Stills from Ferry Radax’s 1971 film of Thomas Bernhard’s Der Italiener

Gertrude Stein always speaks of America as being now the oldest country in the world because by the methods of the civil war and the commercial conceptions that followed it America created the twentieth century, and since all the other countries are now either living or commencing to be living a twentieth century life, America having begun the creation of the twentieth century in the sixties of the nineteenth century is now the oldest country in the world.
Gertude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1932), in Writings 1903-1932 (New York: The Library of America, 1998), p. 739.
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New Nickname for Bruckner’s Symphony No. 5:

"The Mighty Wurlitzer"

(No: that emphatically is not the organ of St. Florian’s warming up in mm. 15-17 and 23-25 of the first movement.)

It happened that I read Mr. Riesman’s book just after I had gone through several recent novels of some pretension to social and moral seriousness. The authors of these books were known to me as men of good intellect and of a degree of talent which, if it is not of the highest, is certainly sufficient to do the job which we may reasonably expect will be done by the contemporary novel when we think of it in its wide generality and not merely as the high, fine product of a very few geniuses—the job, that is, of giving us reasonably accurate news of the world, of telling us the way things are. Only genius, of course, can tell us the way things really are: but there is a kind of information which falls short of this in accuracy and comprehensiveness and which is nevertheless interesting, and useful to have, and even necessary to have. But the novels I speak of told me only one thing about our life: that intelligent and serious men, such as these authors are, have the greatest difficulty nowadays in being even minimally aware of our life. And since the novelist’s sense of the internal life is concomitant with his sense of external life, it seemed to me that these novelists were writing about people who did not exist, or who, if they did exist, might as well stop existing.

D. H. Lawrence called the novel ‘the book of life,’ and these novelists would have said no less in praise of the novel, and they were most touchingly devoted to life, and to ‘values,’ and to ‘affirmation,’ and to goodness in general—all of which had the effect of making me feel that I had been brushed by the Angel of Death. (No one has yet paid attention to the anti-catharsis, the generally anti-hygienic effect of bad serious art, the stimulation it gives to all one’s neurotic tendencies, the literal, physically-felt depression it induces.)

But as I read Mr. Riesman I began again to believe that life was not merely a more troublesome form of death. There are no characters in his book, only situations, but I began to believe that people must really exist in order to create these situations, the reality of which cannot be doubted. And I could suppose these people would some day present themselves in their actuality to some novelist who might not quite like them, who might even despair of them, but who would believe that they really existed, that they really made a society.

Lionel Trilling, Second Note in “Two Notes on David Riesman” (1952 and 1954) in A Gathering of Fugitives (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1956 and 1978), p. 99.
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Newish* Nickname for Haydn’s String Quartet, Op. 20, No. 3 in G Minor:

"The Blue Angel"/"Falling in Love Again" ["Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuss"] (I. mm. 35-38 [vn. 1]).

(And you thought “Deutschland über Alles” was the only Papa-H-penned hit of the inter-war years?)

*Because first proposed in 2007 or 2008 here

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New Nickname for Schubert’s Piano Sonata No. 4 in A Minor, D. 537:

"The Neogothic"

(On account of its principal theme [mm. 1-11 and passim.], which evokes the spiny protuberances of a Gothic Revival church.) 

(Reblogged from forgottenness)

Laszlo Krasznahorkai: Bernhard the Visitor’s Speech from The Turin Horse

Because everything’s in ruins. Everything’s been degraded, but I could say that they’ve ruined and degraded everything. Because this is not some kind of cataclysm, coming about with so-called, innocent human aid.  On the contrary… It’s about man’s own judgement, his own judgement over his own self, which of course God has a hand in, or dare I say: takes part in. And whatever he takes part in is the most ghastly creation that you can imagine. Because, you see, the world has been debased. So it doesn’t matter what I say because everything has been debased that they’ve acquired, and since they’ve acquired everything in a sneaky, underhand fight, they’ve debased everything. Because whatever they touch - and they touch everything - they’ve debased. This is the way it was until the final victory. Until the triumphant end. Acquire, debase. Debase, acquire. Or I can put it differently if you like: to touch, debase and thereby acquire, or touch, acquire and thereby debase. It’s been going on like this for centuries. On, on and on. This and only this, sometimes gently, sometimes brutally, but it has been going on and on. Yet only in one way, like a rat attacks an ambush. Because for this perfect victory it was also essential that the other side… That is, everything that’s excellent, great in some way and noble should not engage in any kind of fight. There shouldn’t be any kind of struggle, just the sudden disappearance of one side, meaning the disappearance of the excellent, the great, the noble. So that by now these winning winners who attack from the ambush rule the earth, and there isn’t a single tiny nook where one can hide something from them, because everything they can lay their hands on is theirs. Even things we think they can’t reach - but they do reach - are also theirs. Because the sky is already theirs and all our dreams. Theirs is the moment, nature, infinite silence. Even immortality is theirs, you understand? Everything, everything is lost forever! And those many noble, great and excellent just stood there, if I can put it that way. They stopped at this point, and had to understand, and had to accept that there is neither god nor gods. And the excellent, the great and the noble had to understand and accept this right from the beginning. But of course they were quite incapable of understanding it. They believed it and accepted it but they didn’t understand it. They just stood there, bewildered but not resigned, until something - that spark from the brain - finally enlightened them. And all at once they realized that there is neither god nor gods. All at once they saw that there is neither good nor bad. Then they saw and understood that if this was so, then they themselves do not exist either! You see, I reckon this may have been the moment when we can say that they were extinguished, they burnt out. Extinguished and burnt out like the fire left to smolder in the meadow. One was the constant loser, the other was the constant winner. Defeat, victory, defeat, victory and one day - here in the neighborhood - I had to realize and I did realize, that I was mistaken, I was truly mistaken when I thought that there has never been and could never be any kind of change here on earth. Because, believe me, I know now that this change has indeed taken place.

Source: http://tativille.blogspot.com/2011/03/new-film-turin-horse-of-gods-and-men-co.html (I have made a pair of corrections to the spelling.)

Newark (?), New Jersey, 1997.

Constellation No. 12

I awaked in horror, having dreamt that I saw a poor wretch lying naked on a dunghill in London, and a blackguard ruffian taking his skin off with a knife in the way that an ox is flayed; and that the poor wretch was alive and complained woefully.  How so shocking a vision was produced I cannot imagine.  But its impression was such that I was dismal the whole day.

James Boswell in his journal, 6/9 January 1784 (Boswell: The Applause of the Jury, 1782-1785 [New York: McGraw Hill, 1981], pp. 175-176).

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Raskolnikov had a fearful dream. He dreamt he was back in his childhood in the little town of his birth. He was a child about seven years old, walking into the country with his father on the evening of a holiday. It was a grey and heavy day, the country was exactly as he remembered it; indeed he recalled it far more vividly in his dream than he had done in memory. The little town stood on a level flat as bare as the hand, not even a willow near it; only in the far distance, a copse lay, a dark blur on the very edge of the horizon. A few paces beyond the last market garden stood a tavern, a big tavern, which had always aroused in him a feeling of aversion, even of fear, when he walked by it with his father. There was always a crowd there, always shouting, laughter and abuse, hideous hoarse singing and often fighting. Drunken and horrible-looking figures were hanging about the tavern. He used to cling close to his father, trembling all over when he met them. Near the tavern the road became a dusty track, the dust of which was always black. It was a winding road, and about a hundred paces further on, it turned to the right to the graveyard. In the middle of the graveyard stood a stone church with a green cupola where he used to go to mass two or three times a year with his father and mother, when a service was held in memory of his grandmother, who had long been dead, and whom he had never seen. On these occasions they used to take on a white dish tied up in a table napkin a special sort of rice pudding with raisins stuck in it in the shape of a cross. He loved that church, the old-fashioned, unadorned ikons and the old priest with the shaking head. Near his grandmother’s grave, which was marked by a stone, was the little grave of his younger brother who had died at six months old. He did not remember him at all, but he had been told about his little brother, and whenever he visited the graveyard he used religiously and reverently to cross himself and to bow down and kiss the little grave. And now he dreamt that he was walking with his father past the tavern on the way to the graveyard; he was holding his father’s hand and looking with dread at the tavern. A peculiar circumstance attracted his attention: there seemed to be some kind of festivity going on, there were crowds of gaily dressed townspeople, peasant women, their husbands, and riff-raff of all sorts, all singing and all more or less drunk. Near the entrance of the tavern stood a cart, but a strange cart. It was one of those big carts usually drawn by heavy cart-horses and laden with casks of wine or other heavy goods. He always liked looking at those great cart-horses, with their long manes, thick legs, and slow even pace, drawing along a perfect mountain with no appearance of effort, as though it were easier going with a load than without it. But now, strange to say, in the shafts of such a cart he saw a thin little sorrel beast, one of those peasants’ nags which he had often seen straining their utmost under a heavy load of wood or hay, especially when the wheels were stuck in the mud or in a rut. And the peasants would beat them so cruelly, sometimes even about the nose and eyes, and he felt so sorry, so sorry for them that he almost cried, and his mother always used to take him away from the window. All of a sudden there was a great uproar of shouting, singing and the balalaïka, and from the tavern a number of big and very drunken peasants came out, wearing red and blue shirts and coats thrown over their shoulders.

"Get in, get in!" shouted one of them, a young thick-necked peasant with a fleshy face red as a carrot. "I’ll take you all, get in!"

But at once there was an outbreak of laughter and exclamations in the crowd.

"Take us all with a beast like that!"

"Why, Mikolka, are you crazy to put a nag like that in such a cart?"

"And this mare is twenty if she is a day, mates!"

"Get in, I’ll take you all," Mikolka shouted again, leaping first into the cart, seizing the reins and standing straight up in front. "The bay has gone with Matvey," he shouted from the cart—"and this brute, mates, is just breaking my heart, I feel as if I could kill her. She’s just eating her head off. Get in, I tell you! I’ll make her gallop! She’ll gallop!" and he picked up the whip, preparing himself with relish to flog the little mare.

"Get in! Come along!" The crowd laughed. "D’you hear, she’ll gallop!"

"Gallop indeed! She has not had a gallop in her for the last ten years!"

"She’ll jog along!"

"Don’t you mind her, mates, bring a whip each of you, get ready!"

"All right! Give it to her!"

They all clambered into Mikolka’s cart, laughing and making jokes. Six men got in and there was still room for more. They hauled in a fat, rosy-cheeked woman. She was dressed in red cotton, in a pointed, beaded headdress and thick leather shoes; she was cracking nuts and laughing. The crowd round them was laughing too and indeed, how could they help laughing? That wretched nag was to drag all the cartload of them at a gallop! Two young fellows in the cart were just getting whips ready to help Mikolka. With the cry of “now,” the mare tugged with all her might, but far from galloping, could scarcely move forward; she struggled with her legs, gasping and shrinking from the blows of the three whips which were showered upon her like hail. The laughter in the cart and in the crowd was redoubled, but Mikolka flew into a rage and furiously thrashed the mare, as though he supposed she really could gallop.

"Let me get in, too, mates," shouted a young man in the crowd whose appetite was aroused.

"Get in, all get in," cried Mikolka, "she will draw you all. I’ll beat her to death!" And he thrashed and thrashed at the mare, beside himself with fury.

"Father, father," he cried, "father, what are they doing? Father, they are beating the poor horse!"

"Come along, come along!" said his father. "They are drunken and foolish, they are in fun; come away, don’t look!" and he tried to draw him away, but he tore himself away from his hand, and, beside himself with horror, ran to the horse. The poor beast was in a bad way. She was gasping, standing still, then tugging again and almost falling.

"Beat her to death," cried Mikolka, "it’s come to that. I’ll do for her!"

"What are you about, are you a Christian, you devil?" shouted an old man in the crowd.

"Did anyone ever see the like? A wretched nag like that pulling such a cartload," said another.

"You’ll kill her," shouted the third.

"Don’t meddle! It’s my property, I’ll do what I choose. Get in, more of you! Get in, all of you! I will have her go at a gallop!…"

All at once laughter broke into a roar and covered everything: the mare, roused by the shower of blows, began feebly kicking. Even the old man could not help smiling. To think of a wretched little beast like that trying to kick!

Two lads in the crowd snatched up whips and ran to the mare to beat her about the ribs. One ran each side.

"Hit her in the face, in the eyes, in the eyes," cried Mikolka.

"Give us a song, mates," shouted someone in the cart and everyone in the cart joined in a riotous song, jingling a tambourine and whistling. The woman went on cracking nuts and laughing.

… He ran beside the mare, ran in front of her, saw her being whipped across the eyes, right in the eyes! He was crying, he felt choking, his tears were streaming. One of the men gave him a cut with the whip across the face, he did not feel it. Wringing his hands and screaming, he rushed up to the grey-headed old man with the grey beard, who was shaking his head in disapproval. One woman seized him by the hand and would have taken him away, but he tore himself from her and ran back to the mare. She was almost at the last gasp, but began kicking once more.

"I’ll teach you to kick," Mikolka shouted ferociously. He threw down the whip, bent forward and picked up from the bottom of the cart a long, thick shaft, he took hold of one end with both hands and with an effort brandished it over the mare.

"He’ll crush her," was shouted round him. "He’ll kill her!"

"It’s my property," shouted Mikolka and brought the shaft down with a swinging blow. There was a sound of a heavy thud.

"Thrash her, thrash her! Why have you stopped?" shouted voices in the crowd.

And Mikolka swung the shaft a second time and it fell a second time on the spine of the luckless mare. She sank back on her haunches, but lurched forward and tugged forward with all her force, tugged first on one side and then on the other, trying to move the cart. But the six whips were attacking her in all directions, and the shaft was raised again and fell upon her a third time, then a fourth, with heavy measured blows. Mikolka was in a fury that he could not kill her at one blow.

"She’s a tough one," was shouted in the crowd.

"She’ll fall in a minute, mates, there will soon be an end of her," said an admiring spectator in the crowd.

"Fetch an axe to her! Finish her off," shouted a third.

"I’ll show you! Stand off," Mikolka screamed frantically; he threw down the shaft, stooped down in the cart and picked up an iron crowbar. "Look out," he shouted, and with all his might he dealt a stunning blow at the poor mare. The blow fell; the mare staggered, sank back, tried to pull, but the bar fell again with a swinging blow on her back and she fell on the ground like a log.

"Finish her off," shouted Mikolka and he leapt beside himself, out of the cart. Several young men, also flushed with drink, seized anything they could come across—whips, sticks, poles, and ran to the dying mare. Mikolka stood on one side and began dealing random blows with the crowbar. The mare stretched out her head, drew a long breath and died.

"You butchered her," someone shouted in the crowd.

"Why wouldn’t she gallop then?"

"My property!" shouted Mikolka, with bloodshot eyes, brandishing the bar in his hands. He stood as though regretting that he had nothing more to beat.

"No mistake about it, you are not a Christian," many voices were shouting in the crowd.

But the poor boy, beside himself, made his way, screaming, through the crowd to the sorrel nag, put his arms round her bleeding dead head and kissed it, kissed the eyes and kissed the lips…. Then he jumped up and flew in a frenzy with his little fists out at Mikolka. At that instant his father, who had been running after him, snatched him up and carried him out of the crowd.

"Come along, come! Let us go home," he said to him.

"Father! Why did they… kill… the poor horse!" he sobbed, but his voice broke and the words came in shrieks from his panting chest.

"They are drunk…. They are brutal… it’s not our business!" said his father. He put his arms round his father but he felt choked, choked. He tried to draw a breath, to cry out—and woke up.

He waked up, gasping for breath, his hair soaked with perspiration, and stood up in terror.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment (Преступлéние и наказáние), 1866 (translated by Constance Garnett).

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"In Turin on 3rd January, 1889, Friedrich Nietzsche steps out of the doorway of number six, Via Carlo Albert. Not far from him, the driver of a hansom cab is having trouble with a stubborn horse. Despite all his urging, the horse refuses to move, whereupon the driver loses his patience and takes his whip to it. Nietzsche comes up to the throng and puts an end to the brutal scene, throwing his arms around the horse’s neck, sobbing. His landlord takes him home, he lies motionless and silent for two days on a divan until he mutters the obligatory last words; "Mutter, ich habe dumm," and lives for another ten years, silent and demented, cared for by his mother and sisters. Of the horse, we know nothing.”

Laszlo Krasznahorkai, introduction to The Turin Horse (2011), directed by Béla Tarr.