A still from Thomas Bernhard: Three Days, 1970.
But then, every writer, even the real assholes, must call a truce with the great ugly publicity machine. How else to explain why Thomas Bernhard, king of the assholes, consented to make a documentary about himself back in 1970? His books, as Andrew Katzenstein writes, are teeming with curmudgeons who heap vitriol on “hacks—artists who seem more interested in fame and accolades than in the creation of meaningful work.” But he worked productively (kind of) with the Austrian director Ferry Radax: “After Bernhard began to have doubts about the project and threatened to withdraw his participation, he and Radax eventually compromised on strict terms: over the course of three days, Radax would film Bernhard sitting on a park bench as he discussed how he became a writer and his views on writing … Bernhard offers grim assessments of the writing life, suggesting the fanaticism with which he approached his work. A book is ‘nothing but a malignant ulcer, a cancerous tumor’ that has already metastasized and infected the body before it is removed. Writing only intensifies the isolation that all humans suffer, and authors he admires are ‘opponents, or enemies’ who need to be subdued, not inspirations to be emulated.”
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