HomeGroupsTalkExploreZeitgeist
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...

Wittgenstein's Nephew (1982)

by Thomas Bernhard

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8752319,211 (4.15)45
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… (more)
Loading...

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

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 45 mentions

English (15)  Italian (3)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  French (1)  All languages (23)
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Okay, I'm giving this five stars because I'm already nostalgic for the times when I had new Bernhard to read--I've only got a couple more novels to go before I move on to the stories. This is an odd part of his work, since it's actually kind of in praise of something. It's in praise of a mentally disturbed wastrel, yes, but still, it's in praise of something. Bernhard records his friendship with Paul Wittgenstein, their mutual sicknesses, then moves on to more usual Bernhard territory (I HATE VIENNESE COFFEE HOUSES BUT ALSO I LOVE THEM!), which is very amusing.

Aside from the fact that it's a genuinely moving elegy, I found this novella interesting for one short passage toward the end:

"I reflected that in my whole life I had possibly never had a better friend than the one who was compelled to lie in bed, probably in a pitiful condition, int eh apartment above me, and whom I no longer visited because I was afraid of a direct confrontation with death... I had met Paul, as I now see, precisely at the time when he was obviously beginning to die, and, as these notes testify, I had traced his dying over a period of more than twelve years. And I had used Paul's dying for my own advantage, exploiting it for all I was worth." (98-9)

The narrators of Bernhard's fiction never admit to their own guilt, in large part because they can't find anything worth being guilty before. In this book, Bernhard does find such a thing, Paul Wittgenstein, a fascinating, loving, difficult friend, to whom he did not and cannot do justice, whom he cannot repay. He is doubly guilty, first because, like everyone else, Bernhard fails to aid the dying, and second because he uses the fact of his friend's dying to create fiction. This recognition makes this stand out among Bernhard's works. Well, that and the rant about the literary coffee houses of Vienna. ( )
  stillatim | Oct 23, 2020 |
Thomas Bernhard is an intellectual snob and a curmudgeon but he is also delightfully funny in a wry, dry way. I really enjoyed when he went off on the Austrian literati, or country living, or even the average brains of most of his fellow citizens. His misanthropy, or at least disinterest in most of his fellowmen, did not extend to Paul Wittegenstein, nephew to the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (of the equally entertaining book, Wittgenstein Poker). Paul was a soul mate, sharing Berhhard's love and fascination with music. While Bernhard had chronic lung problems that led to ongoing hospital stays in a sanitorium, Wittgenstein suffered from frequent mental breakdowns. Their brains and intellects were far and away superior to most, and they could follow and lead each other's thoughts in a way that few others could. This led to a true and enduring friendship for 12 years which finally ended when Paul died. It is really a fascinating memoir and commentary that is both extremely intimate but also touches upon larger and more universal truths that we can all relate to. ( )
  OccassionalRead | Feb 25, 2020 |
Madness and philosophy are a lot alike. Or at least they are for Thomas Bernhard. He consistently mistakes madmen for philosophers and philosophers for madmen. And whenever he, himself, is at his most philosophical, he is most certain that he is mad; but just when he is most mad, he is convinced that he is a brilliant philosopher. It’s understandable, in a way. Bernhard is friends with Paul Wittgenstein, who is none other than the nephew of the estimable philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein. Paul is a bon vivant, a lover of opera, a fashionable dresser, a wit. He is also mad. At least sometimes. Enough to be periodically institutionalized. Why exactly Bernhard conflates Paul’s vivid mental life with the mental rigour of his famous uncle is not clear. But he does. And he draws his inference in the other direction as well, assuring us that Ludwig was also a madman. And, oh yes, this is a sort of memoir of Paul, or belated eulogy. Though really, as ever, it’s entirely about Bernhard himself: madman, philosopher(?), enfant terrible of Austrian letters, and sometime friend of Paul Wittgenstein.

This is a short book but a very long paragraph. Indeed it is one long paragraph that extends for 100 pages. Within the confines of that paragraph, Bernhard is able to roam freely across such subjects as the nature of friendship, madness, illness, health, nature and its discontents, coffee houses, classical music, literary prizes, and more. He does this breathlessly. So much so that the reader almost feels compelled to race through to the end of the paragraph (book!) in one reading breath. This is aided by the rhythmic technique Bernhard deploys regularly conferring a positive description of something only to immediately state the opposite, like lapping waves on a shore. It’s mesmerizing. And even his flights of fancy and exuberant denunciations of friends, literary prize givers, conductors and thespians come across as just more typical Bernhard excess. As though everything he were about to say had already been discounted.

I’m not entirely certain what to make of this book, though it certainly has its moments, some of which of are very funny (usually at the expense of Bernhard himself). You’ll find it an easy read, if you can put up with Bernhard’s antics, and sometimes slyly insightful. Just not about philosophy.

Gently recommended. ( )
  RandyMetcalfe | Oct 26, 2019 |
Sindrome-di-andare-al-caffè ( )
  pkr36 | Oct 10, 2018 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (20 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bernhard, Thomasprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fleckhaus, WillyCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McLintock, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Petříček, MiroslavTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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
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.
Dedication
First words
In 1967, one of the indefatigable nursing sisters in the Hermann Pavilion on the Baumgartnerhöhe placed on my bed a copy of my newly published book Gargoyles, which I had written a year earlier at 60 rue de la Croix in Brussels, but I had not the strength to pick it up, having just come round from a general anesthesia lasting several hours, during which the doctors had cut open my neck and removed a fist-sized tumor from my thorax.
Quotations
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.
Their intellectual fortune builds up at a faster and fiercer rate than they can discard it, then one day the mind explodes and they are dead. (p. 23)
Last words
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

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

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Popular covers

Quick Links

Rating

Average: (4.15)
0.5
1 1
1.5
2 4
2.5 5
3 24
3.5 9
4 76
4.5 17
5 69

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 165,895,277 books! | Top bar: Always visible