The Voice Imitator


"Bernhard is one of the masters of contemporary European fiction."—George Steiner

"The Voice Imitator works as a mini-anthology of Bernhard's obsessions with political corruption, madness, murder, and the inability of language to capture, or relieve, the absurdity of life.…A highly artistic undertaking."—Peter Filkins, New York Times Book Review

"Thomas Bernhard is one of the indispensable writers of the 20th century.…He provides an overwhelming sense of intellectual and emotional exhilaration unmatched by any contemporary American author."—Thomas McGonigle, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"A catalogue of lunacy, murder, character assassination, amnesia, and suicide. The stories are acid, ingenious, and unsentimental." Erik Charlson,—Boston Book Review

Five stories from
The Voice Imitator
Thomas Bernhard

Pisa and Venice
The mayors of Pisa and Venice had agreed to scandalize visitors to their cities, who had for centuries been equally charmed by Venice and Pisa, by secretly and overnight having the tower of Pisa moved to Venice and the campanile of Venice moved to Pisa and set up there. They could not, however, keep their plan a secret, and on the very night on which they were going to have the tower of Pisa moved to Venice and the campanile of Venice moved to Pisa they were committed to the lunatic asylum, the mayor of Pisa in the nature of things to the lunatic asylum in Venice and the mayor of Venice to the lunatic asylum in Pisa. The Italian authorities were able handle the affair in complete confidentiality.


The Tables Turned
Even though I have always hated zoological gardens and actually find that my suspicions are aroused by people who visit zoological gardens, I still could not avoid going out to Schönbrunn on one occasion and, at the request of my companion, a professor of theology, standing in front of the monkeys' cage to look at the monkeys, which my companion fed with some food he had brought with him for the purpose. The professor of theology, an old friend of mine from the university, who had asked me to go to Schönbrunn with him had, as time went on, fed all the food he had brought with him to the monkeys, when suddenly the monkeys, for their part, scratched together all the food that had fallen to the ground and offered it to us through the bars. The professor of theology and I were so startled by the monkeys' sudden behavior that in a flash we turned on our heels and left Schönbrunn through the nearest exit.


Hotel Waldhaus
We had no luck with the weather and the guests at our table were repellent in every respect. They even spoiled Nietzsche for us. Even after they had had a fatal car accident and had been laid out in the church in Sils, we still hated them.


A businessman from Koblenz had made his life's dream come true by visiting the pyramids of Giza and was forced, after he had done visiting the pyramids, to describe his visit as the greatest disappointment of his life, which I understand, for I myself was in Egypt last year and was disappointed above all by the pyramids. However, whereas I very quickly overcame my disappointment, the Koblenz businessman. took vengeance for his disappointment by placing, for months on end, full-page advertisements in all the major newspapers in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, warning all future visitors to Egypt against the pyramids and especially against the pyramids of Cheops, which had disappointed him most deeply, more than all the others. The Koblenz businessman used up his resources in a very short time by these—as he called them—anti-Egypt and anti-pyramid advertisements and plunged himself into total penury. In the nature of things, his advertisements did not have the influence upon people that he had hoped for; on the contrary, the number of visitors to Egypt this year, as opposed to last year, has doubled.


True Love
An Italian who owns a villa in Riva on Lake Garda and can live very comfortably on the interest from the estate his father left him has, according to a report in La Stampa, been living for the last twelve years with a mannequin. The inhabitants of Riva report that on mild evenings they have observed the Italian, who is said to have studied art history, boarding a glass-domed deluxe boat, which is moored not far from his home, with the mannequin to take a ride on the lake. Described years ago as incestuous in a reader's letter addressed to the newspaper published in Desencano, he had applied to the appropriate civil authorities for permission to marry his mannequin but was refused. The church too had denied him the right to marry his mannequin. In winter he regularly leaves Lake Garda in mid-December and goes with his beloved, whom he met in a Paris shop-window, to Sicily, where he regularly rents a room in the famous Hotel Timeo in Taormina to escape from the cold, which, all assertions to the contrary, gets unbearable on Lake Garda every year after mid-December.


Copyright notice: Excerpted from The Voice Imitator by Thomas Bernhard, translated by Kenneth J. Northcott, published by the University of Chicago Press. ©1997 by the University of Chicago. All rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that this entire notice, including copyright information, is carried and provided that the University of Chicago Press is notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the University of Chicago Press.

Thomas Bernhard
The Voice Imitator
Translated by Kenneth J. Northcott
©1997, 112 pages, 55 halftones
Cloth $17.95 ISBN: 0-226-04401-7
Paper $11.00 ISBN: 0-226-04402-5

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