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the head of vitus bering cover image the head of vitus bering

Konrad Bayer

The Printed Head
Volume III, Number 7

Translated by Walter Billeter.
ISBN 0 947757 83 X
64pp 13.5 x 21cm
out of print

His desires were limitless, he wanted to fly, to make himself invisible, he wanted to be able to do everything. - Gerhard Rühm

the head of vitus bering, the second major publication of the Austrian writer Konrad Bayer (1932-1964), was the most important work written during the existence of the so-called Vienna Group, a constellation of highly gifted, radically experimental writers bent on creating a new tradition out of the ashes of the Second World War. Gerhard Rühm and H. C. Artmann, two colleagues during this period, describe the book variously as Bayer’s “pinnacle” and “a magnificent book. Bayer’s true biography, composed with poetry and elegance.” But Bayer’s own description is more telling: “perhaps a trepanation."

Constructed from a montage of events, images, facts and allusions that “unite and coordinate the past and future to one point,” Bayer turns the historical adventure of the sea captain Vitus Bering, who sailed to discover whether America was linked to Asia, into a metaphor for inner voyage and ultimate liberation “from opinions and thoughts.” Against the backdrop of a chilling “outside” reality in which the logic of a mechanical universe is beginning to run riot, and all subjective distance washed away, the reader is drawn into a vortex of unnerving paradoxes, a calculating machine of sublime horrors - “the birth pangs of initiation."



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