lunes, 8 de noviembre de 2010

Wittgenstein's Nephew


Wittgenstein's Nephew [Wittgensteins Neffe] (Vintage, no date)
by Thomas Bernhard [translated from the German by David McLintock]
Austria, 1982

"Of all medical practitioners, psychiatrists are the most incompetent, having a closer affinity to the sex killer than to their science" (Wittgenstein's Nephew, 8).

Thomas Bernhard: where have you been all my life, you morose bastard?  An impressively sustained, mordantly observed 100-page monologue based on the author's real-life friendship with a relative of the famous philosopher, Wittgenstein's Nephew is yet another in a spate of works I've read of late where the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction are hopelessly blurred.  I loved it.  Taking on as his subject the equilateral triangle of a life-changing friendship, severe physical and mental illness, and two friends' awareness of their impending deaths, Bernhard somehow managed to have me laughing out loud at his frequent barbs at the same time as I found myself genuinely touched by the evocation of the friends' fragile and increasingly diseased relationship.  Although Bernhard isn't particularly kind to many people in this novel, preferring the loaded gun of the biting remark to the dishonesty of being diplomatic when it's not deserved, he reminded me a bit of Robert Walser in his ability to bring troubled souls to the printed page with unpredictability, vividness, and what seemed like genuine honesty.  A great--and even an exquisite--treat.  (http://www.vintagebooks.com/)

Thomas Bernhard (1931-1989)

15 comentarios:

  1. I'm sold. Adding this one to the TBR list.

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  2. Own a copy of this and have been curious about Thomas Bernhard for the longest time so glad to hear you so impressed. Bumping up the list. And coming from a family with a few mental health practitioners, I can tell you that the quote might not be that far off.

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  3. Your header is cracking me up.

    This has been hovering on the margins of my mental TBR list for some time, and your post has helped move it out of the shadows! I love that barbed melange of fact and fiction.

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  4. Definitely a great writer. He is famous for his style (and other things). Hopefully the translator did manage. I read his childhood memoir Ein Kind a while back. Very beautiful. I think Holzfällen (Woodcutters) is still considered to be the most important. I need to finally read it. I have a feeling Daniel Kehlmann is maybe a bit similar. I liked Me and Kaminski a lot.

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  5. Adore this writer! And 'Wittgenstein's Nephew' is the first of his I've read too. 'The Loser' and 'Gathering Evidence' are just as exquisite. The latter is simply breathtaking.

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  6. *C.B. James: Glad to hear that--enjoy!

    *Frances: I thought I remembered you mentioning getting a hold of some Bernhards a while back. Will look forward to hearing what you think about the guy (esp. after seeing your family anecdote here), but I can't really imagine you not liking Wittgenstein.

    *Emily: Thanks--I'm glad I wasn't the only one cracking up at yesterday's header! Much like I said to Frances, I think this novella would be right up your "barbed melange" alley. Really, really good stuff.

    *Caroline: I unfortunately don't know any German, but at least it felt like the translator did a fantastic job. Thanks for the info on the non-Bernhard author, who is new to me. Cheers!

    *Rise: I was debating between The Loser and this one for my intro to Bernhard, so I'm glad to hear you liked The Loser as much as you did Wittgenstein. Will have to look into that other title you mention. Thanks for the tip!

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  7. Re Javier Bardem, you are so mean! If you applied all that research to say, climate repair or world peace, think how better off we would all be! :--)

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  8. Burst out laughing at your header today - then had to explain what I was doing on the internet while at work...oops! :)

    This sounds like an extremely interesting book, and given the excitement of others in this comment thread, I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for this author.

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  9. You deliberately chose the photo of the most attractive man to top your blog so far to be ridiculous. Twisted. Jill and I have waited patiently. We deserve better.

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  10. *Jill: Sorry you didn't care for Tuesday's Javier Bardem vs. chihuahua with toupee beauty pageant. I'll try and look for a more rugged JB photo for Thursday for ya!

    *Sarah: I'm pretty confident you'd like the book as well, and the nice thing if you don't is that it's only 100 pages long. By the way, you cracked me up with that story about your reaction to the header!

    *Frances: Even though you and Jill have consistently objectified the largely plain-looking authors who have "graced" my headers, you're right, you two do deserve better. I already have a brooding, pheromone-laced photo of JB in mind for Thursday to put things right. Until then, my bad!

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  11. *Frances & Jill: I'm glad you appreciated the various offerings of Javier Bardem beefcake while they lasted!

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  12. I remember this as being one of Bernhard's sweeter books. I don't no how else to put it. Sure there was his usual caustic elements, but the elegiac experience seemed to soften that. It seemed removed from works like Old Masters or Concrete, or even The Voice Imitator which has is caustic yet humorous

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  13. *Bythefirelight: That makes a whole lot of sense given the subject of the book and the little I've read about Bernhard's other works. One of the reviews I saw of Old Masters, if I'm not mistaken, said that it was bleak to the point about being suffocating, which wasn't my experience with Wittgenstein's Nephew at all. In any event, I look forward to reading more of the guy's back catalogue. Thanks for your visit!

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