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Wittgensteins Neffe: Eine Freundschaft (suhrkamp taschenbuch) (original 1982; edition 1987)

by Thomas Bernhard, Thomas Bernhard (Author)

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6881813,845 (4.16)33
Member:timoheuer
Title:Wittgensteins Neffe: Eine Freundschaft (suhrkamp taschenbuch)
Authors:Thomas Bernhard
Other authors:Thomas Bernhard (Author)
Info:Suhrkamp Verlag (1987), Edition: 13, Sondereinband, 176 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:deutschsprachige literatur, österreichische literatur, österreich, musik, klassische musik, freundschaft, reichtum, armut, krankheit, zerfall, tod, autobiografie, biografie

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Wittgenstein's Nephew by Thomas Bernhard (1982)

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English (12)  Italian (3)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  All (18)
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
On first pass I was convinced that Paul Wittgenstein (the eponymous "nephew") was merely a cipher for the narrator Thomas Bernhard, and that what Thomas describes as the "most valuable relationship I have ever had with a man" is actually about Bernhard's relationship with himself.
I'd contend that there is textual evidence which supports my initial view, although I have read that this is an autobiography of sorts, and that Bernhard's friendship with Paul was real and not simply a metaphor. So I'll cede (somewhat) to reality.

Wittgenstein's Nephew is subtitled A Friendship, and yet despite the friends' physical proximity to each other (the narrator is in the lung wing of a hospital, Paul in the mental ward), Bernhard never makes it over to him for a visit. Instead he imagines the lively conversations they would have about their many shared interests (music, opera, making fun of people), and makes excuse after excuse not to face his friend personally. This is because Thomas now associates Paul with death and dying--which is, in his words, "grotesque"--and he can't bear to confront him.

As Paul is dying, Thomas absents himself from their friendship not just physically but also emotionally. Mentally, Bernhard's thoughts move away from his "notes" on their relationship and towards his personal, petty grudges about the poor reception of his literary work. One wonders if this was much of a friendship at all, or if it was merely an unlikely and anti-social union of like-minded misanthropes?

The title is likely drawn from Diderot's Rameau's Nephew, which might serve as a key to decoding the narrator's alternating self-congratulations and self-effacement. Rameau's nephew is the consummate imp: cynical, self-contradictory, and generally unreliable. Perhaps Bernhard is alluding to himself--not Paul--as the mercurial "nephew." ( )
1 vote reganrule | Oct 24, 2017 |
http://msarki.tumblr.com/post/78640758746/wittgensteins-nephew-by-thomas-bernhar...

This is one of those Bernhard books that most devotees say they loved but speak little about why or how it happened. Those who do are predictable in their comments regarding Bernhard's plot, his friendships, judgments, and in general, death. Nothing wrong with either approach, but it just doesn't get the uninitiated where she needs to be. This particular Bernhard tale is quite unlike anything else he has written. Almost easier to stomach the vitriol and rants present in almost any other Bernhard offering. This one cuts you deep emotionally, and it is remarkable how lasting it feels. There isn't really much to laugh at. The typical Bernhard is so absurd in its level of vitriol that it often becomes funny in the face of its extremity. There are just not that many good examples of Bernhard's vitriolic absurdity in Wittgenstein's Nephew. The following quote will have to do.

…For let us not deceive ourselves: Most of the minds we associate with are housed in heads that have little more to offer than overgrown potatoes, stuck on top of whining and tastelessly clad bodies and eking out a pathetic existence that does not even merit our pity.

Indulge me just a bit and follow along with this next thread I might expose. Believe me that it most certainly has everything to do with this fine book. Please know that for some time now I have admired the way in which the quite adorable ex-Beatle Ringo Starr seemed to pretty much just sit up there and nonchalantly perform his job perched on that silly platform. He was unlike any other drummer I have known or ever seen perform. Seriously, I was once friends with a boy my own age named Giles Hofacer who was a pretty good stickman himself and he played professionally in a rock band after high school. Though nothing like The Beatles, and probably more like Todd Rundgren, they weren't half bad. I have always liked Giles Hofacer ever since the time back in elementary school when he invited me to his house about five miles outside of town on North US23 for his most-exciting and hospitable birthday party. Years later as teenagers we smiled a lot as we smoked marijuana together in a grove of trees fifty yards from the doors of our high school. For years other students used this same semi-private area as a place to smoke cigarettes instead of attending class so it was relatively easy to get away unawares with smoking our illegal substances. Giles and I remained on friendly terms until I moved far away from our mutual home town to begin a new life with a woman from The South who was not from up there where I had been had in northern Michigan. I read a couple years ago that Giles had contracted some form of hard-to-beat cancer, that there had been some effort to raise funds enough to help support his fight against this deadly disease. And then one day I noticed while reading the local paper from that same town that Giles Hofacer had actually died. I felt then the wish that I had gone to see him. It had probably been at least thirty years since we last had a beer or a joint together. He wasn't the first acquaintance that I have lost and had remorse over either. Truth is I have never been a very good friend to anybody. Reading this book again made me realize in a more poignant manner that the narrator Thomas Bernhard wasn't a very good friend to others either.

… He was only the shadow of a man, in a very real sense, and his shadow suddenly frightened him. I did not dare to go up and speak to him. I preferred to have a bad conscience rather than to meet him. As I watched him, I suppressed my conscience and refrained from approaching him, because I was suddenly afraid. We shun those who bear the mark of death, and this is a form of baseness to which even I succumbed.

The narrator of this book was ashamed of himself and it was clear there was no malice in his sin of omission. He was just afraid. He was driven by his fear. But it did take courage to admit this on the page and to also face the facts. Still, it never changed a thing for me except make me even more aware of my own shortcomings. And it is not as if I will ever do anything about these particular character defects of mine. But it was good to know I was not alone in my despicable and unbecoming behavior.
( )
  MSarki | Jan 24, 2015 |
http://msarki.tumblr.com/post/78640758746/wittgensteins-nephew-by-thomas-bernhar...

This is one of those Bernhard books that most devotees say they loved but speak little about why or how it happened. Those who do are predictable in their comments regarding Bernhard's plot, his friendships, judgments, and in general, death. Nothing wrong with either approach, but it just doesn't get the uninitiated where she needs to be. This particular Bernhard tale is quite unlike anything else he has written. Almost easier to stomach the vitriol and rants present in almost any other Bernhard offering. This one cuts you deep emotionally, and it is remarkable how lasting it feels. There isn't really much to laugh at. The typical Bernhard is so absurd in its level of vitriol that it often becomes funny in the face of its extremity. There are just not that many good examples of Bernhard's vitriolic absurdity in Wittgenstein's Nephew. The following quote will have to do.

…For let us not deceive ourselves: Most of the minds we associate with are housed in heads that have little more to offer than overgrown potatoes, stuck on top of whining and tastelessly clad bodies and eking out a pathetic existence that does not even merit our pity.

Indulge me just a bit and follow along with this next thread I might expose. Believe me that it most certainly has everything to do with this fine book. Please know that for some time now I have admired the way in which the quite adorable ex-Beatle Ringo Starr seemed to pretty much just sit up there and nonchalantly perform his job perched on that silly platform. He was unlike any other drummer I have known or ever seen perform. Seriously, I was once friends with a boy my own age named Giles Hofacer who was a pretty good stickman himself and he played professionally in a rock band after high school. Though nothing like The Beatles, and probably more like Todd Rundgren, they weren't half bad. I have always liked Giles Hofacer ever since the time back in elementary school when he invited me to his house about five miles outside of town on North US23 for his most-exciting and hospitable birthday party. Years later as teenagers we smiled a lot as we smoked marijuana together in a grove of trees fifty yards from the doors of our high school. For years other students used this same semi-private area as a place to smoke cigarettes instead of attending class so it was relatively easy to get away unawares with smoking our illegal substances. Giles and I remained on friendly terms until I moved far away from our mutual home town to begin a new life with a woman from The South who was not from up there where I had been had in northern Michigan. I read a couple years ago that Giles had contracted some form of hard-to-beat cancer, that there had been some effort to raise funds enough to help support his fight against this deadly disease. And then one day I noticed while reading the local paper from that same town that Giles Hofacer had actually died. I felt then the wish that I had gone to see him. It had probably been at least thirty years since we last had a beer or a joint together. He wasn't the first acquaintance that I have lost and had remorse over either. Truth is I have never been a very good friend to anybody. Reading this book again made me realize in a more poignant manner that the narrator Thomas Bernhard wasn't a very good friend to others either.

… He was only the shadow of a man, in a very real sense, and his shadow suddenly frightened him. I did not dare to go up and speak to him. I preferred to have a bad conscience rather than to meet him. As I watched him, I suppressed my conscience and refrained from approaching him, because I was suddenly afraid. We shun those who bear the mark of death, and this is a form of baseness to which even I succumbed.

The narrator of this book was ashamed of himself and it was clear there was no malice in his sin of omission. He was just afraid. He was driven by his fear. But it did take courage to admit this on the page and to also face the facts. Still, it never changed a thing for me except make me even more aware of my own shortcomings. And it is not as if I will ever do anything about these particular character defects of mine. But it was good to know I was not alone in my despicable and unbecoming behavior.
( )
  MSarki | Jan 24, 2015 |
Thomas Bernhard's semiautobiographical novel Wittgenstein's Nephew is a testament to his 10-year friendship with Paul Wittgenstein, nephew of the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Paul was probably Bernhard's closest friend, and with the exception of Hedwig Stavianicek (his "life person"), the most significant person in his life. Bernhard begins the novel by describing the two friends' lives in parallel as they lie in adjacent hospital wards: the narrator in the ward for dying lung patients, and Paul in the mental ward, where he is forced to stay several times each year due to his "so-called mental disorder." As in other Bernhard novels, there are scathing passages directed at doctors and in particular psychiatrists, as well as at Austrian society, including the majority of the Wittgenstein family, one of the wealthiest and most influential families in Austria. Also included here are a couple of anecdotes from Bernhard's life, namely records of his acceptance of two literary prizes, the State Prize for Literature and the Grillparzer Prize. These anecdotes also appear in the book My Prizes: An Accounting. ( )
  S.D. | Jan 23, 2015 |
Wittgensteins Neffe was written directly after Bernhard's five short volumes of memoirs about his childhood and youth, and is in a similar format, somewhere between fiction and autobiography in tone (160 pages without any chapter or paragraph breaks). It deals with his friendship with the Viennese eccentric and music-lover, Paul Wittgenstein (1907-1979 — technically, a second cousin of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, not a nephew), whom he met through a mutual friend in 1967. Not long afterwards, as he describes in the opening pages of the book, Bernhard and Wittgenstein coincidentally both found themselves in the same hospital complex on the outskirts of Vienna, Bernhard in a ward for patients with lung disease, and Wittgenstein, who suffered from bouts of mental illness throughout his life, in the psychiatric section. Naturally, it takes Bernhard 20 or 30 pages to discuss his feelings about the possibility of meeting his friend in the hospital, and about half a page to describe what happens when they actually do meet, but in the process we learn a lot about friendship, mortality, the incompetence of the medical profession, etc. A running theme is the interchangeability of the two men's illnesses and the way Bernhard sees his own mortality reflected in Wittgenstein's obvious decline in his later years, which leads him to spend less time with his friend than he feels he ought to have.

It might not sound like a very cheerful book, but there is always an (intentional) element of caustic humour in Bernhard's writing, especially when he is at his blackest. We have to laugh at his excess, at ourselves for finding it funny, and of course at the targets of his rage, all the doctors, nurses, actors, cultural bureaucrats, government ministers and other exponents of Stumpfsinnigkeit (dullwittedness) who happen to walk into the line of fire. We also get plenty of Wittgenstein anecdotes, which were obviously prime fodder for Vienna gossip at the time (Bernhard apologises for retailing these, but does it anyway). And a couple of accounts of Bernhard behaving badly at awards ceremonies, which is always fun.

Of course, the real reason to read this book is Bernhard's inimitable style, which works more like music than any other prose you're likely to have come across (although Beckett does something a little bit similar). Words and phrases are combined in sentences, then repeated over and over again with transpositions, inversions, variations that create meaning not by a series of logical steps, but by gradual accretion of similar but subtly different assertions coming at you from different directions. You have to give the text as much attention as you would give a Bach keyboard piece, but over the stretch of 100 pages or so you can do that, and it's very rewarding. ( )
3 vote thorold | Nov 15, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bernhard, Thomasprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fleckhaus, WillyCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McLintock, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Petříček, MiroslavTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Zweihundert Freunde werden bei meinem Begräbnis sein und du mußt an meinem Grab eine Rede halten.
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First words
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Neunzehnhundertsiebenundsechzig legte mir auf der Baumgartnerhöhe eine der im dortigen Pavillon Hermann unermüdlich tätigen geistlichen Schwestern meine gerade erschienene Verstörung, die ich ein Jahr vorher in Brüssel in der rue de la croix 60 geschrieben habe, auf das Bett, aber ich hatte nicht die Kraft, das Buch in die Hand zu nehmen, weil ich ein paar Minuten vorher erst aus einer mehrstündigen Narkose aufgewacht war, in die mich jene Ärzte versetzt hatten, die mir den Hals aufschnitten, um aus meinem Brustkorb einen faustgroßen Tumor herausoperieren zu können.
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pag.88
Solo perché pensavo costantemente al denaro che mi avrebbero portato, sono riuscito a tollerare le premiazioni, solo per questo motivo sono entrato in tanti antichi palazzi municipali e in tutte quelle sale di ricevimento di pessimo gusto. Fino a quarant'anni. Fino ad allora mi sono in effetti sottoposto all'umiliazione di ricevere dei premi. Fino a quarant'anni. Mi sono lasciato cagare in testa nei municipi e nelle sale di ricevimento, perché il conferimento di un premio è solamente cacca, cacca che ti arriva in testa. Accettare il conferimento di un premio altro non significa che lasciarsi cagare in testa perchè in cambio si è ottenuta una certa somma di denaro. Io ho sempre vissuto le premiazioni come l'umiliazione più grande che si possa immaginare, non certo come qualcosa di esaltante. Perché un premio viene conferito sempre e soltanto da persone incompetenti che hanno una gran voglia di cagare in testa a qualcuno e che in effetti cagano abbondantemente in testa a colui che accetta un premio dalle loro mani. Ed essi hanno tutti i diritti di cagare in testa a questa persona che è stata così abietta e spregevole da accettare quel premio dalle loro mani.
pag.93
(...) il cosiddetto conferimento del Premio Nazionale di Letteratura da me ricevuto e (...) finito con uno scandalo. Il ministro che nella sala delle conferenze del Ministero ha tenuto su di me una cosiddetta laudatio, siccome si è limitato a leggere ciò che uno dei suoi funzionari addetti alla letteratura aveva scritto sopra un foglio di carta, non ha detto altro, in questa laudatio, che un cumulo di scempiaggini sul mio conto, per esempio che avrei scritto un romanzo sui mari del Sud, ciò che come è ovvio non ho mai fatto. Sebbene io sia austriaco da sempre, il ministro ha sostenuto che sono olandese.
pag.94
In ogni caso, tutte le scempiaggini che il ministro ha letto dal foglio di carta che aveva davanti a sé non mi hanno fatto né caldo né freddo perché sapevo benissimo che non era colpa sua, che quel povero idiota originario della Stiria prima di diventare ministro era stato segretario della camera dell'agricoltura di Graz, addetto in particolare all'allevamento del bestiame. L'idiozia era scritta in effetti sulla faccia del ministro come, senza eccezioni, sulla faccia di tutti i ministri, il che era certo ripugnante ma non particolarmente sconvolgente, e io mi sono dunque sorbito senza troppo scompormi la sua laudatio. Ma dopo aver pronunciato, per così dire a mo' di ringraziamento, un paio di frasi che mi ero scritto su un foglio in tutta fretta e assai malvolentieri poco prima della premiazione, una piccola digressione filosofica, se così si può chiamarla, nella quale dicevo soltanto che l'uomo è un essere abietto e che la morte gli è assicurata, il mio discorso era durato in tutto non più di tre minuti, il ministro, che non aveva capito niente di ciò che io avevo detto, indignato si è alzato in piedi e avventandosi contro di me ha mostrato i pugni.
p.118
E Paul aveva un'abitudine che spesso ha portato anche me sull'orlo della pazzia, l'abitudine di non camminare a casaccio, come altri fanno, su una strada lastricata, ma seguendo un sistema preordinato con estrema precisione, per esempio saltare a piè pari due pietre del selciato e poi posare il piede sulla terza pietra, e, anche qui, non mettendolo a casaccio e più o meno senza pensarci al centro della pietra, ma esattamente a filo del bordo, che a seconda dei casi poteva essere il bordo superiore o quello inferiore. Per individui come noi niente poteva essere lasciato al caso o alla disattenzione, ogni cosa doveva essere ponderata in tutti i particolari con geometrica, simmetrica e matematica ingegnosità.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0226043924, Paperback)

It is 1967, in a Viennese hospital. In separate wards: the narrator named Thomas Bernhard, is stricken with a lung ailment; his friend Paul, nephew of Ludwig Wittgenstein, is suffering fom one of his periodic bouts of madness. Bernhard traces the growth of an intense friendship between two eccentric, obsessive men who share a passion for music, a strange sense of humor, brutal honesty, and a disgust for bourgeois Vienna.

"[Wittgenstein's Nephew is] a meditative fugue for mad, brilliant voices on the themes of death, death-in-life and the artist's and thinker's role in society . . . oddly moving and funny at the same time."—Joseph Coates, Chicago Tribune

"Mr. Bernhard's memoir about Paul Wittgenstein is a 'confession and a guilty homage to their friendship; it takes the place of the graveside speech he never delivered. In its obsessive, elegant rhythms and narrative eloquence, it resembles a tragic aria by Richard Strauss. . . . This is a memento mori that approaches genius.'"—Richard Locke, Wall Street Journal

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:41 -0400)

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