Other books byThomas Bernhard
The last work of fiction by one of the twentieth century’s greatest artists, Extinction is widely considered Thomas Bernhard’s magnum opus. Franz-Josef Murau—the intellectual black sheep of a powerful Austrian land-owning family—lives in Rome in self-imposed exile, surrounded by a coterie of artistic and intellectual friends. On returning from his sister’s wedding on the family estate of Wolfsegg, having resolved never to go home again, Murau receives a telegram informing him of the death of his parents and brother in a car crash. Not only must he now go back, he must do so as the master of Wolfsegg. And he must decide its fate. Written in the seamless, mesmerizing style for which Bernhard was famous, Extinction is the ultimate proof of his extraordinary literary genius.
Fiercely observed, often hilarious, and “reminiscent of Ibsen and Strindberg” (The New York Times Book Review), this exquisitely controversial novel was initially banned in its author’s homeland. A searing portrayal of Vienna’s bourgeoisie, it begins with the arrival of an unnamed writer at an ‘artistic dinner’ hosted by a composer and his society wife—a couple he once admired and has come to loathe. The guest of honor, a distinguished actor from the Burgtheater, is late. As the other guests wait impatiently, they are seen through the critical eye of the writer, who narrates a silent but frenzied tirade against these former friends, most of whom have been brought together by Joana, a woman they buried earlier that day. Reflections on Joana’s life and suicide are mixed with these denunciations until the famous actor arrives, bringing an explosive end to the evening that even the writer could not have seen coming.
Instead of the book he’s meant to write, Rudolph, a Viennese musicologist, produces this dark and grotesquely funny account of small woes writ large, of profound horrors detailed and rehearsed to the point of distraction. We learn of Rudolph’s sister, whose help he invites, then reviles as malevolent meddling; his ‘really marvelous’ house, which he hates; the suspicious illness he carefully nurses; his ten-year-long attempt to write the perfect opening sentence; and, finally, his escape to the island of Majorca, which turns out to be the site of someone else’s very real horror story. A brilliant and haunting tale of procrastination, failure, and despair, Concrete is a perfect example of why Thomas Bernhard is remembered as “one of the masters of contemporary European fiction” (George Steiner).
Thomas Bernhard combined a searing wit and an unwavering gaze into the human condition. His debut novel, Frost, marked the beginning of one of the century’s most provocative literary careers. Visceral, raw, singular, and unforgettable, Frost is the story of a friendship between a young man beginning his medical career and a painter in his final days. The youth has accepted an unusual assignment, to travel to a miserable mining town in the middle of nowhere in order to clinically—and secretly—observe and report on his mentor’s reclusive brother, the painter Strauch. Carefully disguising himself as a law student with a love of Henry James, he befriends the aging artist and attempts to carry out his mission, only to find himself caught up in his subject’s apparent madness.