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  • Perspectives on Minetti
  • Translated by Claudia Wilsch (bio)

Bernhard on Minetti Originally published in Theater Jahrbuch, 1975

Dear Henning Rischbieter,*

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Figure 1.

Minetti, 1985. Photo: Ruth Walz.

It would be crazy to send you an excerpt from the play I’m writing for Minetti, entitled simply Minetti, because it is unfinished. We want to do it in Stuttgart on New Year’s Eve, if we’re still alive—Minetti, Peymann, and I. I must take advantage of this great— probably the greatest—working and also living actor (who enchants his profession with dramatic madness) before he can no longer be taken advantage of. He is a thoroughly intellectual theater artist. We don’t have enough artists in this century who can actually break into our habitual patterns of thought.

As you know, or perhaps you don’t, I never write a single word (much less a movement of body and soul!) for an audience, since the audience does not concern me in the least, only the actor does. I have always written only for the actor, never for the audience. I’ve never written for the feebleminded, only for actors like Minetti, who are intellectuals, even though imbeciles have often acted in my plays.

The audience is the enemy of the spirit, which is why I don’t care about it. It hates the spirit and hates art and only wants entertaining nonsense. I despise nonsense as entertainment, and therefore I must despise the audience—it is and must remain the enemy. If I thought differently, I would deserve to be thrown onto the dung heap of the audience, which tramples on everything that is most important to me. As a lifelong student of acting, I’ve only been interested in writing for actors and against the audience. I’ve always done everything against the audience, everything against my readers and spectators, in order to save myself, to force myself to reach the height of my abilities.

Thank you very much for your invitation.

Thomas Bernhard [End Page 89]

Minetti on Bernhard

Bernhard Minetti in conversation with Claus Peymann and Hermann Beil Originally published in Theater heute, December 1980

BERNHARD MINETTI Thomas Bernhard’s characters are essentially like Hamlet. They think, but they rarely act. They explore themselves and contemplate their relationship to the world. Unrelenting, fighting with themselves. The General in The Hunting Party fights with himself up until his death, just as a bark beetle destroys its forest. He’s a wonderful character to play, with his almost grotesquely conservative and nostalgic worldview. He’s caught between comedy and tragedy, like all the Bernhard characters I’ve played. That is the great freedom of the Bernhard actor. He can emphasize comedy one night and tragedy the next. Those choices affect even the smallest details.

CLAUS PEYMANN I have seen all the Bernhard roles you’ve played. They are all clowns— but in a completely mad way. Of course, we need to be careful using the term clown, since it is becoming trendy, but you mentioned the professional perspective of the “Grock Clown” [the stage name of the early twentieth-century Swiss performer Charles Adrian Wettach] at the very beginning of our conversation. And it made me think of the satiric moments in Minetti, when he talks about the English newspapers, or the cellist in The Force of Habit.

HERMANN BEIL Why this affinity with Thomas Bernhard? Had you read his prose? Or did lightning just strike you?

MINETTI Lightning struck.

PEYMANN A “friendship of spirits,” Bernhard would say.

MINETTI That’s right. It’s eerie how much Bernhard knows about me, since our meetings only amounted to about three hours all told. We didn’t have any penetrating conversations either, but spoke almost in fragments, exchanging comments or opinions about this or that. Our affinity is simply the spiritual in Bernhard, if you will, or the clownish, the devilish. Apart from that, of course, I’m fascinated by the poetry and the incredible musicality of his language—that’s precious to me. I think of language physically. The omnipresent Shakespeare seems physical, even in translation. In Pinter, too, a physicality...

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pp. 89-91
Launched on MUSE
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Archived 2005
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