Tuesday 3 August 2021



Werner Kofler (1947-2011), who wrote collages in the style of Thomas Berhard, was a witty, sarcastic, uncompromising social critic. How best to describe his writings? They are, in his own words, “mad creations”, “acts of revenge”, “masterpieces of innuendo”, “master works of defamation.”  But not available in English. How can that be – why is a great writer like Kofler overlooked, why are English readers deprived of the prickly pleasure of reading Kofler? Because his works are hard to translate – too many local references, too many puns and wordplays lost in translation. Well, I’ll give it a shot. Here is a taste of MANKER. The setting: A radio play is being taped, and the author gives instructions to, or rather constantly interrupts, Manker’s reading of the play:
No, Manker, not like this. Not so fast, Manker, don’t say it as if you were in a hurry. More feeling, more attention to detail! It’s an inventory, Manker, an inventory of damages. Not “went in, kicked in the high double doors, flung open” – no, “went in, kicked in the high double doors, flung open the wings of the door with a loud crash,” not just the door, Manker, “the wings of the door,” it’s a door with wings, the door panels suddenly burst open – don’t drone on, Manker, “in fear and unsettled I,” what are you doing, Manker, more precision, “IN FEAR AND UNSETTLED – I…,” not so careless, “the green lamp thrust to the ground, its gentle light extinguished in a flash,” what are you doing? “Thrust to the ground, the green lamp, its gentle light extinguished in a flash,” why is it so difficult, so difficult to put emphasis on the gentle light of the green lamp, extinguished in a flash. The greener the lamp, the lamp on the table, the gentler the light, the more sudden the extinction, is that so difficult to convey, gentle light, green lamp, and suddenly – is that so difficult? Such difficulties already within the first sentences, at the beginning of the first sentence, the first bars! If we go on like that, it’s going to be a long story, a lengthy dialogue, we will entertain a one-sided talk, I like to talk, very much, and preferably at another person’s cost. But this hardly counts as entertainment, not yet; but soon: we are entertaining ourselves privately. But let’s go on, Manker – much noise, “where am I, to be murdered by him,” WHERE, WHERE – not bad, Manker, suddenly retracting WHERE, WHERE, yes, that sounds good, where, where, he, I – yes, excellent;  but now, that’s much too fast, “taken from the wall,” not enough involvement, taken from the wall, broken with a single destructive movement, more slowly, Manker, largo appassionato – “broke with a single destructive movement the heavy, cut-glass wall mirror” – more slowly and the voice a little fuller, emphasis on the heaviness of the wall mirror, the destructive movements, the heavy cut-glass mirror broken, in pieces –“THE MIRROR IN PIECES.” For God’s sake, not so loud, why are you roaring like that, control yourself, who told you to shout “the mirror in pieces,” the mirror is already in pieces, why destroy it a second time. No forte, Manker, nothing in fortissimo,  the-mirror-in-pieces, okay? Two-birds-at-swim, the-mirror-in-pieces, like that, very simple. It could have been very simple, but no, you had to shout and smash the mirror a second time! Seven years of bad luck, and that on top of it; adding insult to injury. I know, I know bad luck rarely happens only once, but a more respectful handling of the ruined mirror would have been desirable, Manker. Radio play or not. THE MIRROR IN PIECES! Have you ever heard anything like that, no one in the whole world has ever heard anything like that, such a – oh, I don’t know what to call it. I was really looking forward to the radio play and now this happens, already at the beginning, within the first sentences, at the first strike, so to speak.
To be continued…