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Three Novellas by Thomas Bernhard

Three Novellas (edition 2003)

by Thomas Bernhard, Kenneth J. Northcott (Translator), Peter Jansen (Translator), Brian Evenson (Introduction)

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Title:Three Novellas
Authors:Thomas Bernhard
Other authors:Kenneth J. Northcott (Translator), Peter Jansen (Translator), Brian Evenson (Introduction)
Info:University Of Chicago Press (2003), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 184 pages

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Three Novellas by Thomas Bernhard



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This was my second time through this collection. Amras, the first novella, is my least favorite and I still am not sure what Bernhard's fuss was all about regarding how much he personally liked it. Playing Watten and Walking were both far superior to me, and I loved them both very much. These are some of the very best writing he had ever done, even though they may have been composed a bit earlier than his other recognized masterpieces. ( )
1 vote MSarki | Jun 5, 2013 |
Is Thomas Bernhard funny? This collection could hint at an answer. His subjects are as un-funny as can be: committing suicide, becoming mad, walking and thinking, thinking and walking. His characters can be pitiful and pathetic. His worldview can be tragic. His voice is vitriol. The commas, as well as the ellipses, are so damn plentiful. They usher in a collapse of thinking, of existence. "Every existence is a mitigating circumstance, dear sir. Before every court, before every self-judgment."

The three novellas are called "Amras", "Playing Watten", and "Walking". Each is a journey into the interior, into a mind of darkness. Each is an intricate mental adventure that can be maddening and infuriating. The prose style is at least infuriating. By the time I reached the third novella, I felt like a helpless victim in a Kafkaesque story.

"I am walking into the bell jar of our sensations ... pointless attempt at a swift escape from hopelessness ... with my head schooled in darkness, welded to darkness, from one extreme to the other ... conflicts ... forever into the depth through depth, guided by the power of imagination ... In that thought I pursued my self for a while ... To avoid suffocation, I suddenly turned back in that thought ... as if for dear life I had run back into myself in that thought ..." (from "Amras", ellipses and italics not mine)

This collection of novellas shows that there is a method to madness in Bernhard's constructions. His use of repetition must be a form of political resistance. His use of nested narrative attributions ("the landlord said to the traveler, the truck driver said") must be a form of fictional resistance.

The narratives hover between a broken record and a crazy monologue. It is freewheeling poetry, definitely not for the faint of prose. Bernhard must be so funny because otherwise he is so unremittingly bleak, so unrelentingly despairing, and deadly poisonous. In his fiction, the world is nothing more than an insane asylum. Is it a comedy? Is it a tragedy? ( )
2 vote Rise | Jan 7, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0226044327, Hardcover)

Thomas Bernhard is "one of the masters of contemporary European fiction" (George Steiner); "one of the century's most gifted writers" (New York Newsday); "a virtuoso of rancor and rage" (Bookforum). And although he is favorably compared with Franz Kafka, Samuel Beckett, and Robert Musil, Thomas Bernhard still remains relatively unknown in America.

Uninitiated readers should consider Three Novellas a passport to the absurd, dark, and uncommonly comic world of Bernhard. Two of the three novellas here have never before been published in English, and all of them show an early preoccupation with the themes-illness and madness, isolation, tragic friendships-that would obsess Bernhard throughout his career. Amras, one of his earliest works, tells the story of two brothers, one epileptic, who have survived a family suicide pact and are now living in a ruined tower, struggling with madness, trying either to come fully back to life or finally to die. In Playing Watten, the narrator, a doctor who lost his practice due to morphine abuse, describes a visit paid him by a truck driver who wanted the doctor to return to his habit of playing a game of cards (watten) every Wednesday—a habit that the doctor had interrupted when one of the players killed himself. The last novella, Walking, records the conversations of the narrator and his friend Oehler while they walk, discussing anything that comes to mind but always circling back to their mutual friend Karrer, who has gone irrevocably mad. Perhaps the most overtly philosophical work in Bernhard's highly philosophical oeuvre, Walking provides a penetrating meditation on the impossibility of truly thinking.

Three Novellas offers a superb introduction to the fiction of perhaps the greatest unsung hero of twentieth-century literature. Rarely have the words suffocating, intense, and obsessive been meant so positively.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:03 -0400)

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