HomeGroupsTalkMoreZeitgeist
Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Loading...

Woodcutters (1984)

by Thomas Bernhard

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Trilogie der Künste (2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7361622,577 (4.22)11
Thomas Bernhard, one of the most distinct, celebrated, and perverse of 20th century writers, took his own life in 1989. Perhaps the greatest Austrian writer of the 20th century, Bernhard's vision in novels like Woodcutters was relentlessly bleak and comically nihilistic. His prose is torrential and his style unmistakable. Bernhard is the missing link between Kafka, Beckett, Michel Houellebecq and Lars von Trier; without Bernhard, the literature of alienation and self-contempt would be bereft of its great practitioner. Woodcutters is widely recognised as his masterpiece. Over the course of a few hours, following a performance of Ibsen's The Wild Duck, we are in the company of the Auersbergers, and our narrator, who never once leaves the relative comfort of his 'wing-backed chair' where he sips at a glass of champagne. As they anticipate the arrival of the star actor, and the commencement of dinner, the narrator of Woodcutters dismantles the hollow pretentiousness at the heart of the Austrian bourgeoisie. The effect is devastating; the horror only redeemed by the humour.… (more)
Loading...

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

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 11 mentions

English (13)  Italian (1)  German (1)  French (1)  All languages (16)
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
It says something about modernity that Austria chose to ban this Bernhard novel, the one that ends (spoiler alert, but really, this is a Bernhard novel, and you're not reading for plot) with a (for Bernhard) grand affirmation of the worthwhileness of human and specifically Viennese existence, to wit, everything is worth hating, but everything is also worth loving.

Austria, c'est nous: more worried about being personally offended than about rampant nihilism.

That aside, this is great. Not quite the stylistic brilliance of The Loser, but very good. I occasionally worry about diminishing returns with Tommy, but so far so good. It helps that he mocks people who claim to be interested in Wittgenstein:

"That Joana should commit suicide was the last thing they would have expected, the Auersbergers had said in the Graben, and before rushing off with all their parcels they told me that they had bought *everything by Ludwig Wittgenstein*, so that they could *immerse themselves in Wittgenstein during the coming weeks.* They've probably got Wittgenstein in the smallest parcel, I thought, the one dangling from her right arm."

I imagine that they, like so many readers of Wittgenstein, will both be ravished by his construction of the ideal logical system, outlining everything that can possibly be said in philosophy, which turns out to be nothing, and thus leaves philosophers with nothing to do--and thrilled by his belated recognition that that probably wasn't the case, nor is such a thing possible, and that academic philosophers should stop thinking it is. They will be ravished and thrilled despite not being academic philosophers.

Sigh. ( )
  stillatim | Oct 23, 2020 |
Bosco, bosco ad alto fusto, a colpi d'ascia ( )
  pkr36 | Oct 10, 2018 |
When the "late style" is an unraveled "middle style"

This book may finally have cured me of my Bernhard addiction. It's a late work, and it's been praised very highly for its social satire. (It was apparently the object of a lawsuit by one of the main characters, who is depicted as an alcoholic composer who has failed to live up to his early claims about himself.)

The narrator, who speaks as the author, despises everyone he meets at an "artistic dinner" that occupies the entire book. In a brief review of the English translation in the New York Times in 1988, Mark Anderson noted that "the narrator's own credibility is constantly undermined by the anxious excessiveness of his attacks, which one gradually comes to see as being aimed as much at himself and his own fear of death as at the guests." This is too little, for two reasons: the "realization" shouldn't be gradual, because it is explicit; and it shouldn't undermine the narrator's "credibility" because he himself turns the invective against himself a number of times, most importantly when he says of one of the characters that he realizes he had abandoned her, and not the other way around--exactly opposite to what he thinks about another character at the end of the book.

We are to understand that the narrator is conflicted, in the current way of putting things, and that is why he has to run home, at the end, and write everything down immediately--before he becomes either more or less lucid. That balance is nicely done, but it is undermined by several traits that I read as naked or poorly articulated versions of writing strategies that are much more effective in other books:

--In other books Bernhard, the author and narrator-as-author, keeps his distance from actual people he knew, providing crucial breathing room for his invectives, rants, and polemics, which are at their best when they are free to make the broadest possible gestures.

--In other books that same concatenation of narrative voices keeps clear of actual cultural details, which again lets the invective grow and spread without limit. "Woodcutters" names many actual artists--Webern, Ibsen, Strindberg--and even individual works of art. In doing so it pinches off the metastasizing hatred that flowers so wonderfully when its object is generalized. (As Wittgenstein is in other books; here, one of the characters has "the complete Wittgenstein" in a bag.)

--In other books, the narrator is not so narrowly Bernhard himself. Because he is himself here, the many passages in which people talk to him--especially about his own writing--have to be truncated or muted. Several times people turn to him but don't speak, and several other times he doesn't answer. He's supposedly known as a fiction writer, and has talent, but no one talks to him about it, and he doesn't tell anyone about it--even though the kind of fiction he was actually writing was exactly what he puts in the mouths of everyone around him. Bernhard solves this problem in the first half of the novel by planting the narrator in a dark corner, where he sits in a wingback chair unnoticed, making his acid observations. But that can't last forever, and later he's seated between the host and the guest of honor, and yet no one talks to him. To accept this would be to accept an unexplained gap between the realism of the dinner party and the conceit of an invisible guest, and nothing in the narrative itself addresses or solves it. The result is that the narrator seems to be outlandishly egocentric, despite his intermittent self-accusations: his work is simply too large to find a place in the story that's being told here--a story that involves friends he's had for most of his life.

For me, this is the book Bernhard should have written when he was young, before he learned how to generalize, how to expand, how to distance, how to relinquish realism. But it also shows, in retrospect, a weakness of some earlier books: they avoid the trope of narrator-as-author, even when they seem to have solved it.
  JimElkins | Sep 15, 2018 |
This isn't really a novel, being a long monologue of a single man about his meeting with old friends and subsequent artistic dinner. A fast read, also as a result of the continuous repetitions which characterize the mode of speaking of the protagonist. Funny at times, it is a rather annoying story, predictable and without a real conclusion. Disappointing. ( )
  stef7sa | Jan 5, 2017 |
Before the year 2012 was out, I needed my usual fix of Thomas Bernhard... I've picked my favourite: Holzfällen" (meaning literally "Lumbering").

I've read this in German a long time ago. This time round I wanted to tackle him through an English translation.

I've chosen the McLintock translation, due to the raving reviews, and I must say it never felt I was reading a translation. At the end of this English version, I wanted to read again the German version, just to feel the flow of reading a book in the form of 192-pages-no-chapters paragraph in Bernhard's German "prose"... After reading it no one will be able to forget it! How I'd love to see it on stage.

This book embodies what I love the most about Bernhard intense prose. It just drags you in as though you are the narrator. Advantages of the Ich-Erzähler (first person narrator), but not every writer can give the sense of absolute narrative immersion...

As usual I won't bother detailing with the plot. Not important...

The novel takes place in Vienna, also known by the Austrians themselves as "Die Künstlervernichtungsmaschine" (the artists killing machine ...) By this mouthful of a term in German, you can see what it's all about. If not read a synopsis in Amazon.

Only Bernhard can write like this. It's glorious to read how he, sentence after sentence, depicts a very bizarre but not foreign world from the point of view of an observer (the narrator - Bernhard himself?). While reading it, I found myself reading and re-reading several sentences as not to miss anything.

Definitely one of the greatest testimonials of the German Language of the 20th century.

PS. I still remember it was with this novel that I came across the german word "Ohrensessel" ("Wing Chair") for the first time… lol
" ( )
  antao | Dec 10, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bernhard, Thomasprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fleckhaus, WillyCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holtzmann, ThomasSprechersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roinila, TarjaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

Belongs to Series

Belongs to Publisher Series

You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Being unable to make people more reasonable,
I preferred to be happy away from them.


Voltaire
Dedication
First words
While everyone was waiting for the actor, who had promised to join the dinner party in the Gentzgasse after the premiere of The Wild Duck, I observed the Auersbergers carefully from the same wing chair I had sat in nearly every day during the fifties, reflecting that it had been a grave mistake to accept their invitation. [David McLintock translation]
Quotations
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Thomas Bernhard, one of the most distinct, celebrated, and perverse of 20th century writers, took his own life in 1989. Perhaps the greatest Austrian writer of the 20th century, Bernhard's vision in novels like Woodcutters was relentlessly bleak and comically nihilistic. His prose is torrential and his style unmistakable. Bernhard is the missing link between Kafka, Beckett, Michel Houellebecq and Lars von Trier; without Bernhard, the literature of alienation and self-contempt would be bereft of its great practitioner. Woodcutters is widely recognised as his masterpiece. Over the course of a few hours, following a performance of Ibsen's The Wild Duck, we are in the company of the Auersbergers, and our narrator, who never once leaves the relative comfort of his 'wing-backed chair' where he sips at a glass of champagne. As they anticipate the arrival of the star actor, and the commencement of dinner, the narrator of Woodcutters dismantles the hollow pretentiousness at the heart of the Austrian bourgeoisie. The effect is devastating; the horror only redeemed by the humour.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Quick Links

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (4.22)
0.5
1 3
1.5 1
2 5
2.5 1
3 12
3.5 7
4 53
4.5 13
5 68

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 157,660,438 books! | Top bar: Always visible