On Earth and In Hell: Early Poems
by Thomas Bernhard
Trans. by Peter Waugh



ON EARTH AND IN HELL is the first English translation of the earliest poetry collection of brilliant and disruptive Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard, widely considered one of the most innovative and original authors of the twentieth century and often associated with fellow mavericks Beckett, Kafka and Dostoevsky. A master of language, whose body of work was described in a New York Times book review as “the most significant literary achievement since World War II,” Bernhard’s ON EARTH AND IN HELL offers a fresh perspective on the essence of his artistry and his theme of death as the only reality. A remarkable achievement by highly-respected Vienna-based translator Peter Waugh.

ON EARTH AND IN HELL: Early Poems, by Thomas Bernhard; Translated from the German by Peter Waugh (bilingual: German/English); Poetry: European/German; ISBN 978-1-941110-23-2 trade paper; ISBN 978-1-941110-24-9 ebook; 220 pages; $19.95 Publication date: Tuesday, November 10, 2015

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High Praise for ON EARTH AND IN HELL

“Peter Waugh offers haunting and beautiful renderings of Thomas Bernhard’s poetry…A fascinating peek into the genesis of Austria’s controversial literary figure.” —New York Journal of Books

“These hard won-poems, these furious convulsions, by turns savage and tender, mark the beginning of Thomas Bernhard’s true work, his first startling blows. It is deeply illuminating to have them so wonderfully translated into English.” —Edward Hirsch, poet, Gabriel: A Poem; How to Read a Poem (and Fall in Love with Poetry)

“All the matter of the subsequent malicious laughter is there – the self-splitting disgust and nostalgia, the hyperbolic despair, the failed (desired but also scorned) glory, the juxtaposition of village idyll and doom, of scathing superiority and terminal degradation, of sex and nauseated frailty and exhaustion.” —From the Introduction by Jaimy Gordon

“Safe to say, one would not confuse Bernhard’s Austria with the Austria of The Sound of Music. There is no edelweiss to greet you every morning, no vigorous nuns climbing ev’ry mountain. Nonetheless, there is a charm and a sweetness that emerges toward the end of this collection. There is a wise father and a nurturing mother; there are ever-present devoted ancestors. Even in a harsh world—and Bernhard presents a very harsh world—a home, it seems, can still be found.” —Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene

“[In] this full version of ON EARTH AND IN HELL, Thomas Bernhard’s very first publication, in 1957, as a poet and, more importantly, as a writer … [is] a hypersensitive stranger, leading me through a heart-wrenching journey, circles of hell punctuated with spring beams and unexpected bubbles of tenderness. A soul exposed to the very core, explosive.” —from the Foreword by Barbara Hutt, co-author, Thomas Bernhard (biography in French)

“Playwright, novelist, and poet, Bernhard (1931-1989) has garnered much praise and been compared to such other literary giants as Dostoyevsky, Kafka, and Beckett. ON EARTH AND IN HELL is now in English for the first time and allows us to see how the Austrian writer’s work evolved during his short life.” —Book Riot / In Translation

“Bernhard was . . . Austria’s most important postwar writer, a provocateur who delighted in finding his country and countrymen odious and then making the best of it in his art.” —The New York Times

“Thomas Bernhard was first and possibly foremost a poet, belonging in the company of Georg Trakl and Paul Celan . . . a major twentieth-century poet.”—Carolyn Forché, author of Blue Hour: Poems

“Remarkable. . . . Bernhard . . . is lapidary and translucent.”
—Times Literary Supplement (London)

“Little by little, with supernatural patience, prodigious cunning and craft—like Joseph Heller in Catch-22—Bernhard fashions an original angle of vision that transforms our understanding. We see elephants beside us in a room where no one mentions elephants.” —O, The Oprah Magazine

“While Thomas Bernhard’s early works of poetry are relatively unknown, they show the ingenious beginnings of the author’s ironic and morbid vision, influenced by the poetry of Rilke, Celan, and the expressionist Trakl.” Matthias Konzett, Tufts University, author of Rhetoric of The National Dissent in Thomas Bernhard, Peter Handke and Elfriede Jelinek