David Auerbach on literature, tech, film, etc.

Bernhard on Heidegger

And speaking of Heidegger, here is the much less subtle Thomas Bernhard on him, from the always amusing Old Masters:

I always visualize him sitting on his wooden bench outside his Black Forest house, alongside his wife who, with her perverse knitting enthusiasm, ceaselessly knits winter socks for him from the wool she has shorn from their own Heidegger sheep.

I cannot visualize Heidegger other than sitting on the bench outside his Black Forest house, alongside his wife, who all her life totally dominated him and who knitted all his socks and crocheted all his caps and baked all his bread and wove all his bedlinen and who even cobbled up his sandals for him. Heidegger was a kitschy brain….. a feeble thinker from the Alpine foothills, as I believe, and just about right for the German philosophical hot-pot. For decades they ravenously spooned up that man Heidegger, more than anybody else, and overloaded their stomachs with his stuff. Heidegger had a common face, not a spiritual one, Reger said, he was through and through an unspiritual person, devoid of all fantasy, devoid of all sensibility, a genuine German philosophical ruminant, a ceaselessly gravid German philosophical cow, Reger said, which grazed upon German philosophy and thereupon for decades let its smart little cow-pats drop on it….

Heidegger is the petit-bourgeois of German philosophy, the man who has placed on German philosophy his kitschy nightcaps, that kitschy black night-cap which Heidegger always wore, on all occasions. Heidegger is the carpet-slipper and night-cap philosopher of the Germans, nothing else.

There’s another great section, which I don’t have at hand, talking about how at dinner parties people are always coming up to you and offering you bits of Heidegger and you haven’t even gotten in the door before someone is offering you a little piece of Heidegger, and so on.


  1. Not quite on topic, but that book has the best punch-line Ive ever read.

  2. Anna Jean Msllinson

    5 May 2014 at 21:06

    This rant against Heidegger is one of my favourite passages in 20th century fiction.

  3. I think they had a lot in common actually. They both continually rail against modern technology and Austria/Germany, against the lack of true identity and culture, of the horrible state of affairs in the world today if examined honestly. In Extinction the main character calls Goethe a truck farmer and bourgeois writer, funny in its hyperbole – he had a way of attacking even those he probably admired. He never married, domestic situations are always at the center of his conflicts, I think he possibly thought Heidegger a hypocrite for trying to be a thinker and a happy family man at the same time, something Bernhard could not be.

  4. jason kennedy

    28 May 2021 at 04:33

    Bernhard has many fantastic rants, the funniest is the one in Walking with two men arguing over a pair of trousers, the longest is that of the mad prince in Gargoyles (100 pages or so), while the director’s rant in Woodcutters, after being rudely reminded of his being old and close to death, is particularly sarcastic.

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