Thomas Bernhard, My Prizes
This year’s Parabases, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center’s series of semi-staged performances, focus on the heroes of the great myths and narratives, exploring the evolution of the hero model from the ancient era until the present day.
Starting from emblematic hero figures of the ancient era (Achilles, Orestes) and looking at characteristic heroes of the Renaissance and the late Enlightenment (Don Quijote, Hero of the Revolution) along the way, we will arrive to the anti-heroes of the contemporary world, in an attempt to provide an unconventional narrative of mankind’s coming-of-age, as it is reflected in its stories and its myths.
Through the archetypal texts of six important poets and authors (Homer, Aeschylus, Μiguel de Cervantes, Yannis Makriyiannis, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Thomas Bernhard), we will follow the gradual emancipation of heroes from the gods and the grand narratives, and their painful landing into the contemporary world. Here, where the anti-heroes fight against futility and despair, finding reprieve either in irony and cynicism, or madness and withdrawal. Orphaned of both avengers and protectors, they desperately seek to lose themselves in a myth that will dictate their next move and their next sentence.
Thomas Bernhard, My Prizes
A scathing critic of the bourgeoisie, social hypocrisy and decorum, Bernhard died prematurely in 1989, having, ironically, received almost all major German literary prizes during the course of his life. A small collection of short essays written about the awards he received was published twenty years after his death. Armed with caustic humor, Bernhard expresses his aversion for art prizes, exposing the superficiality and absurdity of literary institutions and bureaucrats, as well as his own contradictory stance in accepting the prizes only for the monetary awards that came with them and provided a temporary reprieve from his financial struggles. These delightful tales are complemented by his speeches at the respective award ceremonies. Articulated like the ravings of a convicted man heading for execution, these short speeches reveal the harrowing shame and anxiety he suffered during these events, as well as his profound unease at living in a country where he always felt unappreciated and disconnected, no matter how many honors he received.
Bernhard and his “antihero” literary universe bring into sharp focus the battle of contemporary artists in a world where the fairy tales and grand narratives have ended, and the gods – protectors and avengers – are long dead. The battle is fought against futility and despair; the recourse is sarcasm and cynicism. Beneath the rage of a contemporary “misanthropist”, however, lies a deep, tender melancholy.
I cannot remain faithful to the fairytale about the mastersingers of your city; I do not want to narrate absolutely anything; I do not want to sing; I do not want to preach; but this is the truth: the fairytales are over, the fairytales of the cities and the states and all those scientific fairytales; the philosophical ones, too; there is no longer a spirit world, the universe itself is no longer a fairytale; this is the truth and the reality. Reality, like truth, is not a fairytale, and truth has never been a fairytale.
Copyrights of the work of Thomas Bernhard are provided by the publisher Suhrkamp, Berlin. We would like to thank Thanasis Sarantos for his input..
The book is published by Hestia Publishers & Booksellers.
The themed events programming Faces of the Hero is realized thanks to the exclusive grant by Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF).