From Thomas Bernhard’s Wittgenstein’s Nephew (pg.86)
I have always hated the Viennese coffeehouses, but I go on visiting them. I have visited them every day, for although I have always hated them – and because I have always hated them – I have always suffered from the Viennese coffeehouse disease. I have suffered more from this disease than from any other. I frankly have to admit that I still suffer from this disease, which has proved the most intractable of all. The truth is that I have always hated the Viennese coffeehouses because in them I am always confronted with people like myself, and naturally I do not wish to be everlastingly confronted with people like myself, and certainly not in a coffeehouse, where I go to escape from myself. Yet it is here that I find myself confronted with myself and my kind. I find myself insupportable, and even more insupportable is a whole horde of writers and brooders like myself. I avoid literature whenever possible, because whenever possible I avoid myself, and so when I am in Vienna I have to forbid myself to visit the coffeehouses, or at least I have to be careful not to visit a so-called literary coffeehouse under any circumstances whatever. However, suffering as I do from the coffeehouse disease, I feel an unremitting compulsion to visit some literary coffeehouse or other, even thought everything within me rebels against the idea. The truth is that the more deeply I detest the literary coffeehouse of Vienna, the most strongly I feel compelled to frequent them. Who knows how my life would have developed if I had not met Paul Wittgenstein at the height of the crisis that, but for him, would probably have pitched me headlong into the literary world, the most repellent of all worlds, the world of Viennese writers and their intellectual morass, for at the height of this crisis the obvious course would have been to take the easy way out, to make myself cheap and compliant, to surrender and throw in my lot with the literary fraternity. Paul preserved me from this, since he had always detested the literary coffeehouses. It was thus not without reason, but more or less to save myself, that from one day to the next I stopped frequenting the so-called literary coffeehouses and started going to the Sacher with him — no longer to the Hawelka but to the Ambassador, etc., until eventually the moment came when I could once more permit myself to go to the literary coffeehouse, when they no longer had such a deadly effect on me. For the truth is that the literary coffeehouses do have a deadly effect on a writer. Yet it is equally true that I am still more at home in my Viennese coffeehouses that I am in my own home at Nathal.’
From Thomas Bernhard’s Wittgenstein’s Nephew (pg 67):
If one disregards the money that goes with them, there is nothing in the world more intolerable than award ceremonies. I had already discovered this in Germany. That do nothing to enhance one’s standing, as I had believed before I received my first prize, but actually lower it, in the most embarrassing fashion. Only the thought of the money enabled me to endure these ceremonies; this was my sole motive for visiting various ancient city halls and tasteless assembly rooms – until the age of forty. I submitted to the indignity of these award ceremonies – until the age of forty. I let them piss on me in all these city halls and assembly rooms, for to award someone a prize is no different from pissing on him. And to receive a prize is no different from allowing oneself to be pissed on, because one is being paid for it. I have always felt that being awarded a prize was not an honor but the greatest indignity imaginable. For a prize is always awarded by incompetents who want to piss on the recipient. And they have a perfect right to do so, because he is base and despicable enough to receive it.
From a letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne, dating June 1 (?) 1851 as Melville worked to finish Moby Dick:
It is a rainy morning; so I am indoors, and all work suspended. I feel cheerfully disposed, and therefore I write a little bluely. Would the Gin were here! If ever, my dear Hawthorne, in the eternal times that are to come, you and I shall sit down in Paradise, in some little shady corner by ourselves; and if we shall by any means be able to smuggle a basket of champagne there (I won’t believe in a Temperance Heaven), and if we shall then cross our celestial legs in the celestial grass that is forever tropical, and strike our glasses and our heads together, till both musically ring in concert, — then, O my dear fellow-mortal, how shall we pleasantly discourse of all the things manifold which now so distress us, — when all the earth shall be but a reminiscence, yea, its final dissolution an antiquity. Then shall songs be composed as when wars are over; humorous, comic songs, — “Oh, when I lived in that queer little hole called the world,” or, “Oh, when I toiled and sweated below,” or, “Oh, when I knocked and was knocked in the fight” — yes, let us look forward to such things. Let us swear that, though now we sweat, yet it is because of the dry heat which is indispensable to the nourishment of the vine which is to bear the grapes that are to give us the champagne hereafter.
From Cesare Pavese’s Moon and the Bonfires (pg. 83 of the NYRB edition). I wonder if there is an overarching name for this joke and all its endless variants of target, targeted vice, targeted locale, etc.
Another thing I heard that day was that there was a carriage at Canelli that drove out every so often with three women in it, sometimes four, and these women made a tour of the streets, as far as the Station, as far as Sant’Anna, up and down the highway, buying soft drinks in various places – all this to make a show, to attract clients. Their owner had worked it out, and then whoever had the money and was old enough went into that house at Villanova and slept with one of them.
“Do all the Canelli women do that?” I asked Nuto, when I’d understood.
“Better if they did, but no,” he said. “Not all of them ride in carriages.”
From toward the end of Book II of Rousseau’s Confessions, on the death of an early employer, Madam de Vercellis:
Elle ne garda le lit que les deux derniers jours, et ne cessa de s’entretenir paisiblement avec tout le monde. Enfin, ne parlant plus, et déjà dans les combats de l’agonie, elle fit un gros pet. Bon! dit-elle en se retournant, femme qui pète n’est pas morte. Ce furent les derniers mots qu’elle prononça.”
She kept to her bed for only her last two days, and never stopped conversing cheerfully with everyone. At last, no longer speaking, and already in the throes of agony, she let out a great fart. ‘Good?’ she said, returning to her senses, ‘a woman who farts is not dead.’ There were the final words she pronounced.