“in every soup you find a nazi”: thomas bernhard’s “the german lunch table”

"The German Lunch Table"

("Der deutsche Mittagstisch")

 

A Tragedy

to be performed

by the Vienna State Theatre

when Touring Germany

 

Thomas Bernhard

 

Translated by Gitta Honegger

 

 

 

 

Herr and Frau Bernhard, their daughters, their sons, their grandsons and granddaughters, their great-grandsons and great-granddaughters, and their closest relatives—ninety-eight people around a small, not quite round, lunch table. Natural oak.

 

HERR BERNHARD:

(Scoldingly.)

You must take your time

 

FRAU BERNHARD:

Take the time

 

HERR BERNHARD:

To eat

Think of your mother and of her mother and of the mother of your mother’s mother

 

(Everyone, except Herr and Frau Bernhard, looking at each other.)

 

FRAU BERNHARD:

 

The revolution will destroy all of you, then you won’t be getting soup like this anymore

 

THE YOUNGEST OF THE GREAT-GRANDSONS:

(Screams.)

And no more potatoes

 

THE OLDEST OF THE GREAT-GRANDSONS:

Not one potato in all of Germany.

 

FRAU BERNHARD:

(Hoarsely.)

Because cancer-care has eaten up everything

 

HERR BERNHARD:

 

And NATO

And those AWACS

 

FRAU BERNHARD:

(To everyone.)

Don’t you ever say out loud what we just said

 

(Asks.)

Isn’t this delicious soup

 

(Everyone nods.)

 

THE SECOND ELDEST GREAT-GRANDSON:

(Not great-great grandson!)

Our new President is a Nazi

 

THE THIRD ELDEST GREAT-GREAT GRANDSON:

(Not great-grandson!)

And our last President was a Nazi too

 

THE OLDEST GRANDSON:

The Germans are all Nazis

 

FRAU BERNHARD:

Stop talking about politics

Eat your soup

 

HERR BERNHARD:

 

(Jumps up.)

 

I had enough now

In every soup you find a Nazi

 

(Hits with both hands the bottom of his still full soup plate.)

 

Nazi soup

Nazi Soup

Nazi Soup

 

(Frau Bernhard has jumped up, screams and points her index finger at Herr Bernhard’s pants.)

 

FRAU BERNHARD:

 

There you see

He’s wearing Nazi pants

Nazi pants that’s what he’s wearing

 

 

THE OLDEST GREAT-GRANDSON:

(Screaming.)

 

The Nazi pants

The German Nazi-father-pants

 

(Frau Bernhard sinks back into her chair and covers her face with both hands.)

 

 

FRAU BERNHARD:

How ashamed I am

Good God

Oh God help me how ashamed I am

Like President Scheel like Scheel like Scheel

 

THE YOUNGEST GREAT-GRANDDAUGHTER:

(Loudly.)

 

And like President Carstens

And like Carstens

 

FRAU BERNHARD:

Do we have to go through this

 

HERR BERNHARD:

It’s always the same as soon as we sit down at our table around the oak someone finds a Nazi in his soup

Instead of our good old noodle-soup we’re getting Nazi soup every day now

Only Nazis and no noodles

 

FRAU BERNHARD:

Listen to me dearest husband

You can’t get noodles anymore anywhere in Germany only Nazis

No matter where we buy our noodles it’s Nazis we get

No matter what package we open it’s always Nazis spilling out and when we cook the stuff it’s always boiling over

It’s not my fault

 

(Everyone throws down their spoons.)

 

THE YOUNGEST GREAT-GRANDSON:

Why don’t you leave mother alone

 

FRAU BERNHARD:

(Her face buried in her German mother’s apron, meekly.)

After all all of you were spoon-fed on National Socialism.

 

(They all throw themselves on Frau Bernhard and strangle her. The oldest great-grandson screams into the silence:)

 

Mother

 

(Curtain.)

 

Translation copyright 1981 by Gitta Honegger.

 

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