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The Voice Imitator by Thomas Bernhard

The Voice Imitator (edition 1998)

by Thomas Bernhard, Kenneth J. Northcott (Translator)

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Title:The Voice Imitator
Authors:Thomas Bernhard
Other authors:Kenneth J. Northcott (Translator)
Info:University Of Chicago Press (1998), Paperback, 114 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:german, austrian, fiction, short stories

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The Voice Imitator by Thomas Bernhard

  1. 00
    Sweat and Industry (Printed Head) by H.C. Artmann (bluepiano)
    bluepiano: Another collection of very very short stories by another important modern Austrian author.

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Mini-Bernhard! - a brilliant, entertaining collection of very short stories, mostly around 100-250 words, framed either in a Berhardesque version of the style of newspaper column-fillers or in the form of a dinner-table anecdote, and invariably involving one or more of suicide, murder, insanity, and prison. And always with one innocent-looking word placed in a critical position where it undermines the claim of the story to be taken as a report of anything but a world ruled by unbearable dullwittedness. Most of the characters in the stories are semi-anonymous ("a 35 year old carpenter from ..."), but slipped in here and there are stories about people we recognise - a note about the death of an unnamed writer who can only be Ingeborg Bachmann, for instance, or an account by a care-home worker of looking after the elderly Knut Hamsun (...but he didn't discover until afterwards that Hamsun was a great writer). So we have to wonder how many of the others might be real as well...

Probably a very good place to get a feel for Bernhard, especially if you're someone who is easily scared by the notion of 200-page paragraphs. None of that sort of thing here, but there is the classic Bernhard irritation with the world and its stupidity, from which death or insanity are the only reliable escapes. ( )
1 vote thorold | Sep 18, 2016 |
Microfictions, all less than a page, of such profundity and melancholy and black humor that you wonder why it takes everyone else so long to say anything.

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  MusicalGlass | Feb 27, 2016 |
I read one of these during a class -- maybe my microfiction class -- and thought I'd seek out the rest. Bernhard has a very clear, precise, hard-hitting style, for the most part. There are some verbal ticks, and some labyrinthine sentences, which may be due to his style or to the translator. They got in the way for me, particularly as the commas were not in natural places all the time.

The stories are very simple, little anecdotes, snippets from news stories real or imagined, a moment's thought crystallised... Some are better than others, which is bound to happen in a collection like this.

Must read more microfiction. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
Very short stories, murderous and awkward -- but also weirdly compelling. Lots of madness, murder, and betrayal, but all of it conveyed through such a stilted delivery that none of it is particularly visceral. ( )
  bnewcomer | Apr 2, 2013 |
104 different short and shorter vignettes of 1 page in length or under. These pretty much run the gamut of Bernhardian obsessions with corruption, death (through suicide or murder or some kind of accidental calamity at times causing many deaths) and his distaste for all things Austrian. Sometimes morbidly fascinating the often very morose Austrian has a very sharp and dry satiric wit--and this despite the almost machine like precision of his prose. Even though these tales as often as not take surprising twists and turns there is always an almost inevitability to how they turn out in the end. A great book for a dark and rainy day. ( )
  lriley | Sep 16, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0226044025, Paperback)

The work of late Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard was no one's idea of an uplifting read. Given to writing mostly dense, bleak, darkly comic, one-paragraph novels such as The Loser, Bernhard has rarely received the audience he deserves. The Voice Imitator, while unlikely to change this basic fact, does give us Bernhard's singularly pessimistic worldview in perhaps more digestible little chunks--some of them very little, indeed. (Here is the entirety of the short story "Mail": "For years after our mother's death, the Post Office still delivered letters that were addressed to her. The Post Office had taken no notice of her death.")

In fact, none of the 104 stories collected here are longer than a page--and with the tremendous variety of disaster and tragedy they contain (e.g., suicide, disappearance, murder, madness, corruption), there's not much room for characterization or plot. These read more like fragments, anecdotes, or snippets of news stories than conventional short narratives. Despite their brevity, however, these stories display all the signature elements of the Bernhardian oeuvre: cynicism, misanthropy, contempt for his native country, and withering scorn for the futility of all human effort. They might be an acquired taste--but one with undeniable force. With his black humor, deadly satire, and loathing for bureaucracy, Bernhard is the spiritual heir of writers such as Kafka, Grass, and Beckett--perhaps on a very bad day.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:10 -0400)

One hundred-and-four parables, none longer than a page.

(summary from another edition)

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