Based on the diary of Karl Ignaz Hennetmair, the essay re-examines the scandal around Thomas Bernhard’s second play Der Ignorant und der Wahnsinnige at the Salzburg Festival in 1972. Claus Peymann, the stage director, not only demanded that the theater should be dark, as Bernhard’s play states, but in addition asked to have the emergency lights completely turned off. This last-minute request escalated into a public scandal and ultimately led to the cancellation of further public performances at the festival. Contrary to common perception and official statements by the author, Bernhard showed a high degree of ambivalence toward this scandal. He was first and foremost concerned to pursue his own interests and career. Whereas Bernhard wanted in public to be perceived as decisive and in control of it, his reaction to the demands by Peymann and the festival director were at best half-hearted. The close analysis of the public outcry allows for dissecting Bernhard’s behavior vis-à-vis his artistic output, a knot that otherwise scholars seem to be unable to separate. In the end—and with an unintentional twist—the scandal actually mirrors the backstage-play itself.


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pp. 43-64
Launched on MUSE
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