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Out of Babel

Michael Hofmann: Thomas Bernhard​ Traduced

14 December 2017
Collected Poems 
by Thomas Bernhard, translated by James Reidel.
Chicago, 459 pp., £25, June 2017, 978 0 85742 426 6
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... The​ posthumous progress in English of the Austrian writer ThomasBernhard (1931-89) is marked by deaths: those of his majoritarian and minoritarian translators David McLintock and Ewald Osers, in 2003 and 2011 respectively; and in 2015 that of Carol Brown Janeway, his ...

Reger said

Michael Hofmann: Thomas Bernhard

4 November 2010
Old Masters: A Comedy 
by Thomas Bernhard, translated by Ewald Osers.
Penguin, 247 pp., £9.99, May 2010, 978 0 14 119271 0
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... The Austrian novelist and playwright ThomasBernhard (1931-89) once said: ‘You have to understand that in my writing the musical component comes first, and the subject matter is secondary.’ It’s a strange thing for this professional ...


Ian Hacking

4 February 1988
The False Prison: A Study of the Development of Wittgenstein’s Philosophy, Vol. I 
by David Pears.
Oxford, 202 pp., £19.50, September 1987, 0 19 824771 0
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Wittgenstein’s Nephew 
by Thomas Bernhard.
Quartet, 120 pp., £8.95, February 1987, 0 7043 2611 6
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... that now being experienced by him. We can, it happens by chance, now consider just such a person, Ludwig’s mad nephew Paul Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein’s Nephew: A Friendship is a brief memoir by ThomasBernhard, the poet and novelist, naturalised Austrian. It reeks of a Central Europe some thought was extinct, but the narrative begins in 1967, when Paul was 60 – although it reminisces about many ...
26 March 1992
Music Sounded Out 
by Alfred Brendel.
Robson, 258 pp., £16.95, September 1990, 0 86051 666 0
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Glenn Gould: A Life and Variations 
by Otto Friedrich.
Lime Tree, 441 pp., £12.99, October 1990, 9780413452313
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... of his short life into a human wreck, hunched over the keyboard like an old vulture. Within a year of his death, Glenn Gould had become the subject of a novel, Der Untergeher by the Austrian writer ThomasBernhard. Der Untergeher (literally ‘the sinker’ or ‘the one who goes, or is destined to go, under’ – perhaps ‘the loser’) describes the impact of Gould’s playing and personality on ...

Long Live Aporia!

Hal Foster: William Gaddis

24 July 2003
Agapē Agape 
by William Gaddis.
Atlantic, 113 pp., £9.99, January 2003, 1 903809 83 5
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The Rush for Second Place: Essays and Occasional Writings 
by William Gaddis, edited by Joseph Tabbi.
Penguin, 182 pp., $14, October 2002, 0 14 200238 0
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... with Benjamin, in his last days at the Bibliothèque Nationale, rearranging his Arcades notes, and add a little of the ‘I can’t go on, I go on’ of Beckett and a lot of the run-on ranting of ThomasBernhard, a contemporary whom the Gaddis surrogate here accuses of plagiarism before the fact. (Agapē Agape does recall Concrete, a Bernhard novel about a writer unable to begin a biography of a ...

Dad’s Going to Sue

Christopher Tayler: ‘My Struggle’

5 April 2012
A Death in the Family: My Struggle: Vol. I 
by Karl Ove Knausgaard, translated by Don Bartlett.
Harvill Secker, 393 pp., £17.99, March 2012, 978 1 84655 467 4
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... the Adrian Mole effect that he gets from juxtaposing the teenage musician thrashing his way through a tuneless cover of ‘Smoke on the Water’ with the grown-up novelist who’s read Proust and ThomasBernhard. As in the earlier book, he devotes many pages to his feeling that scientism, humanism and religion have conspired to enmesh the world in abstract thought, robbing it of an inexpressible ...

Taking Refuge in the Loo

Leland de la Durantaye: Peter Handke

21 May 2014
Versuch über den Pilznarren: Eine Geschichte für sich 
by Peter Handke.
Suhrkamp, 217 pp., £14.70, September 2013, 978 3 518 42383 7
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Peter Handke im Gespräch, mit Hubert Patterer und Stefan Winkler 
Kleine Zeitung, 120 pp., £15.36, November 2012, 978 3 902819 14 7Show More
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... The line separating fact from fiction often disappears in his books. The blend of fact and fiction is confounding by design, as it was with his fellow countryman, contemporary and sometimes rival, ThomasBernhard, and as it was with one of his finest critics, W.G. Sebald. In Essay on the Jukebox, the second volume in the series Handke has recently finished, he, or a narrator quite like him, tells of ...

Dun and Gum

Nicholas Jose: Murray Bail

16 July 1998
by Murray Bail.
Harvill, 264 pp., £12.99, July 1998, 1 86046 494 7
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... Patrick White’s contemptuous description of the local literary scene as he found it on his return from Europe in 1948. White – the only antipodean to join Proust and Kafka, Michel Tournier and ThomasBernhard on Bail’s shelf of severe masters – is the big daddy rabbit-killer; Bail and his minimalist contemporaries are something of a mopping-up operation. The anxiety here is that of being the ...

Che pasticcio!

Tim Parks: Carlo Emilio Gadda

20 September 2007
That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana 
by Carlo Emilio Gadda, translated by William Weaver.
NYRB, 388 pp., £8.99, February 2007, 978 1 59017 222 3
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... An immensely long scene in which a well-meaning doctor seeks to cheer him up with the prospect of meeting one of his five marriageable daughters looks forward to some of the best work of the early ThomasBernhard and must be among the most powerful passages in 20th-century Italian fiction. As the narrative moves through one painful revelation after another towards a truly ugly dénouement, it is not ...

How Dare He?

Jenny Turner: Geoff Dyer

11 June 2009
Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi 
by Geoff Dyer.
Canongate, 295 pp., £12.99, April 2009, 978 1 84767 270 4
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... After a while, though, this out-of-sheer-rage petered out, to be replaced by something more resigned. Dyer, perhaps, is a bit like Nick Hornby, singing for his supper, a bit too eager to be liked: ThomasBernhard For People Who Can’t Be Bothered To Do It; virtually fat-free modernist romances designed to fit the side-pockets of rich students’ gap-year rucksacks, in need of reading matter neither ...

Where Forty-Eight Avenue joins Petőfi Square

Jennifer Szalai: László Krasznahorkai

26 April 2012
by László Krasznahorkai, translated by George Szirtes.
Atlantic, 320 pp., £12.99, May 2012, 978 1 84887 764 1
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... fiction takes itself as seriously as Sontag’s does. James Wood, writing in the New Yorker last summer, began by placing him in the capacious context of such postwar avant-garde novelists as ThomasBernhard, José Saramago and David Foster Wallace, only to acknowledge that, despite a shared affinity for ‘very long, breathing, unstopped sentences’, Krasznahorkai was ‘perhaps the strangest ...

Love Stories

Edmund White

4 November 1993
To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life: A Novel 
by Hervé Guibert, translated by Linda Coverdale.
Quartet, 246 pp., £12.95, November 1991, 9780704370005
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The Man in the Red Hat 
by Hervé Guibert, translated by James Kirkup.
Quartet, 111 pp., £12.95, May 1993, 0 7043 7046 8
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The Compassion Protocol 
by Hervé Guibert, translated by James Kirkup.
Quartet, 202 pp., £13.95, October 1993, 9780704370593
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... I start to die,’ he remarks near the end of Le Paradis. Guibert placed himself in a tough Continental line of writers. He himself cites Sade, Nietzsche, Rimbaud, Strindberg, Artaud, Bataille and ThomasBernhard (Guibert admired Bernhard for his tenacity and autobiographical honesty). Because of his heritage and a natural inclination towards the sordid, he approached Aids with a lot less charity and ...

It wasn’t him, it was her

Jenny Diski: Nietzsche’s Bad Sister

25 September 2003
Nietzsche’s Sister and the Will to Power: A Biography of Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche 
by Carol Diethe.
Illinois, 214 pp., £26, July 2003, 0 252 02826 0
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... , my real idea from the abyss, is always my mother and my sister.’ Elisabeth tried to make a life of her own when the life she tried to make with her brother failed. She married a proto-Nazi, Bernhard Förster, an anti-semite, nationalist boor whose big dream came true with the founding of Nueva Germania, an Aryan colony in Paraguay. Nietzsche railed against his brother-in-law for his anti ...

Sent East

James Wood: Sebald’s ‘Austerlitz’

6 October 2011
... said Austerlitz, Maximilian would tell the tale of how once, after a trade-union meeting in Teplitz in the early summer of 1933 …’ Sebald borrowed this habit of repetitive attribution from ThomasBernhard, who also influenced Sebald’s diction of extremism. Almost every sentence in this book is a cunning combination of the quiet and the loud: ‘As usual when I go down to London on my own ...

Desperately Seeking Susan

Terry Castle: Remembering Susan Sontag

17 March 2005
... of her career: the Autodidact of all Autodidacts. The quizzing was relentless. Had I read Robert Walser? (Ooooh errrg blush, ahem, little cough, um: No, I’m ashamed to say . . .) Had I read ThomasBernhard? (Yes! – Yes, I have! ‘Wittgenstein’s Nephew’! Yay! Yippee! Wow! Phew! – dodged the bullet that time!) It seemed, for a while at least, that I had yet to be contaminated by the ...

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