, and strike up a conversation withthe girl. He will relate to her the story o his travels, and connections are easilyestablished in ways like this. He will tell her about the world in which he lives.But at the moment at which he resolves to approach the girl, the girl stretches aull length stocking-swathed leg into the air and starts pulling her pigtails withboth hands. Because she cannot speak, she emits incomprehensible noises. Shekeeps tugging at her pigtails until her eyes turn dark with blood. Now the manrst becomes aware o the act that he is at the site o a madhouse, and he quitsthe site immediately without attracting any attention on the part o the nuns,who lay hold o the girl and drag her into the house.

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    HE FORY-YEAR-OLD MAN has been catching the same bus or twelveyears. As he is walking home he refects that somebody else is to blame or hisunhappiness. Not he. Even though he does not know or certain who orcedhim into the twelve-year ordeal, he utters a term o abuse against the personin question. He rounds the corner where the elder bush is shedding its leaves.Naturally he does not perceive this at all. Clamped under his arm is a well-worn briecase in which on every day o the twelve years apart rom Sundays,

    excluding vacations, he has kept his aernoon tea. As a rule he does not eat anyo it. It is eaten by the children when he gets home. At the spot where his pathdiscloses to view the house in which he lives with his amily, he raises his eyesor the rst time. He pictures to himsel his wie now setting dinner on the tableand putting their children to bed. He suddenly sees how his wie is removingher blouse and draping it over the back o the chair. She takes rom the kitchenstove a cup o coee, crumbles some white bread into it, and laps up the mix-ture with a spoon. Now he is cold and turns around and walks back along thesame path that he has just taken. He walks through the woods and goes to bedwith his mistress, who owns a one-story house with a vegetable garden. At thisinstant his wie is saying to the children: be quiet, or else the Christ Child wontbring you any presents.

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    HE CASHIER at an ironworks has married a woman eight or nine years hissenior. Shortly aer their wedding the quarrels begin. It is with a boundlessantipathy that the two o them all asleep and wake up. Eventually the wiealls gravely ill, an event that is assuredly connected to her childlessness, getsbetter time and again, but suddenly loses the power o speech and can makehersel understood only by using her hands, at home she writes everything onthe pages o a calendar: I plan to go away, or example, or Its lovely outside.

    She hates it when people eel sorry or her. Eventually she gets pains in her legsand grows quite sti. She has to be pushed around in a wheelchair. She sits onthe lookout at the window. When her husband gets home he has to wheel heroutside. Always the same stretch. Always arther. She shakes her clenched stsat him. She is always hungrier or new houses, new trees, new people. She peersout o the hood o her winter cape, looks through the gaps between the trees onthe avenue. One evening, as he is pushing her along near the curb o the side-walk, he turns the conveyance around and tips it into the abyss. She cannot cryout. Te metal conveyance splits into pieces. Tis deed is something he dreamsabout. But he will do something like this to her, he thinks.

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    HE CELLIS knows there is nothing but loathing between her and the op-eretta conductor. In spite o this every day at the same hour she slips throughthe door o his room and into his bed. Evil has taken possession o the thirty-year-old woman and the harder she attempts to end it o, the more relent-lessly the process o her destruction advances. In the attic o the conservatory

    she incessantly plays sonata movements that she plunges into or the sake otearing them to pieces. With incredible ruthlessness she starves hersel, all daylong she lies drunk in bed or the sake o pursuing her annihilation project allthe more energetically. She sells everything, is suddenly le with a single blackhigh-necked dress. Smashes to pieces her instrument, gripping its neck withboth hands. She accelerates everything. Laughs. Is silent. Aer her nal assig-nation with the conductor she sits on an artists suitcase in the squalid, gloomypassageway and weeps.

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    HE LANDED PROPRIEOR dreams that one o his laborers has been dig-ging up the earth at numerous spots on his estate, and that at every site a corpsehas been turning up. He has the laborer dig up the entire area around his house.But there is not a single spot under which a corpse does not lie. Now the landedproprietor has his entire estate dug up by a hundred laborers, but that act othe matter is that under a thin stratum o soil it is uninterruptedly covered bya thick layer o corpses. He has all the turned-up corpses, which are o all agesand both sexes, shown to him, and he remembers that he has slain them all

    with his own hands. But or all that, the ear o being killed himsel keeps himrom inorming anyone o his crime. He hits upon the idea o having the crimeor the murderer ound out. o this end he organizes a committee o govern-ment o cials whom he buys o handsomely. Only a ew days later a murdereris discovered. Although the landed proprietor knows that in this man, who isa complete unknown, he cannot possibly be dealing with the murderer, he hashim delivered to a court o law that sentences him to death. Te murderer is ex-ecuted. In this manner, the o cials discover even more murderers. Eventuallythey discover exactly as many murderers as there are murder victims. Tey areall executed and buried on the landed proprietors estate. Now the landed pro-prietor wakes up and rises. He walks into the orest in order to determine whichtrees he still has to have cut down this autumn. Tis question preoccupies himthroughout the day.

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    HE VILLAGE PRIESS SISER alls ill one day and when she is allowed toget up again people remark that the illness has aected her brain. She gets upto things that a normal person under normal circumstances never gets up toFor example while fourishing a myrtle wreath she dances through the villagesquare with her tongue sticking out, to the oended bemusement o uncompre-hending bystanders. She is also in the habit o suddenly stepping up to the altarin the middle o mass service and strewing about stemless roses out o a little

    basket. Or she will write to the bishop a letter in which she apprises him thatthe mother o God has said to her in the potato eld that she would be welcometo reside in the church itsel rom now on. Not that anybody makes un o her,people regard her anxiously, timorously. She mutters tales involuntarily. Amongthe aorementioned tales is one to the eect that when everyone in the villagewithout exception is asleep, the Redeemer walks through the square pursuedby his tormentors, without saying a word, with bleeding stigmata. One eveningshe does not show up or supper, which is partaken o in the rectory. Nobodycan nd her. First thing next morning the schoolchildren nd her rozen intothe large fat o ice behind the brewery. Her open mouth is larger than her ace.Around her neck she is wearing, as always, a pointy starched collar. Her armsare spread out. Te water roze swily.

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    HE ACOR has a part as an evil enchanter in a pantomime. He is thrust into asheepskin costume and into a pair o shoes that are ar too small and that cramphis eet. Te entire get-up is so uncomortable that he breaks into a sweat, buto course nobody notices this; and on the whole he is never happier than whenacting or children, because they are the most grateul o all audiences. Techildren, all three hundred o them, take right when he enters, because theyare entirely on the side o the young couple, whom he has transormed into

    animals o separate species. Tey would most o all like to see nothing but theyoung couple covered rom head to toe in colorul clothing, but then the playwould not be a proper play; because rom time immemorial a pantomime hashad to include a malevolent, inscrutable gure who tries to destroy or at leastrender ridiculous the good and the scrutable. With the second rising o the cur-tain, the children can no longer be contained. Tey leap rom their seats and onto the stage, and it is as i there were no longer three hundred o them but manytimes as many and even though the actor is weeping underneath his mask andentreating them to please stop kicking him and hitting him, as they are doingwith hard metal objects, they reuse to be swayed and keep hitting him andstomping all over him until he ceases to move and his pale mutilated hands jutupwards into the dusty air o the gridiron. When the other actors come rushingover and remark that their colleague is dead, the children burst into a colossaldin o laughter that is so loud that it causes them all to lose their minds.

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    SEVERAL SHADOWS leap out at a homeward-bound workman. Tey violatehim on the riverbank and leave him behind. Te moment he tries to get up toset o on his way, the shadows are there again and strike him. Tey pull himout o his coat and drive him into the river. Tey push his head under the waterand draw long knives through his auditory canals. Tey attempt to hold him

    under water until he asphyxiates. At another place he regains consciousnessand walks urther naked. Again the shadows suddenly appear and strangle himTey throw him into a pit, into a bomb crater and ll it in. He wakes up againand runs along the railway embankment. Now the shadows attack him with-out warning and throw him into the darkness. He escapes and begins runningaster than beore. But the shadows haul him in. He hears them screaming hisname. Tey throw him between two boulders that squeeze together and crushhim to a pulp. Now he wakes up and turns on the light. He discovers his wiebeside him in the bed. He puts on his coat and leaves the house or a couple ohours. In the early morning he is seen riding on his bicycle to the constructionsite.

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    HE PROFESSOR was driven mad by the study o butterfies. First he wasbrought into the institution, only to be discharged two years later becausesomebody got the idea that his madness was not dangerous to the world. Hehas been in the peculiar habit o capering around the park with a butterfy net;which is a highly amusing sight inasmuch as the proessor is o a quite diminu-

    tive stature. He takes hardly any meals and at his request there was installed inhis room a large, black chalkboard on which he writes the word JOY. Invari-ably, aer he has written the word JOY on it, he rings or the institutions jani-tor, who is obliged to erase the word with a large sponge. Each time he receivesor his pains a coin rom the proessor, such that by now he has accumulated awhole sackul o these coins. When the proessor is obliged to leave the institu-tion, to his great sadness, he requests that the word JOY should be le on theblackboard. He will instruct the janitor to erase it at a point o time that is yet

    very distant. Te employees o the institution are actually inconsolable whenthe proessor is picked up and carried away to his sisters country estate. Terehe can o course move about reely but he still lives entirely in his recollectiono his residence at the institution. Everything that existed beore then he haslong since orgotten. Here on the estate, in the summertime, he wears white andcream-colored clothing. Te peasants/armers make un o him when they seehim climbing and descending the hill while swinging his butterfy net. From acertain day onwards, though, he insists on no longer leaving the house at anytime but at night, an insistence that his sister and the amily doctor, who centertheir entire existences on him, are hardly inclined to approve. But he managesto get his way. He says he wants to catch the lights, every light, because there isnothing more precious than light. He wants to gather together the lights, holdthem in trust in a sae place, and publish a book about them. So he walks aboutundisturbed throughout the night and catches the lights. One night he slips andalls on to the railway track. He holds his butterfy net up to the swily enlarg-

    ing twin light...