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The essential elements of a person ... come to light only when we must regard him as lost to us, when everything he has done seems to have been a taking leave of us. Suddenly the true nature of everything about him that was merely preparation for his ultimate death becomes truly visible.
— Thomas Bernhard,Verstörung (Gargoyles)1
Somewhere in what Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels called ‘Old Europe’, in the years preceding the Great War, in an oak-panelled room, an upper-middle-class, straight white man conjugates verbs that describe the designs and depictions in several medium-sized paintings. There are shapes and colours, composition and a bit of story and many other small and big things to look at, but this upper-middle-class, straight white man does not feel confused or bereft in the face of this superfluity. This upper-middle-class, straight white man is a connoisseur of modern art. He knows the scene’s aura of capaciousness points to a rendezvous with the superlative. There’s too much here to be grasped all at once and for this upper-middle-class, straight white man ‘too much’ feels very good, like a fistful of meat dissolving in his stomach. He feels gratified, because he compares the
Thomas Bernhard, Gargoyles (1967, trans. Richard and Clara Winston), New York: Vintage, 2006, p.17. ↑