Limited Edition Bernhard
I thought I might complete my Thomas Bernhard trifecta with a post that crosses over into book collecting. Even though Bernhard is an ideal author for serious book collecting, there don’t seem to be many limited edition publications of his work. I have two and I can find reference to one more: a 1962 limited edition that consisted of two early poems.
The Voice Impersonator. New York: William Drenttel, 1995. Designed by Jessica Helfand and William Drenttell, The Voice Impersonator was issued in a limited edition of 100 cloth bound copies (binding by the Campbell Logan Bindery of Minneapolis) and an unnumbered edition in wrappers. The book had wonderful handmade Japanese endpapers and a paper title label on the spine. In seventy-one pages, The Voice Impersonator (originally Der Stimmenimitator, 1978) contains 104 very short pieces of fiction translated by Craig Kinosian. This marks the first English translation of the book.
In 1997, when the University of Chicago Press released the same stories to a wider audience, now translated by Kenneth J. Northcott and under the title The Voice Imitator, this volume was also designed by Helfand and Drenttel.
Beautiful View. New York: William Drenttel, 1994. This piece consists of a single sheet (folded to make four pages) and a hand-sewn cover of handmade paper and was released in an edition of 120 copies. The stunning blue cover stock contains silver, mirror-like spirals. The text pages were hand typeset and printed on lovely, watermarked Johannot paper at the Aralia Press by Jessica Helfand, William Drenttel and Michael Peich. The extremely brief, enigmatic is story taken from The Voice Impersonator.
The single-paragraph pieces in The Voice Impersonator are marvelous exercises in tone. The narrative voice, whether first person or third, maintains a uniformly flat, slightly formal tone no matter whether the story ends with a banal punchline or an act of subdued violence. Here are two of the shorter stories in their entirety.
THE WALDHAUS HOTEL. We had no luck with the weather and also had guests at our table who were obnoxious in every way. They even succeeded in spoiling Nietzsche for us. Even when they had a fatal car accident and lay prostrate at the Church in Sils, we still hated them.
POST OFFICE. For years after our mother had died, the post office delivered letters addressed to her. The post office had not acknowledged her death.
Drenttel and Helfand have formed Winterhouse, an umbrella organization that constitutes an institute, a design studio, a publishing house, and numerous other activities, including the invaluable website Design Observer. Winterhouse Editions is responsible for a number of books that will be of interest to Vertigo readers, such as Hans Erich Nossack’s The End: Hamburg 1943 (which I have written about here) and Hans Zischler’s Kafka Goes to the Movies.