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Correction (Phoenix Fiction Series) by…

Correction (Phoenix Fiction Series) (original 1975; edition 1990)

by Thomas Bernhard

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627823,525 (4.28)41
Title:Correction (Phoenix Fiction Series)
Authors:Thomas Bernhard
Info:University Of Chicago Press (1990), Edition: Reprint, Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:Lit, Austria

Work details

Correction by Thomas Bernhard (1975)

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Addictive, relentless, obsessional writing
Correction is a strange book, at times bewildering, but overall enthralling, in particular the dense style, which I found addictive.
An unnamed narrator arrives at a friend's house - an unusual house situated on the banks of a fast-flowing river - where another friend, Rothaimer, stayed before he committed suicide in the nearby forest. The story is basically about the unnamed narrator's attempt to fully understand what drove Rothaimer to lose his mind and take his own life. He does this by going through Rothaimer's deranged writings.
On the backcover someone describes Bernhard's writing as a "strange new beauty", and I have to agree. The prose is relentless: there are only two paragraphs! It is somewhat deranged: for the most part it's a rambling monologue concerned with the construction of a Cone in the middle of a forest. It's obsessional, with repetition being a marked feature.
Overall I found Correction a challenging work that is both compelling and dizzying. The main themes of the novel are the nature of genius, the worth of creativity, and the slow-death of life. Unique. ( )
  BlackGlove | Jan 20, 2018 |
A hypnotic overlapping of an unhinged genius and a suspiciously similarly unhinged narrator until their boundaries blur together and perfection through annihilation is sought. ( )
1 vote xicohtli | Jul 20, 2016 |
Read the mad Austrian … if you dare is oft said by readers for it takes only the sane and those of perseverance to read a book of 271 pages of typeface with only two paragraphs and run on sentences lasting half a page. As Nietzsche said, “ when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you” for when you read Roithamer too closely, you begin to experience Roithamer, then you begin to feel like Roithamer, then you lose yourself in Roithamer, and then Roithamer takes over. Roithamer, a friend of the narrator, commits suicide in Austria, and the narrator plans to stay a few weeks in Hoeller’s garret where Roithamer lived. The narrator becomes immersed in Roithamer’s writings, a litany of diatribes on family, community, education, buildings, anything and everything viewed through an obsessive compulsive disorder. Near the end it becomes obvious the narrator is so consumed by Roithamer he’ll never leave the garret. ( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
The suicide of Roithamer, the protagonist of Thomas Bernhard’s Correction, prompts his unnamed friend, literary executor, and our unnamed narrator, to undertake a review of and possible future publication of Roithamer’s important final work, “About Altensam and everything connected with Altensam, with special attention to the Cone.” It is a work that Roithamer was correcting until the day he died, most frequently in the garret of his friend, Hoeller, a room that he used often during the planning and construction of a conal habitation for his, Roithamer’s, beloved sister. The narrator is tasked with exhuming Roithamer’s various writings and influence and sets about his work in the very garret that Roithamer himself used so assiduously. The novel, then, divides into two sections, the first being the narrator’s attempts to come to grips with Roithamer’s literary legacy, and the second being a concerted presentation (corrected?) of Roithamer’s final and definitive work. Of course Roithamer has already undertaken the ultimate existential correction by erasing himself. But his action is not singular. Rather, according to Roithamer, it is the ever present choice before all those especially in his home country of Austria. Indeed he has already lost three uncles and a cousin to suicide and it is suggested that a statistically high number of others in the vicinity have followed suit. With his increasing agitation at the enormity of his task, it seems all too likely that our narrator may join Roithamer in his choice. However, that action is set beyond the limits of the novel. We are left, primarily, with Roithamer’s deteriorating mental state and his screeching opposition to his family, especially his mother, and ultimately himself.

Reading Correction is exhausting. Other than the division into two halves, the work contains no paragraph breaks, and the convoluted iterations within a sentence can easily stretch a single sentence beyond the length of a page. The mere level of concentration involved in reading such a work is daunting. I often wondered, instead, what it might be like to hear it read aloud in one continuous stream.

Clearly Bernhard’s methodology is particular, but is there more available here than method? That, I don’t know. Even if I can imagine why someone might embark on writing in such a manner, I find it hard to imagine what readers the author could have thought he might attract. And yet this is undoubtedly a modernist masterpiece of its kind, and it certainly has spurred imitators though few could hope to reach Bernhard’s level of self-loathing. Certainly worth reading in order to see why Bernhard is revered in some circles, but very hard to love. ( )
2 vote RandyMetcalfe | Sep 17, 2015 |
Thomas Bernhard's novels constitute perhaps the most enigmatic prose reading experience of my life. His novels are brilliant puzzles, and a single reading will probably not vouchsafe you all of a given novel's secrets. Correction seems a prime example. Here we are again with the typical first-person Bernhard narrator, a highly unreliable, socially connected but insensitive individual, who's circular in his reasoning, repetitious in his verbal style, almost monomaniacal in his focus, and whose torrent of words cunningly excludes subjects about which we would like to know more.

At the start of Correction, Roithamer, the polymath, an Austrian-born scientist teaching at Cambridge University, has just committed suicide shortly after the completion of a massive, rural architecture project, known as the Cone, for his beloved sister. The unnamed narrator, a peer and boyhood friend of Roithamer, presents a hagiographic overview early on of the late man's work; though in fact it is remarkably devoid of specifics. This fellow was named by Roithamer as his literary executor. The book starts when he shows up at a house of a taxidermist by the name of Hoeller, another boyhood friend of Roithamer, whose new home on the Aurach gorge contains the garret in which the great man did most of his intellectual work. It was here, inspired by Hoeller's daring new house, that Roithamer devised the Cone and planned and executed its construction over six years.

It is never made clear what the narrator, who seems an eerie doppleganger of the dead Roithamer, or the deceased genius himself for that matter, are supposed to be famous for. All we know about Roithamer is that he's in the natural sciences, and that he both teaches and studies at Cambridge. Of the narrator we know even less, except that he was once upbraided by Roithamer for following his (Roithamer's) ideas with too slavish an allegiance. No one but the unnamed narrator is even allowed to speak in the novel, except Roithamer himself, and then only through the texts he's left behind. There's no dialogue per se, no real-time verbal exchanges. This is very strange, and suggests a kind of jealous guarding of the narrative by the narrator. Hoeller is not allowed to speak even when spoken to, nor his wife, nor their children, nor are recollected friends and acquaintances ever allowed to say anything. So we're left with a single ranting voice, page after page, dense pages without paragraphs. The novel is in fact a single unbroken chunk of text. (Question: Does the narrator's repetitiveness of key phrases remind any of my GR friends of a similar device used by Gertrude Stein in The Making of Americans?)

Anyway, slowly, up there in Hoeller's garret, like Roithamer before him, our narrator begins to unravel. Is he, in his dopplegangerness, intentionally repeating the pattern of behavior that took Roithamer's life? Is he that much of a sycophant? Or is he being subjected to the same stresses that drove Roithamer to take his own life? Will the narrator soon take his life? The setting of Hoeller's house on the edge of the Aurach gorge, amid the rush of turbulent waters, and the craziness not only of building a house there, but of living in such a house, is a large part of the narrator's, as it was Roithamer's, fascination with the place. It's when the narrator begins to go bonkers in the garret himself that the doubleness and connection of narrator and acolyte seems to crystalize.

Moreover, Roithamer has built his Cone for his sister in the depths of the Kobernausser forest without ever talking to her about either her willingness to live in such an isolated structure, or even if she wants such a place, even as a occasional retreat. He bases his design, he tells us, on his lifelong "observation" of his sister's character. Apparently this does not include one-on-one conversation. Right after this revelation, which left this reader astonished and a little breathless, he turns right around and lambastes contemporary architects for their inability to "investigate" their clients. The suggestion is that some kind of intellectual assessment, apart from anything a client might have to say, should be the overarching design criterion; though this something is never explicitly named.

This section seems to resolve itself into a statement on the prerogatives of the artist or creator and the manner in which the artist or creator should think and process his thoughts. Roithamer's approach is idiosyncratic, to say the least. For instance, not only should his sister not be consulted about the construction of the Cone, to which, we soon learn, she is averse to living in. But Roithamer must undertake the actual construction of the Cone, not on-site where the building will rise, but from Hoeller's garret, because this is where his thoughts can most readily reach fruition. A large portion of the posthumous writings are dedicated to a rant-filled recapitulation of injustices done by his parents to Roithamer during childhood. Each offence, it seems, is remembered. Each is deplored at length. Here is someone who never got over his dysfuctional childhood. He's stuck with a chip on his shoulder. He has never undergone the growth of character necessary to put those early experiences behind him, something I believe all adults must eventually try to do. He is self-pitying. This is tragic and pathetic. 'Get over it,' one thinks. But Roithamer cannot. He was long ago arrested in his emotional development, and his inability to move on--to recognize the fundamental imperfection of daily life and yet to live it fully and purposefully anyway--kills him. Character is fate.

Highly recommended, but brace yourself for a dark, dense, sexless, misogynistic, icy-hearted read. ( )
3 vote William345 | Jun 11, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
The impossibility of crossing the barrier between self and other is one of Bernhard's obsessions. The narrator who resuscitates the dead Roithamer through the study of his writings does so at the cost of his own subjectivity: he becomes Roithamer's double.

Correction is Bernhard's most profound book, but its repetitive misogyny seriously undermines its power: "The female sex is incapable of going beyond the first impulse in the direction of the life of the mind," is a characteristic Roithamer remark, and it is said of Roithamer's nephew's suicide that "six months after they noticed he was gone, his young wife hadn't missed him until then."
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In such a time of precipitateness and overhastiness and the consequent chaotic conditions a thinking man should never act precipitately or overhastily in anything that concerns him, but every single one of us constantly acts precipitately, overhastily, in every way.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 009944254X, Paperback)

Roithamer has committed suicide having been driven to madness by his own frightening powers of pure thought. We witness the gradual breakdown of a genius ceaselessly compelled to correct and refine his perceptions until the only logical conclusion of the negation of his own soul.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:19 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Roithamer has committed suicide having been driven to madness by his own frightening powers of pure thought. We witness the gradual breakdown of a genius ceaselessly compelled to correct and refine his perceptions until the only logical conclusion of the negation of his own soul.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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