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Biography of Thomas Bernhard


The foundation of the Thomas Bernhard Archive in 2001, which made Bernhard’s literary estate available for academic analysis, provided the basis for the twenty-two volume critical edition by Suhrkamp Verlag, as well as for a thorough biographical portrait of the author. A considerable number of papers in the Bernhard archive in the Villa Stonborough-Wittgenstein in Gmunden, including typescripts of drafts and final versions of Bernhard’s works, as well as a large number of private documents, have now been made available for research: even a substantial part of the correspondence, originally held in the Bernhard family’s private archive, particularly the publishers’ and theatre correspondence, was made available. Through this a number of corrections relating to the history and genesis of his work have been made possible. In addition, unpublished works, above all from Bernhard’s early years, and containing clear autobiographical references, can now be examined for the first time.

An initial short biography of the author was published in 2006, in the prestigious ‘Suhrkamp BasisBiographien’ series. In 2009, together with Martin Huber, the director of the Thomas Bernhard Archive, Manfred Mittermayer curated the exhibition ‘Thomas Bernhard and the Theatre’ (5 November 2009 – 4 July 2010) at the Austrian Theatre Museum in Vienna. Another major outcome of the biographical research will be the commentaries on Bernhard's life and works that accompany five volumes of the critical edition of Thomas Bernhard's works, to be published during the course of the project.

The research undertaken in the context of this strand will conclude with the completion of a comprehensive biography of Thomas Bernhard. Through detailed research and representation of the material in the Bernhard archive, the biography should provide new insights into the author's artistic image. The element of self-fashioning that marked Bernhard’s public image and his impact so decisively will be a key consideration. The figure of Thomas Bernhard must also be seen within the context of political developments in Austria, just as his literary work cannot be looked at simply as a completed oeuvre, but rather as the construction of a literary voice from other texts, a voice that in turn continues to influence the writing processes of other authors.

Contact: Manfred Mittermayer



Ludwig Boltzmann Institute
for the History and Theory of Biography

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