On one occasion I had to have a copy of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung because I wanted to read an article about Mozart’s Zaïde that was due to appear in it. Believing that I could obtain a copy in Salzburg, I drove the fifty miles to this so-called world-famous festival city, with Paul and a woman friend of ours, in her car. But the Neue Zürcher Zeitung was not to be had in Salzburg. Then I had the idea of getting a copy in Bad Reichenhall, and so we drove to this world-famous spa. But the Neue Zürcher Zeitung was not to be had there either, and so we drove back to Nathal, somewhat disappointed. Just outside Nathal, Paul suddenly proposed that we drive to Bad Hall, another world-famous spa, where we would be sure to get the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and so be able to read the article on Zaïde. So we actually drove the fifty miles from Nathal to Bad Hall. But the Neue Zürcher Zeitung was not to be had there either. Since it was just a stone’s throw, a mere twelve miles, from Bad Hall to Steyr, we drove to Steyr, but the Neue Zürcher Zeitung was not to be had there either. We then tried our luck in Wels, but the Neue Zürcher Zeitung was not to be had in Wels either. In all, we had driven two hundred and twenty miles just to get the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, and all to no avail. As may be imagined, we were completely exhausted, and so we went to a restaurant in Wels to relax and have something to eat, the hunt for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung having brought us to the limit of our physical endurance. It occurs to me now, as I recall this episode, that Paul and I were very much alike. Had we not been totally exhausted, we would certainly have driven on to Linz and Passau, perhaps even to Regensburg and Munich, and in the end we would have thought nothing of simply driving to Zurich to buy the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, for in Zurich, I fancy, we would have been certain to get a copy. Since we failed to get the Neue Zürcher Zeitung that day, because it is not taken in any of the places we visited, even during the summer months, I can only describe these places as miserable shitspots, which thoroughly deserve this description, if not an even shittier one. I also realized at the time that no one with intellectual pretensions could possibly exist in a place where the Neue Zürcher Zeitung is unobtainable. To think that I can get the Neue Zürcher Zeitung all the year round in Spain and Portugal and Morocco, even in the smallest town boasting only one drafty hotel—but not in this country! And the fact that we could not get the Neue Zürcher Zeitung in all these supposedly famous places, including Salzburg, aroused in us anger and indignation toward this small-minded, backward country with its backwoods mentality and its sickening folie de grandeur.
At this point you may be inclined to ask why, by all means, had it to be the NZZ? Here’s why:
I attach the utmost importance to reading books and newspapers every morning, and in the course of my intellectual life I have specialized in reading English and French newspapers, having found the German press unbearable ever since I first began to read. What is the Frankfurter Allgemeine, for instance, compared with The Times, I have often asked myself, what is the Süddeutsche Zeitung beside Le Monde? The answer is that the Germans are just not English and certainly not French. From my early youth I have regarded the ability to read English and French books and newspapers as the greatest advantage I possess. What would my world be like, I often wonder, if I had to rely on the German papers, which are for the most part little more than garbage sheets — to say nothing of the Austrian newspapers, which are not newspapers at all but mass – circulation issues of unusable toilet paper?
Wittgenstein’s Nephew – Thomas Bernhard
Full disclosure: I am presently an a TB trip. Totally addicted. No cure in sight. It feels great.