A fiery monologue in a Bernhard novella

Contributing to the Cultural Olympiad’s Monologues 2003, Roula Pateraki has chosen the fiery, singular work of Thomas Bernhard – his prose, that is, rather than his plays. At the Metaxourgeio Theater, the actress will present «Wittgenstein’s Nephew: A Friendship,» a favorite novella of die-hard Bernhard fans. The performances will take place tonight and tomorrow. «From time to time, I stage works which are not normal, which are actually abnormal for everyone,» says Pateraki. «This particular Bernhard piece is one of these. I read it in the past, when it was first published in Greek, translated by Dimitris Varsos; since then, I have wanted to ‘speak’ the text.» Was she scared, given that the text was not meant for the stage? «I have my own perception of what is ‘theatrical’ and where I can find it. There are pieces written for the theater which we should get rid of and there is prose with great internal action. This belongs to the latter category.» What attracted Pateraki to the text in terms of its subject matter? «Bernhard’s passion and madness, a sort of anger which defines him as a whole. And a deep feeling of distress, which I believe stemmed from his illness; he had a lung condition. His illness turned his singularity into genius. From the moment he fell ill, he turned to other spiritual journeys and pursuits, and that’s why he is such a moral author. He is the kind of writer who uses 300 words in all, turning and twisting them furiously, and this minimal material – so little that he is only comparable to Beckett – produces an overwhelming result, in terms of anger and rage, a personal revolution. Against everything.» Paul, the nephew of celebrated philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, was himself a philosopher, but also mentally disturbed. As he combined an aristocratic stance with an aloof spirituality, his fellow Viennese considered him a quaint outsider. In the novella, Bernhard writes about his experiences next to this lunatic genius (they became friends in hospital), a man, who, nevertheless, turned out to be far more sincere and humane than other men. For the stage monologue, Pateraki chose a number of passages, making up the narrative’s basic core. She also opted for low-key direction. «Lately, my entire mood is neither to over-direct, nor to over-direct myself. I believe that theater is something different. Something which has no relation to what I see around me.» What is she going to look like on stage? «You will see,» she says. «I can’t turn into Bernhard himself, of course, but when I interpreted a text by Proust, I became Proust. We will see. The final word here belongs to Angelos Mendis, the man who takes care of my artistic presence on stage.» Metaxourgeio Theater, 14 Acadimou, Metaxourgeio, tel 210.523.4832.

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