Via ReadySteadyBlog: Today marks the 20th anniversary of the death of the writer Thomas Bernhard. I read Bernhard’s The Voice Imitator when I was in high school because my mother said her older brother (who I thought was the coolest guy ever) had given it to her. It was probably my introduction to microfiction, which has turned into one of my favorite stylistic (un)conventions.  I’ve never read a book in which an author did so much with so few words. His stories are dark but not dreary, each one is almost a joke. The work is hilarious and terrifying and makes you wonder how those two connect and interlace. His story about the markets of Cairo still gives me chills when I think about the final line. So in his memory, here’s the story “Pisa and Venice” from The Voice Imitator courtesy of the University of Chicago, which has five of his stories online here.

Pisa and Venice
By Thomas Bernhard

The mayors of Pisa and Venice had agreed to scandalize visitors to their cities, who had for centuries been equally charmed by Venice and Pisa, by secretly and overnight having the tower of Pisa moved to Venice and the campanile of Venice moved to Pisa and set up there. They could not, however, keep their plan a secret, and on the very night on which they were going to have the tower of Pisa moved to Venice and the campanile of Venice moved to Pisa they were committed to the lunatic asylum, the mayor of Pisa in the nature of things to the lunatic asylum in Venice and the mayor of Venice to the lunatic asylum in Pisa. The Italian authorities were able handle the affair in complete confidentiality.