In Hora Mortis / Under the Iron of the Moon: Poems

    Translated by
  • James Reidel

Haunting and darkly humorous poems by the internationally acclaimed Austrian novelist, playwright, and memoirist


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May 14, 2024
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Thomas Bernhard (1931–1989) has been compared to Kafka and Beckett, and critics have ranked his novels among the masterpieces of the twentieth century. But in fact he began his career in the 1950s as a poet, publishing three books of well-received verse before turning to fiction. In Hora Mortis / Under the Iron of the Moon is the first book of his expressionist-like poetry to be published in English. Bringing together Bernhard’s second and third books of poetry, the collection’s short, untitled lyrics reveal his early explorations of themes that would continue to preoccupy him in his novels, plays, and other writings—especially his intense ambivalence toward the land and people of Austria and their then-recent Nazi past. As the translator James Reidel writes in his preface, “Bernhard found Austrian soil … to be like a hair shirt and a blanket. It is a killing ground but with a postcard setting.” In poems that both subvert and pay homage to such influences as Georg Trakl, Bernhard begins to develop his characteristic dark humor while exploring themes of nature, death, meaninglessness, and faith.