Tuesday, March 16, 2010

One of my favorite works of fiction is Thomas Bernhard's 1978 collection Die Stimmenimitator (The Voice Imitator, translated by Kenneth J. Northcott, 1997). The book is comprised of 104 short works, many of them written from Austrian newspapers. Below is one the more corrosive one-pagers.


A businessman from Koblenz had made his life's dream come true by visiting the pyramids of Giza and was forced, after he had done visiting the pyramids, to describe his visit as the greatest disappointment of his life, which I understand, for I myself was in Egypt last year and was disappointed above all by the pyramids. However, whereas I very quickly overcame my disappointment, the Koblenz businessman took vengeance for his disappointment by placing, for months on end, full-page advertisements in all the major newspapers in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, warning all future visitors to Egypt against the pyramids and especially against the pyramids of Cheops, which had disappointed him most deeply, more than all the others. The Koblenz businessman used up his resources in a very short time by these—as he called them—anti-Egypt and anti-pyramid advertisements and plunged himself into total penury. In the nature of things, his advertisements did not have the influence upon people that he had hoped for; on the contrary, the number of visitors to Egypt this year, as opposed to last year, has doubled.

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