Thomas Bernhard – Heldenplatz

Thomas Bernhard's play “Heldenplatz” was a contract work: For the 100th anniversary of the “new” Vienna Burgtheater, which opened in 1888, director Claus Peymann asked Bernhard to write a play. But 1988 was also the commemoration year of Austria's "Anschluss" to the Third Reich that had taken place 50 years earlier. Bernhard's drama deals with the survivors of the formerly expelled mathematics professor Josef Schuster, who, after returning to Vienna, hunted by the resurgent nationalism and anti-Semitism, commits suicide in March 1988.

Due to an indiscretion that has not yet been fully clarified, parts of the text reached the press before the premiere. Bernhard's sweeping attack against Austrian fascism, catholicism, and socialism led to the greatest cultural scandal of the Second Republic. At the premiere, the author was both acclaimed and booed.

This most spectacular drama by Bernhard has now been documented in its genesis. Based on the first edition of the piece, published in 1988 in the Suhrkamp library (BS 997), this new edition provides for the reproduction of all text levels preserved in the estate, which are presented with diplomatic transcriptions. In this way, Bernhard's stylistic processes in particular can be traced. Based on the model of the edition of “Wittgenstein's Neffe” (, the text is made accessible through comments and registers. The most important sources (press reports, reviews, secondary literature) are cited to illustrate the extremely broad reception history which is displayed with bibliographical data and visualised in an interactive timeline. The aim of the project was to present Bernhard's linguistically developed provocative power and its public consequences against a contemporary historical background.

Project Duration

1 December 2021 ­– 31 December 2023



Konstanze Fliedl

Andreas Basch

Barbara Tumfart

Silvia Waltl