Failings of a Literary Winner ; MY PRIZES: AN ACCOUNTING by Thomas Bernhard, Trans Carol Brown Janeway (Notting Hill Editions, Pounds 12)

Article excerpt

SATED with prizegivings? Here's the antidote. Thomas Bernhard, the greatest Austrian writer of the second A half of the last century, wrote this scathing account of receiving nine awards in 1980, but it wasn't published for 30 years (Bernhard died in 1989).

The reason is not far to seek. It's the most superbly offensive book. He despised prizes ("no prize is an honour, the honour is perverse, there is no honour in the world"), those who judged and presided over them, and above all himself for accepting them because he was weak and he wanted the money to buy a property, or storm- shutters for his windows, or a white Triumph Herald.

He describes his participation in all of these ceremonies with appalling honesty and intimacy. To receive the coveted Grillparzer Prize in Vienna, he bought a suit at a shop called Sir Anthony two hours before, not having worn a suit for years. He refused to go up on to the podium until begged to do so by the president of the academy, and then felt the suit was too tight. …