Thomas Bernhard?

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I couldn't find a thread for Bernhard. I've read a number of articles about him lately (in the New Yorker, New York Review of Books, etc.), but I haven't read anything by him. It sounds like his books would be right up my alley.
What's a good place to start? What are your favorite Bernhard novels?

wmlynch (wlynch), Tuesday, 9 January 2007 20:23 (fourteen years ago) link

His novels can be a bit alarming because they look so dense on the page (no paragraphs, no 'normal' dialogue, ie 200 pages of solid text). Agood place to start would be a short story collection, which give a very good idea of his style and preoccupations, without being quite so forbidding. 'The Voice Imitator' is the one I'm thinking of.

James Morrison (JRSM), Tuesday, 9 January 2007 23:09 (fourteen years ago) link

I read Woodcutters—one book-length paragraph of a guy's ruminations as he sits in a wing chair at a party that he wished he hadn't attended. I loved it. Haven't read any others.

Beth Parker (Beth Parker), Tuesday, 9 January 2007 23:51 (fourteen years ago) link

I have a friend who's a total Bernhard freak, though, and I've send her this link.

Beth Parker (Beth Parker), Tuesday, 9 January 2007 23:52 (fourteen years ago) link

I've send her?

Beth Parker (Beth Parker), Wednesday, 10 January 2007 02:18 (fourteen years ago) link

i have 'correction' but have yet to start it

tom west (thomp), Wednesday, 10 January 2007 04:54 (fourteen years ago) link

Perhaps I'll check out Voice Imitator and Woodcutters.
Beth, ysi yr friend? I'd love to hear more opinions.

wmlynch (wlynch), Wednesday, 10 January 2007 18:35 (fourteen years ago) link

She said she was going to register. Maybe I'll nag her. She lives in Denver, so it's not like she can leave her house.

Beth Parker (Beth Parker), Wednesday, 10 January 2007 19:46 (fourteen years ago) link

I am a dismal failure of an ILB recruiter.

Beth Parker (Beth Parker), Thursday, 11 January 2007 19:26 (fourteen years ago) link

Come now, have you even tried lying until you are blue in the face?

Aimless (Aimless), Thursday, 11 January 2007 19:39 (fourteen years ago) link

Or rebates? Rebates are often quite effective selling tools.

Aimless (Aimless), Thursday, 11 January 2007 20:41 (fourteen years ago) link

A Marine recruiter used to call our house, trying to hook my older son. He finally stopped when I told him "look, he has very left-wing politics..." It was depressing. He was very young, and super polite. Those guys are dangerous, though.

Beth Parker (Beth Parker), Friday, 12 January 2007 00:11 (fourteen years ago) link

"He's gay" is usually faster, I hear.

Casuistry (Chris P), Friday, 12 January 2007 04:39 (fourteen years ago) link

Not in today's military! They need to put the "urge" into"surge!"

Beth Parker (Beth Parker), Friday, 12 January 2007 14:07 (fourteen years ago) link

Just seconding the The Voice Imitator - definitely the best place to start. One thing I didn't expect is quite how funny he is. Usually 'dark humour' is shorthand for not very funny I think.

As a public service here is one of the stories from The Imitator in its entirety.

Hotel Waldhaus

We had no luck with the weather the guests at our table were repellent in every respect. They even spoiled Neitzsche for us. Even after they had had a fatal car accident and had been laid out in the church at Sils , we still hated them.

His novel The Loser is also well worth looking out.

Edward Trifle (Ned Trifle IV), Friday, 12 January 2007 14:10 (fourteen years ago) link

That is just the best.

Beth Parker (Beth Parker), Friday, 12 January 2007 16:15 (fourteen years ago) link

i havent red them all,but ive red some, and i think "concrete" (his 1st i think) and "extinction" (his last) are his best.

plus,read Sebald as well (Austerlitz,the immagrants) he is very much influenced by Bernahrd,but not as negative as Bernahrd is, with much more influence from Borges,Kafka,Nabokov.

emekars (emekars), Saturday, 13 January 2007 00:20 (fourteen years ago) link

I've read most of Sebald's stuff except for Austerlitz and I love it all. This makes me more excited to read Bernhard. Who else might fit in with these two (apart from Borges, Kafka, etc.)?

wmlynch (wlynch), Saturday, 13 January 2007 05:14 (fourteen years ago) link

maybe Hermann Broch,Robert Musil - try to exolre the austrian-german classics,and do not miss Austerlitz - it's Sebald's even better than the his great other works.

emekars (emekars), Saturday, 13 January 2007 13:32 (fourteen years ago) link

oh, i forgot Claude Simon.try his war memoir.they are VERY much influenced by it.(also "speak, memory" by Nabokov)

emekars (emekars), Saturday, 13 January 2007 13:42 (fourteen years ago) link

old masters is the best

vahid (vahid), Sunday, 14 January 2007 20:57 (fourteen years ago) link

correction is 2nd best

vahid (vahid), Sunday, 14 January 2007 20:57 (fourteen years ago) link

The Lime Works is also top-rank Bernhard, but it is one of the longer ones (Correction and Extinction being the others, I think, although I haven't seen a copy of the new translation of Frost).

The length can be quite important because his novels (in my experience) resist your attempts to acquire them as a taste (although in my case they lost, badly).

It can be a bit like the "sucking stones" passage in Molloy, although not *all* the novels deliver that kind of comic payoff for your efforts.

So if starting out, perhaps a shorter one would be better.
Of the shorter ones, Old Masters is very funny, and is one of a trilogy about theatre (Woodcutters), music (The Loser), and painting (OM itself).

Sebald is super, too. One of the instructive difference might be in the digressions, or lack of them. Sebald's novels don't foreground the particular gravitational schemes that they follow as they digress from A to B etc, but eventually appear to "go" somewhere; Bernhard novels are perhaps about an *inability* to truly *digress*.

Harthill Services (Neil Willett), Tuesday, 16 January 2007 15:11 (fourteen years ago) link

Its amazing there's no Sebald thread. There were some on ILE that didn't get very far. I honestly think he was one of the greats, but I think I'd find it difficult to explain why. Which might explain the fizzled out threads.

Edward Trifle (Ned Trifle IV), Tuesday, 16 January 2007 21:04 (fourteen years ago) link

Okay. As I was saying about Thomas Bernhard, THE VOICE IMITATOR, although short, I found confusing. I would recommend beginning with THE LOSER, a short novel about which I confess I am almost psychotically involved, on the subject of music (Glenn Gould and the Goldberg Variations). I too love WOODCUTTERS (about the same length). The single-volume English translation of his autobiographical material, entitled GATHERING EVIDENCE, tr by David McLintock, amazes; putting your hands on a copy might be a challenge but it would repay the effort. Isn't it wonderful that we now have this new/old novel, FROST, available to us in English.

Virginia Allen (The Loser), Friday, 19 January 2007 20:46 (fourteen years ago) link

Knopf did a GREAT job with the Frost release, it’s a beautiful book. A good place to start is the short novel Wittgenstein’s Nephew, which is still in print from U of C, and hits most of his major themes. The Loser and Gargoyles were just reissued by Vintage.

andrew s (andrew s), Sunday, 21 January 2007 17:06 (fourteen years ago) link

i love sebald.

on this topic, i do have a copy of The Loser, but i haven't read it yet. one of these days!

scott seward (scott seward), Sunday, 21 January 2007 17:54 (fourteen years ago) link

The Strand has Gargoyles, which I thought about getting but didn't.

The Redd And The Blecch (Ken L), Tuesday, 23 January 2007 22:38 (fourteen years ago) link

Bernhard is deeply deeply classic. I think Concrete and Old Masters were my favorites.

xavier (xave), Thursday, 25 January 2007 13:45 (fourteen years ago) link

"Who else might fit in with these two"

well,Bernhard's influence comes from:
1. Kafka
2. Dostoyevski (especially "notes from the underground")
3. Beckett ("The trilogy")
4. Hamsun ("Hunger")
5. Proust.
6. Broch and Musil, in parts.
7. Peter Handke
8. Canetti (who is influenced by Kafka himself,closing a circle)

Sebald is influenced by Bernhard,adding:
1. Borges
2. Nabokov's memoir "speak,memory"
3. Primo levi's Periodic trable
4. Zeigfrid Lenz
5. Claude simon.

also,writers who are similiar in a way in style and content:
Saul below,Melcolm Lowry,Julio cortazar,Italo svevo,Bruno schultz.

feel free to add..

conclusions (emekars), Wednesday, 31 January 2007 12:33 (fourteen years ago) link

two years pass...

Go for Correction straightaway -- I think you'd know you'd like it within 20 pages or so.

Love this. Definitely not like Simon, Sebald, Cortazar (wtf?), he places people and things in a way Kafka doesn't, the humour in madness is of a different grain to Beckett's. Maybe she shares certain concerns with Broch and that complete and utter negation, where a needle in a haystack-like search is needed to find illumination...but really, its a particular voice.

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 28 February 2009 12:53 (twelve years ago) link

one year passes...

Old Masters was exceptional (well done Penguin for publishing), Cutting Timber had some high emotional moments.

Got Extinction. Won't start that for a while but was just thinking its over 300 pages, and whether Bernhard really works on a specific length, 150-250 pages at most, or whether the cranky comedy will carry you along (and he is one of the funniest writers, that's unexpected when you read about him).

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 15 July 2010 12:56 (eleven years ago) link

i've been thinking about reading this guy because i read Gaddis's "Agapē Agape" last week. The narrator of the book is floundering and halfway furious because Bernhard wrote the book he was going to write ("Concrete", i think) before he got round to it.

It’s my opening page, he’s plagiarized my work right here in front of me before I’ve ever written it!

jed_, Thursday, 15 July 2010 19:34 (eleven years ago) link

I just finished Gargoyles yesterday. It felt like a work that helped him ease into his monologue style as the second half is a 100-page monologue, but the first half involves several different characters. This, I think, makes it a fairly decent place to start with his novels. The Voice Imitator was interesting but felt radically different from his airless longer books.

I loved Correction and the Loser. Man, it's hard to believe I started this thread 3.5 years ago. To Sebald's influences upthread needs to be added: Robert Walser.

Here's a Bernhard interview from 86.

wmlynch, Thursday, 15 July 2010 22:01 (eleven years ago) link

I've got one or two you can borrow if you like, jed_

kim jong-ill (cozen), Thursday, 15 July 2010 22:03 (eleven years ago) link

definitely, coz, cheers.

jed_, Friday, 16 July 2010 03:14 (eleven years ago) link

no worries, I'll look them (? I'm sure I have two) out

kim jong-ill (cozen), Friday, 16 July 2010 08:51 (eleven years ago) link

Thanks for the link to that interview -- and how really very much like his fiction. And very funny, like his fiction (high points were the bits going up to the 'Oh please!' as a response to a question about his poetry, and the attack on Thomas Mann).

I thought he'd put on more of a mask.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 16 July 2010 11:33 (eleven years ago) link

yeah I've got 'correction' and 'the loser' - think I might actually have a third now around here somewhere - anyway will drop them into you

kim jong-ill (cozen), Friday, 16 July 2010 16:19 (eleven years ago) link

One other thing about that interview - at one point Bernhard is asked:

Your style is so distinctive that it has prompted numerous pastiches and parodies...

Does anyone know of an author who has done a pastiche?

By coincidence I was just reading about Horacio Castellanos Moya: he has published a book called El asco, Thomas Bernhard en El Salvador (untranslated, wiki says it is a tribute to Bernhard)

xyzzzz__, Friday, 16 July 2010 21:26 (eleven years ago) link

His book, Senselessness, definitely owes a stylistic debt to Bernhard but is not a pastiche.

wmlynch, Friday, 16 July 2010 21:45 (eleven years ago) link

thomas bernhard?

thomas bernhard

puff puff post (uh oh I'm having a fantasy), Friday, 16 July 2010 21:47 (eleven years ago) link

Was just reading about Senselessness. Sounds great.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 16 July 2010 21:55 (eleven years ago) link

more like suckhard

buzza, Saturday, 17 July 2010 03:32 (eleven years ago) link

one month passes...

i read most of Bernhard but still didnt read limeworks and woodcutters.

which of the two is better?

Zeno, Sunday, 29 August 2010 16:07 (eleven years ago) link

Woodcutters is a beautiful (good stuff on Woolf and the theatre) but I've not read Limeworks.

Zeno have you read Yaakov Shabtai (I've filled out an ILL for Past Continuous)?

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 29 August 2010 22:04 (eleven years ago) link

yes, Past Continuous is one of my favourite novels. and it's an Israeli classic.
Shabtai was a talented, unique writer. too bad so many mediocre imitators followed him.

Zeno, Sunday, 29 August 2010 23:09 (eleven years ago) link

Bernhard and Shabtai shared some aspects of pessimistic philosphy notions , but they differ in style.

Zeno, Sunday, 29 August 2010 23:21 (eleven years ago) link

They both wrote in a paragraphless style, right? (although from the little I have read that is broken up a bit in the English version)

xyzzzz__, Monday, 30 August 2010 09:28 (eleven years ago) link

one month passes...

Piece in the LRB

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 28 October 2010 17:43 (ten years ago) link

five years pass...

this news story is straight out of bernhard:

seb mooczag (NickB), Tuesday, 5 January 2016 20:51 (five years ago) link

Jelinek is still around so god knows what she can do w/that.

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 5 January 2016 21:00 (five years ago) link

seven months pass...

"Everything in an intellectual mind is anarchy."

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 28 August 2016 21:51 (five years ago) link

reading the abish memoir and the part where abish reads bernhard in vienna making me want some bernhard.

scott seward, Sunday, 28 August 2016 22:28 (five years ago) link

two years pass...

This is an indepedent translation of a book published a few years ago by his estate agent (and Bernhard's friend for about a decade), an account of many conversations with Bernhard.

Only have the 1st part so far (covering Jan '72) but its often really fucking funny in places.

xyzzzz__, Monday, 4 February 2019 22:34 (two years ago) link

OK, this is hilarious.

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Tuesday, 5 February 2019 00:25 (two years ago) link

We’ve often spoken about his death before. He’s changed his mind three times about where he wants to be buried. First it was Vienna, then Ohlsdorf, and now it’s Neukirchen bei Altmünster. During such conversations Thomas has repeatedly stressed that suicide, which is certainly the way that other people think he’s most likely to die, is something he’ll never commit no matter what. He isn’t about to do the world such a favor. Now he didn’t contradict me. He said that in the event of such a serious accident resulting in the loss of a leg, it would all be over for him, literally and completely over, because walking for hours on end is something he’s quite simply got to do. Thomas rolls up the two pairs of trousers so that he can take them with him to use in washing up and DIY work later on.

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 5 February 2019 08:53 (two years ago) link

one year passes...

Just started Yes, my first Bernhard.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 17 February 2020 19:06 (one year ago) link

I read that a couple of weeks ago! Not my first, and not his best, but still very good.

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Monday, 17 February 2020 21:17 (one year ago) link

Picked up Woodcutters.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 19 February 2020 16:35 (one year ago) link

eleven months pass...

Cocteau Twinks (jed_), Tuesday, 9 February 2021 16:14 (seven months ago) link

Fantastic. I had never seen or heard him before.

I've always imagined per Woodcutters that this guy remains permanently seated, alarmed to see him get up and walk around halfway into this

John Wesley Glasscock (Hadrian VIII), Tuesday, 9 February 2021 17:42 (seven months ago) link

The person who did the subs for that has translated a lot of Bernhard stuff in his blog and is now having this one published next month:

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 10 February 2021 12:23 (seven months ago) link

three months pass...

Walking is his among his best for me, just astonishing.

groovemaaan, Monday, 10 May 2021 12:48 (four months ago) link

That isn't very much mentioned. I might just get it

xyzzzz__, Monday, 10 May 2021 12:53 (four months ago) link

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