To get back to how I go about writing my books: I’d say that it’s a question of rhythm and has a lot to do with music. Indeed, you can understand what I write only if you realize that the musical component is of uppermost importance, and that what I’m writing about only comes in secondarily. Once that musical component is in place, I can begin to describe things and occurrences. The problem lies in the How. Unfortunately, critics in Germany have no ear for music, which is so essential to a writer. I derive as much satisfaction from the musical element as from anything else; indeed, my enjoyment of the music is equal to my enjoyment of whatever idea it is I’m trying to express.
Not long after An Indication of the Cause came out, the German critic Jean Améry took me aside and said to me, “You can’t talk like that about Salzburg. You’re forgetting it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world.” A few days later, after I’d read his review of my book in the Merkur, which I was still fuming over, because he’d understood absolutely nothing, I heard a piece of news over the television: the previous day Améry had killed himself, and in Salzburg of all places. That’s no coincidence. Just yesterday three people threw themselves into the Salzach. Everybody blamed it on the föhn. But I’m certain that there’s something about that town that physically weighs down on people and ultimately destroys them.
Thomas Bernhard, interviewed (translated by Douglas Robertson)