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About the Author

Thomas Bernhard was born in Holland in 1931 and grew up in Austria. His interest in music and theater led him to study at the Akademie Mozarteum in Salzburg. He published nine novels, an autobiography, one volume of poetry, four collections of short stories, and six volumes of plays. He died in Austria in 1989.


What with blogs, cable news, and talk radio, the rant as a mode of rhetoric might seem to be in full flower, but it was the late Bernhard (Concrete: The Loser) who raised the rant to an art form. As a publishing event, the long-overdue English translation of Bernhard's 1963 debut novel is both illuminating and disappointing. Concerning a young medical student sent to rural Austria to observe a troubled painter, the narrative is anemic, which is typical of Bernhard, whose main concern was the expression of the anguished states of despair, disease, and disgust. Frost presents his distinctive voice, with many brilliant passages, but with its unrefined style, it comes off as spiritually one-sided, even shrill, and far too long and repetitive. Arriving now, this work's greatest value is in what it reveals about the evolution of a major artist. This is the literary enterprise in extremis, inviting appreciation and exasperation from readers in equal measure. A worthy purchase for libraries with large literary fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/06.] Stephen Sposato, Chicago P.L. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

A student's increasingly erratic dispatches over 27 days comprise this obsessive first novel by Bernhard (1931-1989), published to European acclaim in 1963. An unnamed medical student is sent from Vienna by his supervisor, an eminent surgeon named Strauch, to undertake "precise observation" of the surgeon's brother, a famous painter who has suddenly left the city for the "dismal" village of Weng. After "systematically inveigling" himself into the company of the painter under the pretense of being a vacationing law student, the student slowly feels his own mood and mental attitudes being subsumed by the painter's paranoid outbursts and disjointed monologues. Weng itself, located in a grim valley still bearing the grisly traces of WWII, is a hotbed of murky scandal: the landlady sleeps with the village knacker (handyman), while her husband, against whom she testified in a murder trial, sits in jail; a traveling show appears in the village displaying "deformed women and deformed animals"; a barn is torched. All are dutifully reported by the disintegrating student. Bernhard's glorious talent for bleak existential monologues is second only to Beckett's, and seems to have sprung up fully mature in his mesmerizing debut. (Oct. 19) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"A blast of raw feeling. . . . This is mercilessly honest work." --Harper's Magazine"One of the century's most gifted writers." --Philadelphia Inquirer"Bernhard is a remarkable literary performer: a man who goes to extremes in ways that vivify our sense of human possibilities." --The Wall Street Journal

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