Thursday, April 10, 2008
Glenn Gould re-engineered
'Whatever I have written, whether published by me during my lifetime or as part of my literary papers still existing after my death, shall not be performed, printed or even recited for the duration of legal copyright within the borders of Austria, however this state identifies itself.'
This extraordinary clause in the will of the Austrian novelist Thomas Bernhard, who died in 1989, was the final event in an extraordinary life. He was born in Holland in 1931 and studied at the Akademie Mozarteum in Salzburg before becoming an author. I have been reading Bernhard's remarkable novel The Loser (Der Untergeher). It tells the story of a fictional relationship between Glenn Gould and two of his fellow students who abandon their own musical ambitions in the face of Gould's incomparable genius.
In The Loser Bernhard unashamedly re-engineers Gould's biography to suit his own ends, and there is no claim to historical authenticity. But as a meditation on success, failure, genius and fame the book is absolutely authentic, and it has the approval of Gould experts who have drawn parallels with Thomas Mann's Doktor Faustus. Bernhard himself explained his re-engineering of fact in these words.
'What matters is whether we want to lie or to tell the truth and write the truth, even though it never can be the truth and never is the truth.'
The Loser is quite unmissable. But we haven't yet finished with the extraordinary. The novel is one hundred and seventy pages long and it is written as a single paragraph. Which even outdoes that 'king of the paragraph' Bernard Levin.
Follow this link for a fascinating article on Thomas Bernhard's house. Watch out for a review of another new Glenn Gould book, Katie Hafner's A Romance on Three Legs, here shortly. And more on copyright and the great pianist re-engineered here.
The Loser is published by Vintage Books, ISBN 1400077540. The beautiful cover design for the US edition is by Eva Brandstotter. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk