True Love


A story included in The Voice Imitator

by Thomas Bernhard1

An Italian who owns a villa in Riva on Lake Garda2 and can live very comfortably on the interest from the estate his father left him has, according to a report in La Stampa3, been living for the last twelve years with a mannequin4. The inhabitants of Riva report that on mild evenings they have observed the Italian, who is said to have studied art history, boarding a glass-domed5 deluxe boat, which is moored not far from his home, with the mannequin to take a ride on the lake. Described years ago as incestuous in a reader’s letter addressed to the newspaper published in Desenzano6, he had applied to the appropriate civil authorities for permission to marry his mannequin but was refused. The church too had denied him the right to marry his mannequin. In winter he regularly leaves Lake Garda in mid-December and goes with his beloved, whom he met in a Paris shop-window, to Sicily, where he regularly rents a room in the famous Hotel Timeo in Taormina to escape from the cold, which, all assertions to the contrary, gets unbearable on Lake Garda every year after mid-December.

Thomas Bernhard 

Thomas Bernhard, was an Austrian author, who ranges among the most distinguished German speaking writers of the second half of the 20th century. Although internationally he’s most acclaimed because of his novels, he was also a prolific playwright. His characters were often working in a lifetime and never-ending major work while they deal with themes such as suicide, madness and obsession and, as Bernhard did, they use to have a love-hate relation with Austria. His prose was tumultuous but sober at the same time, philosophic in the background, with a musical cadence and plenty of black humour. He started publishing in the year 1963, with the title Frost. His last published work, appeared in the year 1986, was Extinction. Some of his most well known works include The loser (where he fictionalises about Glenn Gould), Correction and Woodcutters. In The Voice Imitator, gives us one of his most darkly comic works. A series of parable-like anecdotes this satire is both subtle and acerbic. What initially appear to be quaint little stories indict the sterility and callousness of modern life, not just in urban centres but everywhere. Bernhard presents an ordinary world careening into absurdity and disaster. Politicians, professionals, tourists, civil servants succumb one after another to madness, mishap, or suicide.

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