HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Gargoyles by Thomas Bernhard
Loading...

Gargoyles (1967)

by Thomas Bernhard

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
345631,733 (3.99)8

None.

Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 8 mentions

English (5)  Italian (1)  All languages (6)
Showing 5 of 5
We are in an age of monologues.

The plot is simple. A widowed country doctor goes on his rounds, taking along his son who is home from university. (The man's daughter still lives with him, existing in a fragile state and having just attempted suicide.) With each visit, the eccentricities of the patients grow more monstrous, culminating in the prince, a quintessential Bernhardian character: learned, monomaniacal, paranoid, suicidal, alternately caring and cold toward family, deeply conflicted, and occasionally lucid during long monologues. The prince is a man wedded to his ancestral home. His relationship to Hochgobernitz prefigures Roithamer's feelings toward his own family home of Altensam in the later novel Correction. Both can be seen as metaphors for Bernhard's homeland, Austria. The prince, a widower himself, feels perched on the brink of death. This is natural, though, for in these pages he is in the company of many others who are contemplating death, who are about to die, who have tried to die, or who have already died.

In this rural locale, land of dark stifling gorges and desperate isolated people, violence is an accepted fact of existence and madness is taken for granted ("All people are more or less crazy, of course, even my son," the prince said). The grotesque is normal, sometimes even laughable, and by treating it as such, Bernhard humanizes it. Always in Bernhard's prose there is a posture of detached resignation toward his favored themes of death (particularly suicide), violence, isolation, the vagaries of human nature (vague, yes), and misanthropy. As in many of his other works, here also he expresses his disdain for the medical profession:

To this day I believe that doctors are of all people those farthest removed from human nature, who know least about human nature.

Yet even though Bernhard has the prince speak these disparaging words, the doctor in this book comes across as caring and supportive of his patients (though admittedly distant toward his children). Rather than undermine Bernhard's often uncompromising prose, however, these occasional contradictions imbue the text with a curious warmth, a strange form of empathy spreading across the pages ("Grasping the helplessness of all people, but without pity").

This can be seen further in the loner's experience of the perpetual dichotomy found in self-imposed isolation, as articulated by the prince:

"If I am out in the open," he said, "I think that it is better not to be out in the open; if I am not in the open, I think I must be in the open. Such thoughts are aging me, are killing me."

And...

If I am alone I feel like being with people; if I am with people I feel like being alone.

And it is hard not to think of Bernhard himself, when the prince says,I always read the writer's bitterness at his fate. I see him communicating on the surface though he remains deep under the surface of his despair; I see his misled self misleading others, and so on... ( )
  S.D. | Apr 5, 2014 |
I'm entering into my second phase of Bernhard. In which I am no longer enamoured simply with Bernhard being Bernhard (though I enjoy it immensely). I know what he does, and I know he does it well, so what more can I say about a Bernhard book? There is no point focussing on the repetition, only that it's there. And no point focussing on the misanthropy or the humor or the very intentional style, only that it's there.

What interested me about this early Bernhard is that those things were not in place yet. You can see them just on the cusp of formation, but while Bernhard was honing his formula, he wrote this book which completely puzzled me. The first half of the book seemed almost like a traditional narrative in which something is very untraditional, something I can't exactly put my finger on.

Father (who is a doctor) and son travel around the countryside to treat a bunch of sick people. Most of these cases involve other stories such as barbarism, murder, cruelty to animals, slow insanity due to isolation, etc. This is all relayed in a calm fashion, as if from the pen of one of his dour country-mates, Peter Handke. It's like Bernhard is trying to show us the varieties of perversion of the outside world. The forms of Gargoyle-ness that we must first gargle before swallowing.

Then, in the last half of the book, we enter the perversion of the inside world. Father and son meet up with a prince who has gone out of his mind. The prince gives a long rant which fills up the last half of the book. At first glance, this is a very Bernhardian rant. On further thought, however, there were quite a few differences. Firstly, I found the humor quite lacking in this rant, whereas I could barely get through a page of most of his books without cracking up.

Secondly, it seems to me one of the most fruitful sources of Bernhard's humor comes from knowing when not to stop. He usually goes on about something, and just when he is winding down, he takes off again on the very same tangent. This dizzying ever-obsessive mind has not quite developed yet. Granted, he still goes on for pages on one topic before moving on, but the way the sentences are formed do not lend themselves to the same kind of maddening myopia. And in parts, he jumps from one topic to another, flirting restlessly with a variety of under-developed generalities within a few sentences. This is the exact opposite strategy of the 'drilling-down' action of most of his prose.

All of this is mere observation. I am not saying it is better or not as good. However, something about it seems odd to me. Mainly: I can't really figure out what he was trying to do, where he was taking us. There's definitely a direction, but without any destination. The book just peters out at the end, and I am left wondering mostly about the narrator and his father. They seemed so plain, so boring, so calm and unmarred by the perversions around them, and also so purposeless in the entire narrative. What little backstory that can be gleaned about them is inessential to the much more entertaining stories about the barkeep or the twisted necks of exotic birds. What's more, they make judgments on those around them, but in a completely detached way.

I'm not sure Bernhard really knew where he was going with this book, maybe it was just a convenient structure into which he could place a few short stories, and experiment with his budding rant-style... but perhaps I'm also missing something. ( )
  JimmyChanga | Sep 11, 2013 |
This is a book I chose for myself having seen some by this author on the shelves of my library. I knew nothing about the author other than the book was translated from German. After learning that Thomas Bernard was a prize-winning Austrian novelist, I settled into reading this book about a boy who follows his father, a doctor, making medical rounds to different villages. I was happily learning about the individuals and their illnesses and listening to conversations through the first half of the book when I encountered the prince.

Prince Saurau is an elderly individual living in Hochgobernitz, a castle towering high over forested land in Austria. The doctor’s visit to this agitated gentleman results in a monologue by the prince which lasts for over 100 pages. At the point I finally realized this, I was not sure if I wanted to continue reading, but this “train wreck” of a one-sided conversation was mesmerizing. As I read it, I was uncertain if the monologue’s contents were something deep or nothing at all. Was the prince brilliant or mad? Even after finishing the book, I’m not sure. Therein was my dilemma. I’m giving you this warning ahead of time.

Some quotes by the prince I thought noteworthy were:

If you listen closely," the prince said, "what is told to you, played for you, is always your own story, adjusted to your rhythm".

and

”Higher society regards lower society as useful, but the lower thinks of the higher as useless.”

Would I read more works by this author? I would. I’d like to know what else this author has to say and more about why his writing is so highly regarded. However, I’d probably peek into any of his other works a little more thoroughly up front to see just what I was getting into before I began. ( )
3 vote SqueakyChu | Dec 25, 2010 |
My introduction to Benrhard. A real Victorian catalog of horrors as a boy follows his father, a country doctor, on a tour of blighted, stunted, and cursed communities. It is relentless to the point of idiocy (on the point of idiocy!) until suddenly, the son and father encounter the local Prince, who proceeds to tell them about problems he's been having hiring a groundskeeper... and he never stops, for the entire remainder of the novel. Stupendously, stupefyingly odd. Could not be stranger. (People who think of this as a tour of rural horrors entirely miss the horror of the author's imagination: he permits himself to get lost in the Prince's monologue, and he never recovers. Never intends to.) ( )
2 vote JimElkins | Jul 23, 2009 |
My first introduction to Bernhard was actually an interview published in a recent Harper's. He comes across as a curmudgeon, and that's enough for me to be at least a little interested. I'm also in the process of reading Beckett's novels and Bernhard is often compared to Beckett...my experience so far is that Bernhard is much easier to follow...

I liked Gargoyles a lot. The first section deals with a rural a doctor and his college-aged son going on patient rounds. Every incident is fairly odd or shocking (the first patient is an elderly woman barkeep who is knocked unconscious during a barfight). There is also a fascinating scene involving the strangulation of a lot of exotic birds.

The second section entitled "The Prince" is basically a monologue from Prince Saurau, a man who is very wealthy and descending into madness. The rant ranges from ideas about human nature, the process of hiring his new steward, gender issues, distaste for Austria, and a growing dislike for his son who is studying abroad. I thought the rant was enjoyable and easy to get through despite its length. I'm looking forward to reading another novel by Bernhard. ( )
1 vote araridan | Apr 6, 2008 |
Showing 5 of 5
no reviews | add a review

Is contained in

You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Information from the Russian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
Epigraph
The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me. Pascal, Pensée 206
Dedication
First words
On the twenty-ninth my father drove off to Salla at two o'clock in the morning to see to a schoolteacher whom he found dyig and left dead.
Quotations
"If you listen closely," the prince said, "what is told to you, played for you, is always your own story, adjusted to your rhythm".
Higher society regards lower society as useful, but the lower thinks of the higher as useless.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0226043991, Paperback)

Early one morning a doctor sets out with his son on his daily rounds through the forbidding mountainous countryside. Their visits, a succession of grotesque portraits--a diabetic industrialist living in incestuous isolation with his half-sister; three brothers, occupying a mill set in a deep gorge, who have just strangled a bevy of exotic birds; a crippled musical prodigy whose sister locks him in a cage--lead them to a castle and a paranoid prince, whose "almost uninterrupted monologue for a hundred pages is a virtuoso verbal performance . . . [in] an extraordinary, somber first novel."--A.C. Foote, Book World

"What he shares with the best of [writers such as Satre, Camus, Mann, and Kafka] is the ability to extract more than utter gloom from his landscape of inconceivable devastation. While the external surface of life is unquestionably grim, he somehow suggests more--the mystic element in experience that calls for symbolic interpretation; the inner significance of states that are akin to surrealistic dream-worlds; man's yearning for health, compassion, sanity."--Robert Maurer, The Saturday Review

"The feeling grows that Thomas Bernhard is now the most original, concentrated novelist writing in German. His connections . . . with the great constellation of Kafka, Musil, and Broch become ever clearer."--George Steiner, Times Literary Supplement


(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:23 -0400)

No library descriptions found.

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
34 wanted3 pay

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (3.99)
0.5
1
1.5
2 2
2.5 3
3 9
3.5 2
4 24
4.5 4
5 16

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 94,007,337 books! | Top bar: Always visible