Article Title

Sights Unseen: Withholding Information in the Plays of Thomas Bernhard


Bernhard's dramas are in several respects structured like classical tragedy: they are tightly restricted in time and space; they use few characters, and they depend more on recitation than direct action. Violence and death pervade all Bernhard's works for the stage. But these central events are rarely addressed directly and never scenically enacted, even though they hold sway over almost every aspect of the characters' lives. In Heldenplatz, Bernhard's last work for the stage, shouts from the crowd that assembled in 1938 for the Nazis still echo in the imagination of Professor Schuster's wife. In The President, the leader of a European nation waits for the assassination he knows will come. In Eve of Retirement, two former Nazis hold a party on Himmler's birthday, thirty years ofter his death. And events in A Party for Boris (Bernhard's first play) revolve around a mysterious accident that occurred some ten years earlier. Trauma remains unseen and only indirectly represented, chiefly in compulsive behaviors and mechanistic speech acts.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.