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This controversial portrayal of Viennese artistic circles begins as the writer-narrator arrives at an 'artistic dinner' given by a composer and his society wife—a couple that the writer once admired but has now come to loathe. The guest of honor, an actor from the Burgtheater, is late. As the other guests wait impatiently, they are seen through the critical eye of the narrator, who begins a silent but frenzied, sometimes maniacal, and often ambivalent tirade against these former friends, most of whom were brought together by the woman whom they had buried that day. Reflections on Joana's life and suicide are mixed with these denunciations until the famous actor arrives, bringing a culmination to the evening for which the narrator had not even thought to hope.

"Mr. Bernhard's portrait of a society in dissolution has a Scandinavian darkness reminiscent of Ibsen and Strindberg, but it is filtered through with a minimalist prose. . . . Woodcutters offers an unusually strange, intense, engrossing literary experience."—Mark Anderson, New York Times Book Review

"Musical, dramatic and set in Vienna, Woodcutters. . . .resembles a Strauss operetta with a libretto by Beckett."—Joseph Costes, Chicago Tribune

"Thomas Bernhard, the great pessimist-rhapsodist of German literature . . . never compromises, never makes peace with life. . . . Only in the pure, fierce isolation of his art can he get justice."—Michael Feingold, Village Voice

"In typical Bernhardian fashion the narrator is moved by hatred and affection for a society that he believes destroys the very artistic genius it purports to glorify. A superb translation."—Library Journal

188 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1984

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About the author

Thomas Bernhard

271 books1,953 followers
Thomas Bernhard was an Austrian writer who ranks among the most distinguished German-speaking writers of the second half of the 20th century.

Although internationally he's most acclaimed because of his novels, he was also a prolific playwright. His characters are often at work on a lifetime and never-ending major project while they deal with themes such as suicide, madness and obsession, and, as Bernhard did, a love-hate relationship with Austria. His prose is tumultuous but sober at the same time, philosophic by turns, with a musical cadence and plenty of black humor.

He started publishing in the year 1963 with the novel Frost. His last published work, appearing in the year 1986, was Extinction. Some of his best-known works include The Loser (about a student's fictionalized relationship with the pianist Glenn Gould), Wittgenstein's Nephew, and Woodcutters.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 612 reviews
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,468 reviews3,645 followers
January 6, 2022
Woodcutters is a story about the ruination of artistic hopes – it is a complex, multilayered and caustic tale of life in the world of arts.
People hated me and everything I wrote, and ganged up against me in the most vicious fashion whenever they saw me. But ever since my return from London I had been on my guard against them, against all the people I had known previously, but above all against these so-called artistic figures from the fifties, and especially those who had come to this artistic dinner.

The narration – a virtual torrent of gall – is an inner soliloquy of an old lonely writer disappointed in all those present at the artistic dinner and in all their creative ambitions. This inner monologue is sorrowfully bitter and sadly ambivalent…
How low they’ve sunk, I thought as I sat in the wing chair – these people who as far as I can see have been artistically, intellectually and spiritually bankrupt for decades… At one time, of course, all these people had actually been artists, or at least possessed artistic talents, I thought, sitting in the wing chair, but now they were just so much artistic riffraff, having about as much to do with art and the artistic as this dinner party of the Auersbergers’. All these people, who were once real artists, or at least in some way artistic, I thought as I sat in the wing chair, are now nothing but shams, husks of their former selves…

High hopes of youth… But the artists grew older and their hopes got fewer… Some of them were left behind, some were over the edge, some drowned their talents in alcohol, some compromised, some became opportunistic and some sold themselves out…
There sit the Marianne Moore, the Gertrude Stein and the Virginia Woolf of Vienna, I thought, and yet they are nothing but devious, ambitious little state protégées, who have betrayed literature – and art in general – for the sake of a few ludicrous prizes and a guaranteed pension, kowtowing to the state and its cultural riffraff, churning out their derivative kitsch for the vilest of motives and spending their time going up and down the stairs of the ministries that dole out subventions.

There are true objects of art and there are fashionable objects of art: fashionable books, fashionable films, fashionable music… To live in accordance with fashion is to live a life of pretence and falsehood.
Profile Image for İntellecta.
199 reviews1,557 followers
June 8, 2021
The book is excellently readable, and in my opinion this makes it a very good entry for people who have not read Bernhard yet. But it contains everything that makes the books of Bernhard so readable: repetitions, cynicism, polemics and yet a certain sense of humor.
Profile Image for Steven  Godin.
2,497 reviews2,383 followers
July 23, 2023

As I sat in my chair after reading of a man sat in a chair, I thought, what an odd, darkly comic and nihilistically cold book this was. The only thing I am sure of is I haven't read anything quite like it before. I wouldn't have minded going for a drink with Mr Bernhard, but if this is his idea of a dinner party, I would decline the invitation and stay at home with a good book and some takeaway noodles. The novel takes place over only a couple of hours, but is told with large chunks of flashback thoughts, so the time scale feels far greater, and features an intolerable narrator who can't be bothered to leave the 'wing-backed chair' his derrière is comfortably planted on, during an uncomfortable dinner party held in honour of an actor performing in a production of Ibsen's The Wild Duck. The hosts, 'the Auersbergers', are a most unlikeable couple (ignorant cultural snobs), I though, as I sat in my chair, so unlikeable in fact, that I actually started to like them the more the story progressed, the novel on the whole is a scathing attack on the futile pretentiousness at the heart of Austrian bourgeoisie society. And Bernhard marvels in it's telling.

After attending the funeral of friend Joana, a suicide victim, our narrator is off to the artistic dinner party, after accepting to be a guest of the Auersbergers, after bumping into them whilst out. He hasn't been acquainted with them for many years, and despises them with deep repugnance. Still, he goes along, observing the rest of the despicable crowd from his winged chair, waiting for what seems like an eternity for the actor to arrive. He looks back over the past, and reviews his grievances against his hosts and their pretentious friends, and thinks, hard, and in such a flurry of disdain, and his account is set down in one long paragraph that starts on the book's first page and doesn't close until the narrative concludes. There are no chapters, and no breaks, it's all done in one long swoop. The nonstop stream of consciousness is demanding of the reader but fully appropriate to this satirical jeremiad, and he, the narrator is consumed by a crotchety, often vitriolic interior monologue which illuminates his own personality and his relationships with the other guests, I thought, as I sat in my chair. Apparently, many Viennese who feel worthy of greatness recognised themselves here and were upset at their depiction, it's little wonder, as there's little in the way of compassion. Bernhard pretty much pokes fun and loathes most of those in the novel.

On reading Bernhard for the first time, there will definitely be more to follow, I thought, as I sat in my chair. I was stunned, I was hooked, and even though it feel like going round and round in a loop at times, overall I was well impressed. After confronting a circular tide of mass of sentences, with a repetition of building into a dizzying wall of words seemingly intended to obscure meaning and prevent progress, I slowly but surely, accepted Bernhard's narrative, and just went with it. The narrator sees in his eyes, some blame falling on the shoulders of the Auersbergers for Joana's death (someone he was very close to), but in fact, the truth be told, he, is just as guilty as all the others of using those around, below and above him to make his way to the top of society, financially, sexually, any which way really.

It felt like reading this with an annoying piece of lemon stuck in my mouth, the sour taste throughout was unprecedented. I cursed under my breath at every given opportunity for these nauseating characters, but this is the whole point - Berhard's love/hate relationship with his homeland. Only this evening, it appears any love decided to quickly exit the premises.
Profile Image for Jason.
137 reviews2,350 followers
July 20, 2013
Ok, let’s just cut to the chase. This work, this novel, this brilliantly flowing diatribe of comic vitriol, is a work of pure consummate genius. The writing, the pacing, the internal dialogue, the word choice, and probably the translation, too (though that is only a guess)—it is all perfect, perfect, perfect. You people will think I’m joking when I say this, but I am telling you: this book is a freaking page-turner.

Woodcutters is the first-person narrative of an over-the-hill, acrimonious gentleman who becomes reunited with a group of shallow, pretentious, artistic “wannabe” individuals with whom he had once been intimately acquainted, after the death of one of their mutual friends. For most of the story, the narrator sits in a wing chair in the corner of the anteroom of one of these people’s homes, after having been invited there following the friend’s funeral, and silently blasts his hosts for their abominable character and their tactlessness at hosting this party to begin with, as it was initially meant to be an artistic dinner to honor an artistic guest, and only later became an in memoriam dinner to honor their dead friend, as—it should be mentioned—it was only for this latter purpose, once it was learned that the friend had died, that the narrator was extended an invitation.

And that’s it. That is the entire premise of this novel, and yet it is all Bernhard needed to completely knock it out of the park.

For anyone who knows me, or for those who have been following my reviews long enough (why? why would you do that to yourselves?), you might know I’m a sucker for an ambiguous character, or perhaps a character whose motives reveal themselves as contrary to what the character would prefer you to believe. Our narrator would like you to believe, as he seethes away in his wing chair, that he is unlike the miserable hosts of the party to which he had been invited, unlike their vacuous, imbecilic guests, and unlike the insufferable artistic-guest-of-honor who hasn’t even shown up yet but who the narrator has already made clear is insufferable and is unlike him, the narrator, as he sits in his wing chair. But as he continues to rip into these people, you start to wonder...how did the hosts manage to invite the narrator to their party in the first place if the narrator insists he has always tried to avoid these people? How has his opinion of these people managed to change so drastically from the days during which he used to associate with them? And what do these people think of him, the narrator, as he sits in his wing chair ridiculing all of them?

Look, you know what? I’ve said enough about this novel. I don’t like long reviews, so I’m just going to say one more thing: this book is phenomenal, and my only challenge to you, my review-reading audience, is to read one paragraph, just one single paragraph of this novel, because it is all you will need to become as enamored with this book as I am.
Profile Image for Ilse (away until November).
475 reviews3,133 followers
January 1, 2023
Dreams and fairy stories were the real stuff of her life, I thought. That was why she killed herself, because a person who life is built on dreams and fairy stories can't survive in this world - has no right to survive, I thought.

(Espen Terjesen)

If we cannot become what we want to become, we resort to another person - inevitably the person closest to us - and make of him what we have been unable to make of ourselves.

Read in July in Vienna on the perfect moment, almost impossible to make any progress without tumbling out and slowly crawling back to another chunk of variation in Bernhard’s dense, continuous monologue while trying to ignore the bickering of the grumpy son and daughter in the blazing summer heat, maximising the experience of immersing in Bernhard’s ravenous rage and corrosive moodiness. No better cure for one’s own irritability than the funhouse mirror.
Profile Image for TBV (on hiatus).
308 reviews74 followers
July 7, 2021

This is a wing chair. Look carefully, and you may just see an unnamed writer sitting in a wing chair - there are 222 occurrences in 145 pages of him seated in his wing chair - which is slightly behind the door where he can observe, without being observed for the most part, the guests at this “artistic dinner” (on the day that a mutual friend was buried) held in honour of an actor who is yet to appear and has already kept everyone waiting for what seems to be hours, particularly as dinner has not yet been served.

And as the observer in his wing chair thinks with great disgust of all the despicable things that he associates with the various dinner guests, and how he hates, detests and despises this, that and the other (the narrator uses a large number of derogatory words!), it gradually occurs to him that his own behaviour may have been despicable too.

Meanwhile, after a couple of hours, the celebrated actor appears and promptly monopolises the conversation which is entirely about himself. While the unnamed writer sits in his wing chair thinking how utterly detestable the celebrity is, he becomes aware that the actor is perhaps putting on a show for the diners, and that just maybe he isn’t all that bad. And as the narrator continues observing and pondering, he realises that he himself has been ‘guilty’ of the same ‘offences’ that he observes. In fact these people are a mirror image of his own behaviour.

Wait a minute… is that Thomas Bernhard I see getting up from that wing chair? Isn’t it just like him to excoriate the precious and pretentious? He has such mordant wit. And wait… wasn’t he a bass-baritone training to be an opera singer too, just like the narrator, and didn’t he also suffer from a lung complaint, the result of which was a career as an author and not as a singer. Hmmm… perhaps the resemblance is coincidental.

”To get ourselves out of a tight spot, it seems to me, we are ourselves just as mendacious as those we are always accusing of mendacity, those whom we despise and drag in the dirt for their mendacity; we are not one jot better than the people we constantly find objectionable and insufferable, those repellent people with whom we want to have as few dealings as possible, though; if we are honest, we do have dealings with them and are no different from them. We reproach them with all kinds of objectionable and insufferable behavior and are no less insufferable and objectionable ourselves—perhaps we are even more insufferable and objectionable, it occurs to me.”

(Picture from Wikipedia)
Profile Image for David.
161 reviews1,496 followers
November 15, 2010
In a prominent, well-trafficked gallery of the Bad Dinner Guest Hall of Fame we should logically expect to find the (unnamed) narrator of Thomas Bernhard's excoriating masterpiece Woodcutters, who not only isolates himself from the other guests, preferring a lone wing chair in the entryway to their generally detestable company, but also spends the better part of the evening mentally dissecting, dismantling, and disparaging everyone who is unlucky enough to fall under his gaze. At the long-anticipated conclusion of the party, the narrator admits that he only spoke twice -- once to ask a question of the guest of honor, and later to insult the host. Once he falls asleep and shrugs off the hostess testily when she tries to wake him. Later he remains at the dinner table, alone, after everyone has retired to the 'music room.'

Bernhard is preoccupied with antisocial characters to a remarkable extent. It isn't merely that they confine themselves to a subculture, or anti-culture; they are resolutely alone, standing as a lone bulwark against a society they loathe -- and perhaps love, but only as a side effect of intense familiarity.

I wonder about Austria, don't you? Both Bernhard and Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke seem to have harbored a virulent hatred of their native country. While I sense the depths of their antipathy, I wonder what it is that is peculiar to Austrian society that they dislike. Is there an Austrian condition -- or a particular variety of decadence -- that can be defined or delimited from that of Europe or the 'Western World' in general?

At any rate, our proximity to our own homes, wherever they may be at the moment, affords us an ideal vantage from which to examine their faults. Austria or America. Uruguay or Uzbekistan. Sri Lanka or Sudan. There's nothing so revolting as the place where we shit. There's nothing so instructive as the cultural claustrophobia of spending too many days among like-kinds. (There's, of course, a comfort too. Even in Bernhard's bleak appraisal.)

This novel should be read by Americans because Americans (in general) are too optimistic. They think too highly of themselves and of the human species. Or I should amend that statement... Americans think too infrequently about themselves, in a serious way, reflectively, critically, and prefer to subsist on a high-fat diet of platitudes, new age aphorisms, and moronic idealism. This isn't to say that idealism is itself categorically moronic, but the American brand often is. It fails to take into account even the most basic constraints of reality. It's saccharine, false... It's the mirage that leads the dying man farther into the desert.

I think the narrator's almost unmitigated bitterness is the [or my] antidote to the wan security a nation or society feels in itself, whether ours or any other's. Many readers may find the narrator's harping and ruthless judgments to be too radical a corrective. We've been instructed to regard cynicism with suspicion. It is a cancerous affliction which undermines the effects of positivity and lightness of spirit. There are all kinds of studies, you know, that seem to indicate that positive thinking heals us (to some limited extent) physically and psychologically. But at what cost? If I am here to live my life (at the bidding of science, fortune, or both), I'd prefer not to live it anesthetized, a disciple in the cult of can-do-ism. I'd rather sit alone in the wing chair and think to myself what a complete and total ass you are. And by 'you' I mean anybody.

Profile Image for Meike.
1,594 reviews2,833 followers
February 19, 2021
English: Woodcutters
Bernhard would have turned 90 this month (2/2021)

Thomas Bernhard is the Shakespeare of grumpy ramblings, fiercely holding his ground while embracing contradictory emotions. Almost 30 years after his death, his literary importance doesn’t fade, on the contrary: Bernhard has become a postmodern classic, and just recently, author Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre (who is extremely famous in German-speaking countries) maintained that “Woodcutters” was the best novel ever written.

One of Bernhard’s trademark traits: He never shied away from controversy. When “Woodcutters” was first published in 1984, a former friend (composer Gerhard Lampersberg) sued the author for defamation - in consequence, all printed copies were confiscated, which of course caused an enormous scandal (Lampersberg and Bernhard later sought an extrajudicial settlement). And Lampersberg was not the only one who felt offended by Bernhard’s text.

In it, the narrator (an alter ego of Bernhard`s) takes part in an “artistic dinner” (“künstlerisches Abendessen”) in the house of a Viennese composer (ha!) and his wife. The couple has invited artists, friends, and even an actor from the famous Imperial Court Theatre (which is the national theatre of Austria). The whole book takes place in this setting, the narrator and the other guests only moving from one room to the other – and the narrator also doesn’t really interact with the other guests, we read his stream-of-consciousness and all the thoughts that come to his mind while he is sitting in his wing chair and later at the table observing the others (in German, the steady references to the wing chair are a lot funnier, as the German expression is “ear chair” (“Ohrensessel”), so Bernhard is playing with the concepts of listening and expression). It is the chain of thoughts that introduces us to the other artists present (and partly absent), jumping back and forth between people, time frames and, most interestingly, perspectives of judgement.

Bernhard’s text is funny, mean, complex and engaging – and it seems like the same could be said about its author. I am often confused or even disappointed when I see what gets translated and widely read, but when I see a non-German speaker reading Bernhard, I am definitely happy.
Profile Image for MJ Nicholls.
2,051 reviews4,121 followers
August 26, 2014
This excellent monologue combines the acid wit of Sorrentino’s Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things to another book whose title escapes me for the moment but will be added to the review upon remembering. A melancholic and hilarious novel sans para breaks (first Bernhard for me—assuming all of them are similar) told from the perspective of an embittered writer in his twilight years reflecting (after the death of a friend) upon the odious Austrian demi-monde he has been trapped in for too long. The suicide of Joana brings him to an after-funeral shindig at the home of rich artistic poseurs the Auersbergers, who he proceeds to eviscerate from the comfort of his wing chair in some of the most painful and acute putdown-prose this side of Laura Warholic, offering little flashes of his own unnoble behaviour, but mostly observing like the Underground Man but with no drunken payoff. In the midst of this, the narrator reflects upon his relationship with the doomed Joana, in scenes that constitute the “heart” of this mostly splentic novel, and suggest a note of tenderness through disappointment and romantic idealism. A sensational and breathtaking book that also contains the most uses of the phrase “as I sat in the wing chair” in any book written by a sentient creature.
Profile Image for Javier.
217 reviews153 followers
December 3, 2021
Si Marcel Proust no se hubiera comido la dichosa magdalena probablemente habría terminado escribiendo algo parecido a Woodcutters. Sí, ya sé que el estilo de En busca del tiempo perdido no puede ser más diferente del de cualquiera de las obras de Thomas Bernhard, pero a lo mejor no estoy tan desencaminado… El momento magdalena fue, para un Proust tan desengañado de la sociedad y la cultura de su tiempo hasta el punto de haber renunciado a la literatura, una revelación gracias a la cuál fue capaz de recuperar el tiempo perdido de una manera mucho más amable y creativa. Sin embargo, si no hubiera tenido algo para mojar en el té, me puedo imaginar perfectamente a un Proust ya maduro, amargado y cascarrabias, sentado en un sillón del salón de la duquesa de Guermantes, criticando entre dientes a todos y cada uno de los asistentes a la velada al tiempo que se maldice a sí mismo por haber aceptado la invitación. Pues bien, eso más o menos es Woodcutters.

La figura del gruñón da siempre mucho juego, especialmente cuando su sarcasmo va acompañado de ingenio. Pero no nos engañemos; como cualquier otra actitud destructiva, es un recurso relativamente fácil. Al menos a mí no se me da mal del todo. Sin embargo, la crítica despiadada, por chispeante que sea la ironía con la que se expresa, termina por aburrir y una novela sobre un tipo sentado en un sillón despellejando con crueldad a todo el que se pone a tiro no se sostiene si no tiene algo más.

Sin embargo, a juzgar por la sinopsis y tras leer las primeras páginas, el contenido de Woodcutters parece blanco y en botella: pura mala leche. Bernhard no debía tener un alto concepto de la escena artística de su país —ni estar de muy buen humor— durante los ochenta. En la primera mitad de esa década, además de ajustar cuentas con sus colegas escritores en Woodcutters, le dio lo suyo al mundo de la música en The Loser (1983) y al de la pintura en Old Masters (1985). Por suerte para sus lectores, de lo que estaba sin duda sobrado era de calidad literaria, porque las tres novelas son a cuál mejor.

Desde el punto de vista del argumento, Woodcutters es la más sencilla de las tres. El narrador es un escritor que abandonó su Austria natal hace veinte años huyendo del ambiente provinciano y burgués de una Viena que, a pesar de su patente vulgaridad, se consideraba uno de los centros neurálgicos de la cultura europea y mundial. En los últimos años, movido por una cierta nostalgia que le cuesta reconocer, ha tomado la costumbre de dejar su Londres adoptivo y pasar temporadas en Viena, ciudad de la que ha aprendido a volver a disfrutar —a condición de que evite todo contacto con sus antiguas amistades.
Pero un aciago día, el mismo en que se ha enterado su amiga Joanna —con la que no ha mantenido ningún contacto en años, todo hay que decirlo— se ha suicidado, es acorralado en la calle por los Auersbergers, un matrimonio que en sus años vieneses ejerció especie de mecenazgo sobre él, y, quizá aún impresionado por la muerte de la común amiga, acepta una invitación para una cena artística.
La cena está organizada en honor de un actor del Burgtheater, para celebrar su éxito como protagonista de The Wild Duck , de Ibsen —que en cierto sentido evoca la novela de Bernhard. (En realidad, la cena no es más que una burda pantomima con la que los Auersbergers quieren presumir de lo bien conectados que están y, al mismo tiempo, agasajar al personaje de moda.) Encima, el actor se hace esperar, como corresponde a una estrella, lo que no hace sino empeorar el humor del narrador.
I thought, sitting in the wing chair, he’s the archetypal mindless ham, who’s always been popular at the Burgtheater and in Austria generally, utterly devoid of imagination and hence of wit, one of those unspeakable emotionalists who tread the boards of the Burgtheater every evening in droves, wringing their hands in their unnatural provincial fashion, falling upon whatever work is being performed, and clubbing it to death with the sheer brute force of their histrionics.

El entierro de Joanna esa misma mañana, seguido de la cena artística, son dos actos de la misma representación teatral en la de los supuestos intelectuales y almas sensibles representan sus patéticos papeles como artistas y mecenas, tratando de obtener algún beneficio de su asistencia. Ambas reuniones devuelven de repente al narrador al marasmo la vida cultural vienesa de los cincuenta, de la que él mismo fue parte activa hasta que se dio cuenta que permanecer significaría su aniquilación como artista y como persona… como ha sucedido finalmente a la propia Joanna.
Así que al narrador solo le queda hacer lo que cualquier individuo civilizado haría en su situación: sentarse en un sillón en un rincón apartado, poner una cara que espante a los pocos incautos que se atrevan a acercarse, despellejar a todos los asistentes y beber hasta que el asco desaparezca. Y, por supuesto, sentirse una víctima.
People hated me and everything I wrote, and ganged up against me in the most vicious fashion whenever they saw me. But ever since my return from London I had been on my guard against them, against all the people I had known previously, but above all against these so-called artistic figures from the fifties, and especially those who had come to this artistic dinner.

A fin de cuentas, ¿quién si no Bernhard podría crear un personaje que se pasa toda la novela callado y sentado en un sillón de orejas, escribir una novela con todos los pensamientos odiosos que se le ocurrieron sentado en ese sillón de orejas, y apostillar, en la mitad de cada uno de esos pensamientos, “pensé, mientras estaba sentado en el sillón de orejas”?
For there’s no doubt that thirty or even twenty years ago all these people were happy, but now they’re unutterably depressing, every bit as depressing and unhappy as I am myself, I thought as I sat in the wing chair.

Finalmente, el actor se digna en asistir y comienza la cena, mientras el narrador se sigue revolcando en el recuerdo de lo lamentables y despreciables que eran sus conocidos en los cincuenta, y en la realización de que ahora lo son aún más y… ¡un momento! Si en aquel mundillo artístico vienés de mitad de siglo todos eran unos patanes interesados y arribistas… y él era parte de ese mudo… quizá él no era mucho mejor.
El narrador de Woodcutters no tiene su momento magdalena —que hubiera sido un momento champán, en todo caso— pero lentamente se va dando cuenta de que ni él es tan diferente, ni los demás son completamente estúpidos. Bueno, la mayoría sí, pero algunos —incluso el infecto actor del Burgtheater—, de vez en cuando, si se le escucha en lugar de juzgarles por su imagen pública, dicen cosas interesantes. Es más, algunos tienen el valor de expresar en voz alta lo que el narrador solo se atreve a rumiar para sí.
To get ourselves out of a tight spot, it seems to me, we are ourselves just as mendacious as those we are always accusing of mendacity, those whom we despise and drag in the dirt for their mendacity; we are not one jot better than the people we constantly find objectionable and insufferable, those repellent people with whom we want to have as few dealings as possible, though; if we are honest, we do have dealings with them and are no different from them.

Por otra parte, tiene que reconocer que no todo fue despreciable la época de la que ahora reniega con tanta vehemencia; es gracias a aquellos años, en especial a Joanna, que el narrador se dedicó a la literatura y llegó a ser lo que, para bien o para mal, es ahora.

Detrás de tanta crítica hay una confesión. El propio narrador ya lo había advertido: no se siente culpable al acusar despiadadamente a los demás de todo tipo de atrocidades porque a sí mismo se juzga incluso con más rigor. Pero al margen del sarcasmo del narrador y su catarsis final, no hay que perder de vista que mucho de lo que dice es tristemente cierto, y no solo para Viena y para los años ochenta. El hecho de que la novela fuera prohibida en Austria por difamatoria durante años prueba que más de un callo debió pisar. La pretenciosidad de un mundo artístico endogámico, la mercadotecnia que oculta la vulgaridad de los consagrados y asfixia la originalidad de los que toman riesgos, las ayudas oficiales a cambio de apoyo político son males que aquejan al mundo artístico en todos los países y en todas las épocas.

Pero me quedo con otra lectura: oculta tras la bilis y la mala leche, hay una enorme ternura por las pocas cosas que sí importan, la melancólica nostalgia por un tiempo pasado más inocente y sencillo —aunque quizá tan solo nos pareció que así era porque éramos jóvenes—, la tristeza por el precio pagado y los amigos que quedaron atrás. Los gruñones pueden ser, a veces, gente entrañable.
Profile Image for Paradoxe.
406 reviews96 followers
September 13, 2018

Είχα καιρό να βρεθώ σε φυσικό βιβλιοπωλείο. Ήθελα να ξεχάσω το χρόνο, περιμένοντας δυο φίλους να διαλέξουν δωράκια για μια παιδική γιορτή. Ξεχώρισα αρχικά το Μηδέν και το άπειρο και μετά συνέχισα να κοιτάω. Επέλεξα τελικά κάποιο του Ρεβέρτε, τον οποίο δεν έχω διαβάσει γενικά. Φεύγοντας έπεσε το μάτι μου στα πίσω ράφια της κλασικής και είδα ένα μικρό βιβλιαράκι που έκανε μπαμ από μακριά ότι είναι Έξαντας. Το είχα αναζητήσει παλιότερα και έτσι το πήρα στα χέρια μου. Αν και είχα διαβάσει κριτικές, επέλεξα να μη μάθω ποτέ την περίληψη. Αυτή τη φορά τη διάβασα. Ο λόγος που πήρα τελικά αυτό το βιβλίο και όχι του Ρεβέρτε ήταν μια λάθος εντύπωση που σχημάτισα για τη σχέση του συγγραφέα με τη Γιοάνα και κεντρίστηκα βιωματικά. Όχι δεν είχα ποτέ κάποια που να αυτοκτόνησε ή να αποπειράθηκε, αλλά με ναυάγια έχω μπλεχτεί και μάλλον πάντα μπλέκομαι. Αλλά δεν ήταν αυτό το στοιχείο που κέντρισε το ενδιαφέρον μου, ήταν πολύ περισσότερο πως αυτά τα ναυάγια όπως και το ναυάγιο του Μπέρνχαρτ έχουν ποιότητες, που πολλοί ‘’λογικοί’’ και νορμάλ δεν έχουν ούτε στο ελάχιστο.

Ξεκίνησε έτσι μια κατρακύλα στην απόγνωση. Δεν είναι για όλους το βιβλίο κι ούτε διαβάζεται χωρίς απόλυτη συγκέντρωση. Η συμβουλή μου είναι αν το βιβλίο σου έχει κεντρίσει το ενδιαφέρον, μην το πάρεις από ηλεκτρονικό κατάστημα, τουλάχιστον όχι άμεσα. Κάντο όπως αγοράζουμε κράνη. Πήγαινε σε ένα φυσικό βιβλιοπωλείο και πιάστο. Αφού διαβάσεις την περίληψη, άνοιξε το και διάβασε μερικές σελίδες. Θα ξέρεις. Αν είσαι ο αναγνώστης του, θα το ξέρεις. Σε επιλέγει. Ανήκει σε αυτή την κατηγορία. Μην το πάρετε γιατί θα σας το πουν οι άλλοι και οι δηθενιές των τάχα μου ιντελεξουέλ κριτικών. Να το πάρετε μόνο αν αρχίσει να τρέμει στα χέρια σας. Κι αν συμβεί αυτό δεν θα μπείτε καν στη διαδικασία να πάτε στο σπίτι να το παραγγείλετε, θα το πάρετε επιτόπου, μα 10 το βρείτε, μα 15.

Το πρώτο στοιχείο που με τράβηξε ήταν η ακριβολογία που θυμίζει μαθηματική πρόταση. Όσοι έχουν ασχοληθεί με την Ανάλυση, θα κατανοήσουν με μεγαλύτερη σαφήνεια τι εννοώ. Κι όποιος απ’ αυτούς δεν παραδεχτεί ότι μέσα στην ακέραιη έκφρασή, στην σε απόλυτες τιμές έκφραση, πως όσο κι αποστειρωμένη κι αν τη βρούνε, δε βλέπουν αυτό το πάθος που εκβάλλει ανάμεσα στις λέξεις και αναδίδει το παρελθόν, την αναζήτηση, τη ζωή, τους προτείνω ν’ αφήσουν τα μαθηματικά στην ησυχία τους, ν’ ασχοληθούν με κάτι άλλο.

Το ύφος του είναι πολεμικό, μου θύμιζε έντονα το Στρίντμπεργκ ( όχι ανόητε επειδή αναφέρεται μέσα στο κείμενο, δεν εννοώ τα θεατρικά έργα του, αλλά τον προσωπικό του τόνο ), τις σκέψεις του Ρασκόλνικωφ, σε ορισμένα μέρη τις Αναμνήσεις εγωτισμού και περισσότερο όλων τον Κιρκεγκώρ.

Ακολουθούν οι σκέψεις μου όπως ακριβώς σημείωνα στο ημερολόγιο μου, ήταν το μόνο που μπόρεσα να κάνω, όλα τα άλλα είχαν παραλύσει. Και δεν υπερβάλλω. Δυο νύχτες έβλεπα όνειρα στα οποία τσακωνόμουν με άλλους και με τον εαυτό μου και σπάνια βλέπω όνειρα.

Μ’ αρέσει ο συγγραφέας, τον καταλαβαίνω, έχω νιώσει έτσι ανάμεσα σε παρέες που παλιότερα ακολούθησα, εκμηδενίστηκα απ’ το τακίμιασμα στις εστίες τους, τη συνάφεια μαζί τους και την ευτέλεια των τρόπων και των θελήσεων τους και όμως σε στιγμές που βρέθηκα ευάλωτος, δέχτηκα ν’ ακολουθήσω πάλι, σαν το Μπέρνχαρτ. Η αποτύπωση του μονολόγου είναι εξαιρετικής πιστότητας. Ακόμη κι οι τόσο συχνές και κουραστικά διαβρωτικές επαναλήψεις γνωμοδοτούν ακριβώς τη συνεχή στροφή για νέα επίθεση προς τον εαυτό, περνώντας μέσα από την κριτική των άλλων και γυρνώντας στο αμείλικτο αυτομαστίγωμα.

Όμως, ομολογώ πως έχω δαγκώσει τη λαμαρίνα με συγγραφείς σαν το Μπροχ και σα το Σοπενάουερ ( που τόσο εύκολα κατηγορείται, αλλά που όμως ο Πεσιμισμός ουδεμία σχέση έχει με το Νιχιλισμό που συναντάμε εδώ. Ο Πεσιμισμός μόνο καταδεικνύει, προτείνει και περιφρονεί. Δεν ισοπεδώνει, Αφήνει παράθυρα, αφήνει τόπους ) και σαν άλλους κι είναι αδύνατο να μην απορρίψω την πολεμική επίθεση. Όχι. Προτιμώ την αντίσταση, την άμυνα, την απώθηση. Κι όλο αυτό με την πολεμική επίθεση συνάδει με την μοναξιά ως αυτοποινή, ως αυτοεξοστρακισμό, δεν είναι επιλογή σαν τη μοναχικότητα, όσο κι αν μοιάζουν. Αυτός που αντιστέκεται δεν έχει ανάγκη να παρελάσει, να ζητωκραυγάσει, να κατατροπώσει. Βεβαίως και θα νιώσει την ανάγκη της κοινωνικότητας, θα εκπέσει, μα θα πάρει μαζί και τον εαυτό του, γιατί ξέρει. Ξέ��ει τους ανθρώπους και ξέρει πώς να μην κλείνει την πόρτα του, να τον παίρνει μαζί, να είναι περισσότερο μ’ αυτόν και λιγότερο με τους άλλους. Δεν πάει σ’ αυτούς πολεμώντας. Μένει στον τόπο του και δεν απωθείται με τίποτα. Βεβαίως και θα τον πληγώσει η ευτέλεια, βεβαίως και θα νιώσει σαν προσβολές την κοινοτοπία, την κακογουστιά, τη μη ποιότητα, μια κουβέντα με κάποιο τόνο. Δεν είναι συνηθισμένος πια, άρα είναι ευαίσθητος όσο κι η νεαρή άβγαλτη ντεπιντάν. Και τελικά είναι πολύ επικίνδυνο για την αυταπαλλοτρίωση σου να κρίνεις καθ’ ολοκληρία τους άλλους και η αυτοκριτική σου να περιορίζεται στις πεπερασμένες επιλογές σου και να μην απλώνεται στο σύνολο που τις περικλείει, ουσιαστικά ακόμη και αν δε το λες βάζοντας στο βάθρο τον εαυτό σου, όχι ως καλύτερο, αλλά ως μη κρινόμενο. Στο απυρόβλητο. Μόνο όταν αντιμετωπίζεις το σύνολο σου πεπλεγμένο ή μη, βρίσκεσαι σε δρόμο διαφάνειας. Αποφεύγεις αυτό το μη υγιή διαρκή ερεθισμό.

Αυτό που στην αρχή έψαχνα δεν το βρήκα, χωρίς να είναι άκαρπο ταξίδι. Φοβάμαι πως οι Γιοάνες συχνά αυτοθυματοποιούνται. Αρνούνται να δουν την κλίση τους, βλέπουν μόνο την επιθυμία τους κι ας τους βγαίνει στην ύψιστη δημιουργική φωνή η πραγματική τους τάση και προκαλούν την απόρριψη τους. Έλκουν την εκμετάλλευση τους. ‘Η αυτή είναι μια λογικοφανής δικαιολογία, πολλών από μας απ’ τη θέση του συντρόφου, του φίλου, ή του κριτή, χωρίς όμως να ντυνόμαστε και τον προσδιορισμό του ανθρώπου. Κι ίσως όταν έρχεται η ώρα της δικής μας κριτικής αυτό να είναι το πλέον λυπηρό: να μη βλέπει το αντικείμενο των κατηγοριών της και να προκαλεί διαρκώς τον εαυτό της, να τον εκνευρίζει, ακριβώς για να μη το βρει. Και τότε τι μένει άλλο απ’ την αδυσώπητη αυτοκριτική, τη διάλυση σε κομματάκια όλων των στιγμών, το ξεμπρόστιασμα του εαυτού για κάθε κίνητρο του; Πού είναι η ευεργετική αναζήτηση της Αιτίας; Γιατί αυτό ή εκείνο ή το άλλο; Πού βρίσκεται το κατασταλαγμένο έτσι κι όχι αλλιώς; Τόσοι κεραυνού απαξίωσης κι αυτοαπαξίωσης, χωρίς σταματημό. Κατηγορεί εν προκειμένω, τους ντόπιους καλλιτέχνες που προσκολλήθηκαν στα ψίχουλα κι εκείνος αυτή τη στιγμή στέκει γαντζωμένος στη μπερζέρα, παγωμένος και δε μπορεί να κουνηθεί. Η πόρτα είναι πίσω του μα έχει ξεχάσει πως υπάρχει πόρτα. Είναι αδύνατο να μιλήσει στον εαυτό του κι έτσι σιωπά, μιλώντας.

Μια ανάσα παρακαλεί ο αναγνώστης! Πάρε μια ανάσα επιτέλους! Να σ’ είχα μπροστά μου να σε ταρακουνήσω, να σου παίξω μια τρίλια με νότες που δεν ταιριάζουν στο πιάνο, να χύσω τη σαμπάνια εκεί που τελειώνει το παπούτσι κι αρχίζει η κάλτσα σου, σταμάτα του λες, αλλά δε σταματάει. Ρέει κι επαναλαμβάνεται, ρέει κι αυτοπροσδιορίζει κάθε τόσο σαν για να θυμηθεί πως σκέφτηκε, είπε, πως είναι ακόμη στη μπερζέρα, σκέφτηκε ενώ ήταν στη μπερζέρα, για χτες, σκέφτηκε για χτες, για πριν τριάντα χρόνια, για πριν εικοσιπέντε, ναι εικοσιπέντε και πριν είκοσι χρόνια, σκέφτηκε στη μπερζέρα για πριν είκοσι χρόνια.

Σταμάτα του λες, είναι 1986, σε τρία χρόνια από τώρα θα κλατάρει η καρδιά σου. Κυοφορείς τη θανάσιμη ασθένεια σου, θα σε συντρίψει, θα σε διαλύσει, θα κόψει ένα νήμα που δεν πρέπει να κοπεί. Σταμάτα, φύγε, πήγαινε στον Μονταίνι σου, πήγαινε στον Τσέχωφ σου, πήγαινε στον Πασκάλ σου. Ναι αυτό είναι, να πιάσεις το ανθρώπινο πάθος του Πασκάλ. Δες το πάθος στις δικές σου σκέψεις, άδραξε το, κοινώνησε μέσα του, διοχέτευσε το στο φως. Και τελικά μένει ξέπνοος ο αναγνώστης. Μιλάω σ’ αυτό το νεκρό μηδενιστή, ή μιλώ στον εαυτό μου;

Είναι πάντα μεγάλο, επίκαιρο θέμα οι άνθρωποι που προδίδουν τα ιδανικά τους και μαζί εκείνους που τους πίστεψαν, που γι’ αυτό τους ακολούθησαν, δέχτηκαν να χειραγωγηθούν, να εκπέσουν γιατί εκείνοι τιμούσαν αυτά τα υψηλά. Αυτομάτως τη στιγμή που διατηρούν την έκφραση, αλλά μένει κούφια έκφραση, μετατρέπονται σε τοξικά σωματίδια, που μόνο εκμηδένιση μπορούν να προσφέρουν σ’ εκείνους που κάποτε τους πίστεψαν, τους ακολούθησαν, ερωτεύτηκαν τα μέσα τους.

Όσο για τη μετάφραση του μετέπειτα εκδότη των Νησίδων έχω να πω τα καλύτερα κι αισθάνομαι ασφαλής και νοσταλγικός στο αντίτυπο μου των 237 σελίδων του 1996, που φέρει την ασφάλεια της σφραγίδας Κοτζιά.
Profile Image for Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh.
167 reviews511 followers
August 24, 2013
“I eagerly crack open the book and can feel myself getting smarter as I turn the first few pages. At first, even though it is really depressing, this book excites me because it deals with mental health the arts, a subject I am very interested in.”

Do you consider yourself an eclectic reader? Willing to broaden your horizons, now and then explore one of those slightly obscure but much-admired novels? On top of that do you find it next to impossible to abandon a book? Well try this one on for size...From his wingchair at an ‘artistic’ party in Vienna an aging writer reflects back on his life, and mentally assassinates the character of every person (himself included) in the room. The party’s focus shifts between discussing an actress who has recently hung herself and the pompous guest of honour, a stage actor from ‘the Burgtheater’. And that’s it – prepare yourself for some serious navel-gazing, a nonstop monologue that's tediously repetitive, dripping venom & oozing contempt.

“But the novel is nothing but a trick. I will not be quoting Hemingway Bernhard anytime soon, nor will I ever read another one of his books”

I’ve never struggled so hard to finish a book so why did I bother? Bragging rights at parties! Hey Matthew Quick’s just a flash in the pan, how about that Bernhard? Sorry. The richness of the characters, his biting satire, his masterful scene setting – you are IN Vienna - just brilliant. And I did like the ending.
When all is said and done, it is a novel I'll never forget, poker burned into my psyche. Similar to how I feel about Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” – Yes I admire it and no I don’t like it. Bernhard is a brilliant writer – sucked me right into that wingchair.

“And if he were still alive, I would write him a letter right now and threaten to strangle him dead with my bare hands just for being so glum.”

All quotes are from Matthew Quick’s The Silver Linings Playbook
The Scream sells for $120 Million: http://leicesterbangs.blogspot.ca/201...
Profile Image for Josh.
308 reviews163 followers
February 12, 2016
This is a winged chair:

Nothing spectacular. Just a chair.

This is a man in a winged chair:

He is the observer; the archetype of neurosis.

Neither are authentic to the story of ‘Woodcutters’, but are significant in nature. A man possibly perceived as having a sense of ubiquity mocks his old acquaintances, but also mocks 19th century Viennese bourgeoisie society. As this non-forgiving, self-deprecating curmudgeon sits in his winged chair he displays his angst of the past and his hatred for the hypocrisy of the people who he has accepted an artistic dinner invitation from as they both learn of a mutual friend’s suicide.

When this unrelenting attitude is not displayed from the winged chair, it’s from a dinner table as the actor arrives, for whom they’ve been waiting for. The all-inclusive dinner is reminiscent of this scene from Beetlejuice:

…and the actor, a Tombstone-esque Billy Zane type, the one you love to hate as he conforms to the absurd and arrogant people to which he is a part of and then as characteristics are exposed, you start to warm up to him as he blasts one of the guests as he transforms into the philosopher , an unyielding man of emotion.

As the dinner disperses for the late night/early morning, the narrator is the same, yet reflective. Knowing he hates the society for which he left, but also knowing without it, he wouldn’t be who he is. It is a love/hate relationship not only for Vienna, but for himself.

Entertaining and intelligent. 4 stars easily.
Profile Image for Szplug.
467 reviews1,259 followers
February 16, 2013
Brilliant, bilious, hilarious, unsettling, a breathlessly intense, sustained novelistic experience that leaves you smiling and strained on the outside, nicked and nourished beneath the skin. By this point in his literary output Thomas Bernhard was a master craftsman, and the narrative voice he conjures for the unnamed—but immensely Bernhardian—writer whose interiority serves as the driving force of this little human engine that couldn't ranks among his very best. Personally, and has always proven the case with this author, the experience of reading Woodcutters was binary in nature—there's the surface story, unfolding in monoparagraphic form before one's eyes, that features the usual cast of obsessive, anguished, speechifying, misanthropic, circular and suicidal Austrians, barking, baiting, and biting at each other before the caustic gaze of the narrative ringmaster, who weaves his own perception of personal, idealistic, and mental erosion into the blistering denunciations that nucleate the essence of the textual spell cast across the pages. And then there simultaneously exist the mineshafts tunneling deeper into the existential state of things—and where, progressing whilst yet diverted from the story happenings above, you can become immersed in wending along the various gradients—in which the excavations of the living, daylong mind are presented, amplified and inflated, both as regards the mazing undertaken and erected on the back side of that incorporeal cracked mirror and how it frames and sublimates that which it takes in, via relentless sensory suction, and parses as a personal evaluation of all that lies exterior, foreign and unassimilated, to that motive emulator of Maxwell's Demon. That is, it's a stream of consciousness in which a story is told in twain—one of the mind's corroded perception of the world, the obverse of the mind's magnification, disruption, and distortion of the latter, such that the first awareness can be both clarified and cast in doubt. It's a difficult act to pull off; but, in my opinion, there are few authors better endowed to handle the task than Thomas Freaking Bernhard. He gets it and gives it every time.

Thus, we open with the narrator, an Austrian author of a singularly sour, dissatisfied bent, resentfully present at an artistic dinner being hosted by the Auersbergers, a wealthy Viennese couple, held in honor of an as-yet-unarrived actor from the state-sponsored Burgtheater, where he's starring in a production of Ibsen's The Wild Duck, and transpiring late in the evening of the same day in which Joana—an artist friend of narrator, host, and the assembled guests, who hanged herself a few days prior—was buried in her home village of Kilb. This nameless voice—who delivers his relentless procession of declarative, ruminative, and speculative invective with a measured steadiness that speaks of a calm belying the angry agitation that fuels the torrent—was once a constant friend, companion, and lover to the Auersbergers and Joana, not to mention other guests such as Jeannie Billroth, an (allegedly) hackneyed writer long sold out to creature comforts who nonetheless fancies herself as the Austrian Virginia Woolf. But that was thirty, twenty-five, twenty years ago—the dates are as fluid as the choleric current which carries them along—and in the intervening years, those in which he apparently secreted himself away from the lot of them ere they destroyed and then annihilated him with their insatiable demands, he has taken the true measure of their character, their abilities, their lifestyle, permeated as they are with the essence of an abhorred state, and now views them, and their works, with a hatred that teeters between contempt and exhaustion.

In this way, the narrator, secreted away upon his shrouded wing chair, passes two thirds of the novel in a vituperative, circular, and encompassing tirade upon each and every aspect of this absurd supper, its ridiculous guests, the dolorous suicide, its acidic locale, and—the focal anchor for the narrator's obsessive reviling—the Auersbergers: obscenely wealthy bourgeois parasites (allegedly), a conductor and singer whose undoubted talents have been squandered through the corruptions of time, mediocre ambitions, and the essential nature of Vienna/Austria. The remainder comprises more of the same, but conducted in the dining and music rooms after the arrival of the actor, whilst the revelations grow more personal, spreading inwards and outwards—and with the aged, weary actor himself enkindling both the narrator's visceral disregard and spontaneously exuberant rebirth, in which the greaves and curiass of his mental armor are, at the end, rapturously abandoned, that a new set might be constructed from the memorial detritus of this dinner as Dunciad. It is negativity and hilarity, engirding poignancy and contemplation, alienation and abandon, all in equal measure and taken unto the limits such that they fill every particle of textual being.

What's that? Sounds about as inviting as a train wreck? Well, that's the funny thing. What it is about Bernhard that sucks me right into and down his own particular splenetic rabbit hole are those underworld passageways, the subtexts and parallel purposes—at least as I have discerned them—that accompany and are intertwined within what's transpiring under the open sky. For as much as Woodcutters details a ceaseless assault upon all that is wrong with the modern world in its mountainous permutation of Austrian state and ancient capital, the shabbiness, falsehoods, pretensions, and debilitations of faux-artsy cliques maneuvering within a crass, status-riven society overseen by a fumbling, strangling bureaucracy deaf to human desires, it simultaneously redirects that obloquy against the accuser. The narrator's polemic, which consumes all traces of oxygen in its encompassing nature, serves yet as a polemic against that degree of mental hyperemia, a modern incarnation of obsession taken to the maximum degree. Indeed, within this twinning of accusation, in which the light cast forth shines inwards at least as brightly as it does without, the accuracy of the latter comes more and more to be called into question. And I think this is the inevitable result of such a solipsistic, ego-driven engagement with the physical world. Such is the manner in which Bernhard pens his prose that he endows his voices with a potent conviction, limns their words with a truth emphasized by the thoroughness and breadth with which they are uttered—and so when things leak out, slip through the cracks of controlled repetition, burst forth to startling effect, that persuasive essence comes to undermine its own case. In every Bernhard novel that I've read, the principal narrative agent impresses me as being both searingly honest and utterly unreliable.

The writer voicing Woodcutters makes allusion to the oft-stated Bernhardian ideal that only in the highest is there satisfaction. This is a gnostic level of expectation—since the perfect idea is always imperfectly realized, the material world in which it is so rendered comes to seem marred, debilitating, of a lesser degree and, hence, filled with lesser creatures. But wouldn't that apply, in full, to the mind hurling such continuous and bitter denunciations? The narrator condemns all that isn't highest—but that encompasses almost everything, including the narrator himself. In such a complete denigration of the failures and frauds of others, the limitations, even illusions, of that standard are laid bare, morally mangled and metastasized. The mind, locked on such a pervasive abundance of targets, in projecting from itself must, as gravity bends light, come to circle in on itself, exaggerating, reducing through repetition, abrading and eroding its target-the world-until it has diminished it, and itself, to the point of pallidity and absurdity. This process produces outbursts and tangents that vary from the mediating script. Thomas Bernhard fully understands the circular rhythms of mental processes, especially when they are engorged and inflated. The usage of repetition, the mantras of steadying thought function as a defense mechanism, taken to extremes. It shores up foundations, builds verity and confidence, no matter the actuality of what it is providing that interior service for. Even lies, repeated often enough and in unvarying form, take on the hue of truth.

So it is that, from that echoing nature, it comes forth that the narrator may, in fact, be the agent and instigator of virtually every sin he pins to the Auersbergers, Jeannie, Joana, the aged actor. All that he accuses them of may, in fact, have derived from his actions, his abandonments, his abuses. The intervening years, then, have perhaps not served as a salvational period away from those who would have insatiably reduced him to a husk, but rather provided the time and means to ensure that self-knowledge of his own culpability, existing inside such a formidable condemnatory machine, was turned outwards, exercised unto pervasiveness and furiously launched and maintained, that some manner of reparation might be effected on the one most responsible for the ills being decried.

Why? I don't know. Maybe that's a lot my own words and thought expended upon something neither particularly insightful nor applicable to Bernhard, here or in whole. And it's a bleak presentation—for if we're in the kind of echo chamber where a corroded mind turns itself against the world, diminishes the latter to the point of execration and simultaneously is leeched of its will by that degraded world it so perceives, where lies the road to salvation? With Bernhard, often in suicide, or early death from the inevitable breakdowns deriving from such severe physical and mental impairment. And if bodily extinction manages to be avoided, it's to pursue the course of isolation: removing oneself from the pathogens of the modern world and its ravenous populace—either by hiding oneself away (preferably in, say, a garret) to pass the days in reading great works, pacing the floor, and burnishing that (one) perfect idea that resides within the mind and should/will/must never be brought out of that idealized womb; or else absconding into the heart of quiet, forested, being-empty nature, where in tranquil silence and arboreal envelopment one can find the harmony so alien to life as experienced within the bustle and schemes, inevitable despairs and spiritual envelopment of mastering civilization.

As I say, that may all be absolute fucking nonsense. So here's what I do know: I thrill, chill, shrink from and marvel at how much of myself I can recognize in Bernhard's damaged creations. I am engaged in a similar sort of struggle with a mind that has grown outsized and outlandishly smothering, declaring war on both the self within which it is contained and the world that fosters the self. So I feel a sort of kinship with this author, in that he has to have experienced the same frightening, enervating, and immobilizing metastasis of that maddened mind locked into avenues of repetition and regurgitation that insatiably devour time and ambition whilst hobbling hope and anticipation. He's more openly and outwardly bitter than I am, aggressive, his anger far more visceral, focused, and brought to bear upon targets on both sides of the plane—but that's simply because he's more honest than I am, more courageous and prepared to engage in struggle to escape the labyrinthine distractions and despairs inflicted when STENTORIAN CONSCIOUSNESS ATTACKS! Perhaps, too, like Cioran, in that though he may paint in a hard light the grim means of egress from this intolerable situation, he yet tolerated it. So we should tolerate it. Even consider, try to configure, how it might all be an illusion of that shrilly overactive mind. Perhaps the world is not really quite as horrid as it is made to be. It may be that the perfect is the true enemy of the good—because that kind of purity is simply unattainable, and in gauging against such an immeasurable standard, even the good will come to seem paltry, meager, and contemptible. And that's where the humour that walks hand-in-hand with the blanketing mind and its unstoppable tergiversations, growing in tandem with its chest-puffing companion, looms so large, releasing the pressure and persistently painting in the bright hues of the absurd. That's how I feel, particularly and pungently right here, right now. I don't know if it's the same for others—for that matter, I worry that I've lost the plot here and haven't managed, or found the conviction, to state things clearly and accurately. All I can say, with absolute certainty, is that I love the novels written by this man—this brilliant, bilious, hilarious, unsettling, breathlessly intense and sensitive man.
Profile Image for Markus.
216 reviews70 followers
February 19, 2021
„Auch wenn Sie den Drang oder die Manie haben, jetzt hundertprozentig die Wahrheit zu schreiben, gelingt es Ihnen nicht, weil Sie müßten die Wirklichkeit auf‘s Papier klatschen können, das geht nicht. In dem Moment aber, wie Sie mit stilistischen Mitteln und Sprache drangehen, ist es etwas anderes und auf jeden Fall eine Verfälschung, aber vielleicht eine Annäherung.“
aus Kurt Hofmann - Aus Gesprächen mit Thomas Bernhard

Es ist als Österreicher schwierig, Holzfällen ganz unbedarft zu lesen, wenn man die öffentliche Erregung miterlebt hat, die der Roman 1984 ausgelöst hat, einschließlich des gerichtlichen Urteils über ein eigentlich erkenntnistheoretisches Problem von Wirklichkeit und Fiktion, und einschließlich der amtlichen Beschlagnahme der Erstauflage durch uniformierte Polizei in allen Buchhandlungen des Landes. Für das jüngere oder ortsfremde Publikum ist es einfacher, denn diesem dürfte außer der "größenwahnsinnigen Wiener Lokalschriftstellerin" Anna Schreker alias Mayröcker kaum jemand aus dieser Provinzposse bekannt sein. Dem Verkauf des Buches hat die Aufregung sicher nicht geschadet, so man ja auch zu einer typisch österreichischen Lösung gekommen ist: Lampersberg zog die Klage zurück und Unseld bezahlte die Rechnung.

Ich fand den Auflauf damals widerwärtig und habe die Lektüre trotzig verweigert. Für Thomas Bernhard hatte ich wenig übrig und meine Sympathien lagen eher bei dem Ehepaar Lampersberg, die als Förderer der von mir sehr geschätzten Wiener Gruppe um H.C Artmann, Gerhard Rühm oder Konrad Bayer galten.

Es ist gut, dass ich Holzfällen erst jetzt gelesen habe, so konnte ich mich auf den inneren Gehalt konzentrieren und diesen entsprechend würdigen: von dem Dutzend Bernhards, die ich bis jetzt gelesen habe, hat dieser einen Grad von Perfektion erreicht, der schon fast unheimlich ist. Wer keinen Bernhard lesen will, sollte Holzfällen lesen.

Stichwort innerer Gehalt: Bernhard hat sich ausschließlich für das Innere interessiert. Das Äußere, Handlung, Ereignisse, usw., "... die halten ja nur auf, sind ja auch uninteressant. Innere Vorgänge, die niemand sieht, sind das einzige Interessante an Literatur überhaupt. Alles Äußere kennt man ja. Das was niemand sieht, das hat einen Sinn aufzuschreiben." so Bernhard im Interview mit Krista Fleischmann.

Auch wenn man Personen und Fakten in diesem autobiografisch inspirierten Schlüsselroman eindeutig einer äußeren Realität zuordnen kann, sind sie nur der Lehm, die Pigmente und Partikeln, aus denen Bernhard seinen Roman als neues und eigenständiges Kunstwerk formt und dabei eher wie ein Komponist vorgeht als ein Autor, indem er sein Material vor allem in einen formalen und rhythmischen Zusammenhang bringt.

Sicher kann man das Buch als ein Lehrstück über Künstlichkeit und Oberflächlichkeit lesen, auch über die Eitelkeit einer dekadenten Künstlerschaft, denen ein typischer Bernhardscher Geistesmensch als Beobachter gegenübersitzt, der im Hochwald seiner Gedanken das Holzfällen als Sinnbild für die natürlichste aller Geistestätigkeit pflegt. Noch mehr als das "was" hat mich aber das "wie" begeistert, die stilistische Substanz, die in der Ordnung der Worte und Sätze liegt.

Der Erzähler sitzt abseits und gänzlich unbeteiligt an der Abendgesellschaft auf dem Ohrensessel, einmal schläft er sogar ein, und berichtet nur, was sich in seinem Inneren abspielt: Wahrnehmung, Gedanken, Erinnerungen, Gefühle. Es ist jedoch kein Gedankenstrom, wie gerne behauptet wird, denn niemand denkt in solch fein ziselierten und strukturierten Sätzen, die bis in die Satzzeichen hinein minutiös durchkomponiert sind. Später wechselt der Erzähler ins Esszimmer und nach dem Essen ins Musikzimmer. Die beiden Ortswechsel sind seine einzigen Handlungen und sie stehen nur als Markierungen, die dem Stück seine dreisätzige Form geben. Die drei Teile unterscheiden sich ganz klar in ihrem Temperament und steigern sich analog zum Champagnerpegel der Gäste in ihrer Dynamik.

Die rhythmische Phrasierung der Worte und Sätze - sie fasziniert mich bei Bernhard immer mehr, erreicht eine unglaubliche Präzision und Intensität. Manchmal findet sie sich sogar im Kontext der Worte wieder und mimt so wie hier einen ¾ Takt:

[…] und er sagte, wieder Suppe löffelnd, und zwar alle zwei Wörter einen Löffel Suppe nehmend, also er sagte der Ekdal und löffelte Suppe und sagte war schon und löffelte Suppe und immer meine und löffelte Suppe und sagte Lieblingsrolle gewesen und löffelte Suppe […]

Was den Text so reizvoll und spannend macht, ist auch das Spiel mit Gegensätzen und Widersprüchen, das dauernde Oszillieren zwischen These und Antithese. Auch wenn der Erzähler die Anwesenden auf das niederträchtigste bloßstellt, entdeckt er auch immer wieder positive Seiten. Das führt auch zu der Schlüsselszene, in der der Burgschauspieler plötzlich "Wald, Hochwald, Holzfällen" ausruft und der Beobachter von dieser spontanen Einsicht geradezu begeistert ist und mehrere Seiten lang sein Staunen darüber schildert, wie dieser widerwärtige Witze- und Anekdotenerzähler, der nur durch Lächerlichkeit, Dummheit und Aufgeblasenheit aufgefallenen war, auf einmal zur interessanten, ja sogar zur philosophischen Figur dieses künstlerischen Abendessens wurde. Ganz am Ende des Romans gibt er noch eine Hasstirade auf die Stadt Wien, um dann aber festzustellen, dass er ja doch nur in Wien glücklich sein könne. Nichts ist definitiv, alles ist ambivalent und der Stimmungslage des Augenblicks ausgeliefert und selbst der Augenblick kann unbestimmt sein.

"Ich bin, obwohl ich auf keinen Fall in die Gentzgasse hatte gehen wollen, in die Gentzgasse gegangen, sagte ich mir auf dem Ohrensessel […]"

Das Spiel mit Gegensatz und Kontrast wirkt ganz besonders eindrucksvoll, wenn der Fokus immer wieder zum Selbstmord der Joana und auf das am selben Tag stattgefundene Begräbnis schwenkt. Vor diesem Hintergrund erscheint die aufgesetzte Künstlichkeit der Abendgesellschaft und ihre Oberflächlichkeit noch viel lächerlicher und Bernhards vielleicht bekanntestes Zitat wird Programm: Es ist alles lächerlich, wenn man an den Tod denkt!.

Kurz gesagt, ich bin begeistert und freue mich schon, bald seinen nächsten und achten Roman Alte Meister zu lesen.

ps.: Ich habe vergessen zu erwähnen, dass ich auch diesmal herzlich lachen und schmunzeln konnte, der subtile Humor ist eine von Bernhards Qualitäten, die ich ganz besonders schätze.

Löffelte der Burgschauspieler seine Suppe schnell, löffelten auch sie ihre Suppe schnell, löffelte er sie langsamer, löffelten auch sie sie langsamer und wie er aufgehört hatte, seine Suppe auszulöffeln, hatten auch sie ihre Suppe ausgelöffelt. Sie waren längst mit dem Suppenauslöffeln fertig, da hatte ich noch den halben Teller voll Suppe. Sie schmeckte mir übrigens nicht und ich ließ sie stehen.
Profile Image for Argos.
1,033 reviews315 followers
May 5, 2020
İlk Thomas Bernhard okumam. İlk satırından son satırına kadar hiç bölüm, paragraf vb ayırıcı öğe kullanmadan blok olarak yazılmış bir roman. İlginç bir tarzı var, bir cümleyi 4-5 kez tekrarlıyor. Bir baştan sona, bir sondan başa, veya cümle ortasında bir yerden başa veya sona doğru çeşitlemelerle yazdığı metni tekrarlıyor, aynı tekrarlamaları kelimelerde de yapıyor. Biraz sinir bozucu bir tarz geldi bana, bu nedenle sağlam ve etkileyici bir öyküyü zayıflattığını düşünüyorum.

Kendi yaşamından, yirmili yaşlardan ellili yaşlara kadar olan bir kesitten bahseden Bernhard, kendisinin de içinde yer aldığı, Viyana’lı sanatçılar ve sanat çevresi hakkında kızgınlık, öfke ve nefretini anlatırken kendi ezikliğini de anlatmaktan çekinmemiş. Romanın adı aslında içeriği yansıtmıyor, roman kahramanlarının birinin bir sözünden esinlenmiş, neden böyle anlamadım. Şimdilik T. Bernhard beklentimin altında, ama bir kaç kitabını daha okurum.
Notum 3,5’dan 4 yıldız
Profile Image for Mariel.
667 reviews1,072 followers
March 7, 2012
The artistic life. The artistic world.

Writing feels fake to me. Not other people's writing. I mean that me writing doesn't feel natural to me. The more articulate I try to be the worse it gets. This "You're such a fake" voice and a rising of stupidity blush on the back of my neck (my ears get it the worst, in the end). I do it anyway. I like thinking about stuff. I pretty much have to have it or I'll feel even more doldrums and pointless circles than ever. It's the trying to say it all together in one place with some kind of point and in a way that makes sense that's really embarrassing. Especially if I try to say it well. Faker! What's clarity? And what are connections to other things? (I would love it if my brain could produce some kind of map connecting all of the things I've heard, seen and read. With lines in thick or thin shapes that correlate to their relevance to other things.)

Thomas Bernhard does it. The puffed up standing around and sitting around and talking about la di da da da artistic dinners and did you hear that song and the next Virginia Woolf, the percursor to Webern, blah blah. Thinking you know anything about someone else's marriage because they invited you into their home and are putting on a cracks and all facade for someone's benefit. What an asshole you feel like because you find yourself playing the society game of "It's so nice to be here. I'll call you". I'm such a jerk, I wanted to know how she killed herself. Did she do it in the way that I suspected would fit a person that I suspected her to be? I could have placed bets on when I thought she would have done it by now. They don't look as upset as I think they should be. What assholes! Life sucks. People die, go to a dinner party. What am I even doing here?

I missed the writer keeping himself alive writing playlets for Joanna the movement director, Joanna the woman behind the tapestry artist, Joanna the ballerina or Joanna the actress. Hunched together in her room when her husband isn't home. Or happy and singing arias in German, English and Italian at the Auersberger's piano. It felt sad that he couldn't go back to that, couldn't pretend that their "art" was going anywhere, or was at the center of their lives. He could have been reading alone in his bedroom. Me too.

The cruel thing is when you need people and when you don't need them and you spit them out. There's a loss and a doubt in their place.

The actor from the Burgtheatre, the one they wait past midnight for soup to be served, played his dream role as Ekdal in the production of Ibsen's The Wild Duck (I can't remember if I ever read this one). He could be there out of politeness, or maybe he liked the idea of an "artistic dinner". He wouldn't have gone if he knew that there would be someone there who would take apart his every component until the parts meant nothing. It's like saying something so often, maybe in an interview, until it is all lines to be rehearsed. I wasn't as taken aback when the actor becomes interesting to the writer by saying out loud what he is thinking (if he had known those words could have been addressed to the writer himself, not that he gets that). He doesn't play the part of the guest any more and get poked and prodded. It wasn't the being silent in a dinner party and having all of these thoughts that interested me about Woodcutters. I would have imagined that the actor was not happy to be there. I could see the Viennese Virginia Woolf feeling like the abandoned child when her parents have a new favorite baby.

My mind map that I've got would walk (down the Graben) on planks to jump off pedestals. I've read complaints (maybe they were just remarks) that Bernhard is a one note kind of guy. I think of it more as walking down the same street in the same town, not necessarily the same direction. The Loser made me think a lot about keeping people on pedestals. Woodcutters made me think about knocking people off of them to feel like you're still moving. That's what interested me about Woodcutters. The love he once had and then that he had to stop loving them. There's a quote on the back of the book that compares Bernhard to Beckett. I can see this, especially for Beckett's Watt. I might not have put this together otherwise. I mean, my book connections are not usually the ones on book jackets. I'm probably the only person on the entire internet who connected The Loser with The Fountain Overflows (Rebecca West). I will not get invited to dinner parties with the Viennese Virginia Woolf. They would ask me who they are the next something something of and I'll say the wrong thing, like "The poor girl's Kathy Griffin?" Watt's repeat sentences felt to me like someone trying to feel around for reality by constantly naming it. Bernhard's repeat sentences felt to me a little like that. If he was missing a tooth he might touch the empty spot with his tongue to keep checking that it was gone. Even to keep alive like stoking a fire or a shark swimming. Sometimes the truth changes. I don't need them, I need them. I could be somewhere else. Touch the hole and that becomes the keeping you alive movement. I don't need them, I don't need the city.

Yesterday a coworker was criticizing someone we work with for being the man he knew who wanted to be high society more than any other man he ever knew. I caught myself from replying "But what about Auersberger?" in excited, "Yeah, I know!" tones. (This man's only crime is wearing dorky sweater vests and playing tennis. He's hardly Auesberger!) I do that a lot. Book people are real people to me and I take it way too seriously. That's why I don't think I could ever start referring to anything as artistic anything. I would hate myself if I ever did. It wouldn't feel really me. Real me doesn't make art. It stumbles in repeat sentences.

Woodcutters made me think about people I used to find interesting and then no longer did. (Some of them books and not real people.) Not that I think it could go any other way, just that it's something that's too easy to do... Maybe it hurts more than you think it does. Maybe you'll try to get it back and sit in a wingchair at a dinner party and hope to see the lost magic again. Or go on taking it apart and you won't have to.

"And as I went on running I thought: I'll write something at once, no matter what -- I'll write about this artistic dinner in the Gentzgasse at once, now. Now, I thought -- at once, I told myself over and over again as I ran through the Inner City -- at once, I told myself, now -- at once, at once, before it's too late."

What do you know? He had to think about it too. If you don't draw them into shapes you have no idea what they mean, I think.

I did think Woodcutters was funny. Like when Auesberger slams the table and complains about the quality of the goulash. If I ever get invited to any kind of party again I'll do that and then talk about Auesberger like he was a real person.
Profile Image for StefanP.
148 reviews80 followers
December 9, 2019

Razviti umjetnost starenja vjerovatno predstavlja najveće zadovoljstvo.

Vrlo je lijepo bilo čitati ovu knjigu. Naročito po kišnim i sivim danima. Tada se daleko dublje osjeti Bernhardov animozitet koji polako ali sigurno pronikava u nas same. Međutim, mi ne treba da ga prihvatimo u potpunisto kao takvog, već da taj animozitet preokrenemo u našu korist, i izbjegnemo sve nelagodnosti s kakvim se sam autor susretao.

Da bi se napravilo jedno umjetničko veče bila je potrebna smrt nekoga od bliskih poznanika iz družine umjetnika. Na toj večeri Tomas Bernhard će voditi unutrašnji monolog o tome kakav je umjetnički život grada Beča. Kakav je nekada bio, a kakav je sada.

Zagađivači kulturne sredine će da isplivavaju na svakoj stranici. Srozavanje bečkih umjetnika na svim nivoima. Naročito onih koji rade za nezasićenu publiku, štono kažu mase, i tako pretvarajući sve u šund teže da se nakače na državu ne bi li muzli premiju od iste. Neki su mišljenja da ministarstvo kulture ne bi ništa trebalo da daje novca za umjetnost, jer što se on sve više ubacuje to je umjetnost sve gora. Sve one nagrade, stipendije i počasti stvaraju jednu zarobljenu, oportunističku umjetnost. Bernharda izrazito hvata mučnina od onih umjetnika koji najviše energije troše do odlaska u ministarstvo po novac, a već godinama tupe o revoluciji i napretku.
Profile Image for William2.
758 reviews3,079 followers
November 16, 2016
The great paradox of this Bernhard narrator, like so many others, is his hypercritical nature, which is often in conflict with itself, and, for the entire book, his utterly static physical presence. Indeed, he never moves during the narration, which occurs at a dinner party, except to go to the next room and back. The action, if it can be called that, for most is reminiscence, takes place during a single day. The phase he uses constantly is: "I thought, sitting in the wing chair. . ." The unnamed narrator has returned to Vienna for the first time in thirty years, from his self-imposed exile in London.

Since his return he has spent a portion of each day walking up and down Vienna's streets, most recently the Graben and the Karntnerstrasse. Here he runs into old associates, the Auerbergers, who were lovers and mentors thirty years before, but whom he now despises with a passion that is often laughable in its boundlessness. The entire book is an internal monologue of rage. Everyone he was friendly with 30 years ago he now despises. He is appalled by the fact that he has actually attended this so-called artistic dinner. Why did he come? He doesn't know. He is indifferent to nothing. Anything and everything provokes an almost out of control rage. He seeths with perceived slights. Yet, he says nothing. He is as much controlled by the social contract as anyone at the dinner. Indeed, perhaps more so, since a few others are at least not afraid to make their displeasure known when they hear an opinion they disagree with.

Joana, an old associate, has recently hung herself. Most of those who attended the funeral also seem to be at the artistic dinner in honor of an actor currently playing Ekdal in a production of Ibsen's The Wild Duck at the Burgtheater. The narrator knows better than to get worked up. He repeatedly berates himself for giving way to his hysteria, but then just as quickly he is right back at it. He cannot help himself. Now why? Why does he sit there and seeth and yet bottle it up. Well, you see, he is a writer. This is his process; this is his subject matter. The book we have just read is the product of that terrible evening.
Profile Image for Mary.
430 reviews787 followers
July 5, 2015
You’ve always lived a life of pretense, not a real life – a simulated existence, not a genuine existence. Everything about you, everything you are, has always been pretense, never genuine, never real.

Bernhard's satire of Viennese petit bourgeois society is one long frantic, hateful, angry, and at times even nostalgic internal monologue. It’s narrated as if it’s one deep exhale by an aging writer who has returned to Vienna after several decades away and has reunited with people he “didn’t like 30 years ago and doesn’t like now.” He spends the majority of the novel sitting in the corner at a dinner party hating everything about everyone, and hating himself even more for attending. That’s it. But, it’s fascinating.

Once you get over how funny this book is, it turns quietly sad. There’s that complicated feeling when one has an intense love-hate of their city and their people (and themselves), and that old adage of how you can never really escape who you are and where you come from, no matter how much you turn up your nose. And by the way, all those people you’re making fun of? You’re just as vile and pedantic, if not more.

The dinner party sort of turns into an impromptu gathering for the group’s friend (and the narrator’s ex-lover) who has committed suicide. His internal tirades start to become a bitter reminiscence about love and relationships, youth, loss.

We spend years sucking all we can out of someone, and then, having almost sucked them dry, we suddenly say that we ourselves are being sucked dry. And then for the rest of our lives we have to live with the knowledge of our own baseness.

This book makes Bukowski seem almost cheerful. Loved it.
Profile Image for Agnieszka.
258 reviews931 followers
February 9, 2023

Novel "Woodcutters" takes place during one evening through so-called artistic dinner given by a couple of narrator’s former friends. A pretext for the dinner is a visit of known actor, but the real reason is a suicidal death of their mutual friend, unfulfilled artist Joana. And that way a celebration for the actor transforms into a funeral reception. What would come of it? Nothing good except a gripping writing.

Narrator, an uncompromising observer hidden in the shadow, sitting in the wing chair with contempt and boundless spitefulness comments behavior of the guests. His obsessive an interior monologue with one continually repeated phrase I thought, sitting in the wing chair is one great accusation of an artistic circles, upper classes and bourgeois mentality and finally Austria itself. Bernhard seems to take a perverted delight in massacring own country. Austria for him is an inept country, Vienna – city destroying artists, not mention famous Burgtheater, according to Bernhard, the worst theatre scene in the world. He's not the subtle one and shows no mercy to anyone and anything, with aversion verging on fascination attacks Vienna elites, their snobbery and obscurantism, xenophobia and pro-fascist sympathies, complacency and shallowness. Bernhard straight out throws up Austria, with delight pulling all this mutual adoration society apart, these mediocre so-called artists and their claims to greatness. His reluctance or, as a matter of fact, hatred is almost substantial.
Powerful prose.Keep you in the seat. Literally.

And by way of digression, what’s wrong with Austria ?
Profile Image for Maria.
79 reviews73 followers
August 24, 2017
In a big, old chair at a late night dinner party, the main character sits and rages silently over his hosts, their art snobbery and the general state of the culture scene in Vienna. Half hidden behind a door, he observes the other guests and reminisce on events from the past. He regrets accepting the invitation to this "late night artistic dinner" with old acquaintances he obviously loathes. My Norwegian translation has a subtitle that can be translated as "An agitation", which is very fitting. The language is rhythmic, almost hypnotic, very repetitive and intense. The whole book is about the main character's agitation, rage, melancholy and despair.

I think the English title is usually Cutting Timber or Woodcutters, while the original is Hultsfellen. The latter means trees that topple over on their own, from old age or rot, or some other natural reason. And I think it's past tense? So the original title might be interpreted to mean that the old giants, the old authorities, have fallen, maybe from rot, or from growing too big and heavy. This makes sense when you think about the main character's never ending criticism of art snobbery. The entire book can be read as a furious critique of Vienna's high culture.

And still, there seems to be a conflict between rage and accept/friendliness throughout the novel. Especially in the instances when the main character realizes or admits to himself that he is no better than the people he is criticizing. It made me wonder what the secondary characters in this novel are actually like, because the reader has almost no contact with the world outside the main character's raging mind. It's a little bit like stream of consciousness, except this inner monologue is more theoretical/analytical and less about sensory input.

Repetition. The main character repeats words and phrases that gets stuck in his head. Words are doubled and repeated in complex and rhythmical patterns, which builds up and builds up. It intensifies, underlines, focuses and shows his agitation. He even says some of them out loud so many times that people starts to stare at him, and in the first half of the book, this is the only direct contact between the main character and other people. It's like his inner world - his thoughts and frustrations - is leaking out into the world around him. The main character's rants are often quite funny, and the agitated, never ending stream of thoughts are fascinating to read, in spite of their repetitiveness.

Exaggeration. Hyperbole is used throughout - a metaphor of exaggeration, a figure of anger. It strengthens the picture of "the enemy", and by using this type of rhetoric, you can distance yourself from the thing you criticize. The novel makes war on people, social norms and certain types of behavior. But hyperboles are often difficult to take seriously. There is too much patos, it's all to exaggerated (and sometimes quite funny). The main character might have some good points, but he gives us no evidence. He is definitely an unreliable narrator, albeit an eloquent one. This makes me ponder what his intention is. Is he really trying to convince us, or himself, of something, or does his rhythmic, intense and energizing anger have some other purpose?

Italics. The frequent use of italics when he is quoting someone he disagrees with often has a hint of mockery. This is also a way of distancing himself from what he is criticizing. He's making it very clear that these are not his opinions. The use of italics also makes the words stand out as something remarkable, he makes words and phrases that are seen as natural and normal by the people who use them, seem stupid and silly. This is pretty arrogant, and it made me wonder if protest and criticism isn't also an artistic norm? At other times, the use of italics underlines something that's important to the main character.

Composition. The novel consists of one solid block of text. No chapters, no paragraphs, no pauses anywhere. This, like so many other things in this book, creates intensity. It can also make the book tiresome to read. There is no good place to stop reading, it just goes on and on (like an angry rant often does). The composition, like everything else in this book, mirrors the main character's state of mind. Sentences are typically long, but with many commas and semicolons as the main character moves continuously from one line of thought to another.

A lot of the characters have at one point changed their names from their given or "natural" names to something more artistic, fashionable or appropriate to what they want to achieve. They exchange their real names for something that has a desired effect. It all comes back to the dichotomy between the genuine/natural and the fake/fashionable. The main character describes how talented people from the countryside travel to Vienna to fulfill their dreams and are crushed and broken there. It's like two different spheres that are not compatible. But the dichotomy isn't necessary between the city and the countryside. These places represent, to the main character, the fake and the genuine, respectively. It's about people seeking the social status art, fashion and high culture gives them, rather than actually being interested in art for its own sake or wanting to create something great or meaningful. And the people who are genuinely interested, are doomed to fail in such an environment. But although people in the countryside are vaguely described as being genuine, we are not really given an alternative, a solution, a positive counterpart to Vienna's art snobbery. It's just the negative side the main character conveys to the readers.

This novel is complex and, yes, artistic, even as it criticizes the art scene. Everything in it is carefully chosen and molded. There is definitely a melancholy longing for a past long gone where the main character was inspired by, and interested in, art. Throughout the novel he isolates himself from the people around him. He prefers to observe and criticize from a distance the milieu he used to be a part of. His change of heart has been a difficult and agonizing process, and his present day anger seems to me to have the purpose of an exorcism. He is driving all of these people away from himself, trying to cleanse himself of everything they represent.
Profile Image for Hugh.
1,272 reviews49 followers
May 10, 2018
Thus is my third experience of reading Bernhard, and after Old Masters and Correction, I had a pretty good idea what to expect. Once again this book is largely an intemperate rant against Austrian society written in a single long paragraph full of repetitions but this time I picked up on more of the humour.

The unnamed narrator is a writer who has returned to Vienna after a long period in London. He is invited to an artistic dinner by his one time friends, the petit bourgeois Auersbergers, after they see him on the street on the day they have heard about the suicide of a mutual friend Joana. The book covers the events of that dinner, and for the first half of the book the narrator sits in a wing chair drinking champagne and observing and remembering while waiting for the guest of honour, an actor in the Burgtheater.

The events of the dinner play out remorselessly, . This is another memorable book but not a comfortable read.
Profile Image for Uğur Karabürk.
Author 4 books107 followers
September 4, 2021
Oldukça zorlayıcı bir metin Bernhard bütün öfkesini sanat camiasından almış gibi öte yandan üslup çok başarılı kullanılmış diyebilirim. Daha öncesinde Beton kitabını okumuştum o daha akıcı gelmişti bana. Ama bu yazara devam ederim.
Profile Image for Jessica.
593 reviews3,364 followers
March 13, 2015
There are many writers who have written books and most of them are crap, but that is not the case with Thomas Bernhard, who is a great writer, and his books are not crap. Thomas Bernhard writes great books, that is to say, he did write great books, and he was a great writer, but now, I am pretty sure, Thomas Bernhard is dead. Considering that he is dead, it is no longer accurate to say that Thomas Bernhard writes great books; however, it is still wholly accurate to say that his books are great. It is accurate to say this of Thomas Bernhard's books despite the fact that most books are crap and most of the people who write books are idiots. This is, however, not the case with Thomas Bernhard's books, which, despite Thomas Bernhard himself being dead, continue to be great. Woodcutters begins with a man sitting in a wingchair at a party, bitching about having been invited to the party and complaining about how he hates everyone there, all the while sitting in a wingchair. For page after interminable page of Woodcutters this man sits in the wingchair and complains bitterly about being invited to the party. He is a guest at the party but professes he to be angry and disgusted that he is there. Thomas Bernhard, who is dead, but who wrote such great novels during that clearly unhappy period when he was still alive, has written a fabulous novel about a very cranky man sitting in a wingchair at a party, complaining bitterly. There is more to the book than that but you will have to read the book, or another review, if you would like to know what. I suggest the former course of action, that is to say, I recommend reading Woodcutters, as it is an excellent book, unlike most books, which have for the most part been written by idiots, and are crap. I recommend reading Woodcutters but I do not recommend reading the reviews. Most book reviews, I would even venture to say nearly all book reviews, are crap that has been produced by idiots, and I see no real purpose in reading them. I do see a purpose in reading Woodcutters which is a very fine book, though I would admit despite this that it's not for everyone. The world is full of idiots and most of them would doubtless fail to recognize that Thomas Bernhard wrote some great books while he was alive, though he has not continued to do so recently, being as he is dead. To a person who has not yet read Thomas Bernhard, I might unoriginally endorse the sentiment, recorded elsewhere, that this book, Woodcutters, is a pretty good place to start. I myself have not read very many books by Thomas Bernhard. I have read more than one book by him, but I have not read most or even a lot of his books. Thomas Bernhard managed to write several books before he went and died, and I have only read a few. I do intend to read more books by Thomas Bernhard, who, unlike most writers, who are idiots, did write some very good books. I cannot with any authority promise that all of his books are as good as this one, because I haven't read most of the books that he wrote. I have read Woodcutters and a couple of others and thought they were all very good, though certainly not to most people's taste. It's only to be expected that most people would not enjoy the brilliant novels of Thomas Bernhard, indeed it is unsurprising when one considers that most people are idiots, and are used to reading crap novels, indeed, preferring them over novels that are great, as I personally found Woodcutters to be. Thomas Bernhard was clearly a very great writer, though even if he were not dead, I would not invite him to any parties I might be planning to throw. I would, however, and will, persist in reading more of the books that he has written, as I consider those few books of his that I've read -- including this one -- to be very fine.
Profile Image for Emilio Gonzalez.
179 reviews71 followers
July 30, 2021
Que buena manera de empezar con Thomas Bernard, cuyo particular estilo en lo que hace a la constante repetición de frases pensé que podía cansarme rápidamente, pero no, las repeticiones le dan un gran énfasis a las reflexiones y criticas que hace sobre la superficialidad del mundo artístico vienés y la prosa lejos de ser pesada es más que llevadera, de hecho me fascinó.

La novela en su totalidad transcurre durante la cena que da en su casa el matrimonio Auersberger, a la cual son invitados diferentes artistas vieneses, incluido nuestro protagonista, un resentido escritor cincuenton que aunque alguna vez fue gran amigo de la pareja, hace ya muchos años que no se frecuentan y de hecho casi ni se soportan.
Con ese contexto, la novela es un entero soliloquio de este escritor invitado reflexionando sobre lo que le genera la hipocresía de ese circulo de artistas fracasados que viven de las apariencias, sobre artistas que se han conformado con su bienestar pequeñoburgues y se han convertido en cadaveres artísticos vivientes que se dedican a sacar rédito de posturas progresistas hipócritas, y también sobre algunos pocos de los que nadie espera nada y sorprendentemente sí tienen algo sincero y honesto que ofrecer.

Fue una gran experiencia haber leído a este autor, es un libro que no ofrece dificultad en su lectura y me parece muy recomendable.

Qué ha sido de todas estas gentes en estos treinta años, pensaba, qué han hecho todos estos seres de sí mismos en estos treinta años. Y qué he hecho yo de mí mismo en estos treinta años, pensaba. En cualquier caso, es deprimente ver lo que estas gentes han hecho de sí mismas en estos treinta años, qué he hecho yo de mí, de todas esas condiciones y circunstancias en otro tiempo felices, todas esas gentes han hecho condiciones deprimentes y circunstancias deprimentes, pensaba en mi sillón de orejas, lo han convertido todo en algo totalmente deprimente, toda su felicidad en nada más que depresión, lo mismo que yo he convertido mi felicidad nada más que en depresión.
Profile Image for Vesna.
219 reviews128 followers
July 7, 2022
Just in case anyone needs the "right epithet" for pretentious pseudo-intellectuals and/or pseudo-artists who are posers playing their role, being types rather than real human beings, here is a BERNHARDIAN THESAURUS (after their nth use, I just started to jot them down):

petit bourgeois
utterly repugnant

After reading only three of his novels, I can already unashamedly diagnose myself as an incurable Bernhardian worshipper.
Profile Image for Yu.
84 reviews117 followers
May 30, 2019
This is the first Bernhard I read. I like how through satire and irony, it gives a superb depiction of the spiritual decay of Austria, and of Western culture in general. In the setting of a party held and attended by Vienna's intellectual and artistic elites, the narrator observes the stupid sentimentality and moral weakness of the guests, and gradually pursues his sense of contempt and hopelessness to the extreme. Bernhard's language is humorous and musical. He both attacks mercilessly and addresses wistfully without getting either too angry or sentimental. Overall, I very much enjoyed this novel.
Profile Image for Basak Altincekic.
44 reviews94 followers
January 18, 2020
Çok az anlatıcının beyninin taaa en dibine kadar girebilirim. Bazen dışarda kalmak daha doğru geldiği için, bazen kafamı çok yormak istemediğim, mesafeyi tercih ettiğim için, bazen istesem de beceremediğim için. O berjerde kaçıncı sayfadan itibaren, ben oturmaya başladım emin değilim, iyi ki oturmuşum, feci tavsiye ederim.
Profile Image for Ubik 2.0.
939 reviews235 followers
June 11, 2019
Schegge dalla bergère

Immaginandolo come nelle belle foto che lo ritraggono cinquantenne in una perenne espressione sarcastica, sembra proprio di vederlo Bernhard, che, dalla bergère (locuzione ricorrente in tutta la prima metà del romanzo) sempre più stordito dal risentimento, dal sonno e dallo champagne osserva ospiti ed invitati alla cena artistica degli Auersberger per lanciarsi fin dalla prima riga in un monologo interiore ininterrotto e ribollente di disgusto, spietatezza e inclemenza a cui nessuno sfugge, perché quando si affronta l’umanità a colpi d’ascia, le schegge non risparmiano nessuno.

Inesorabilmente non risparmiano nessuno dei presenti, degli assenti, nemmeno dei defunti seppelliti nella stessa mattinata e neppure sé stessi, proseguendo con la consueta ripetizione ossessiva del linguaggio fino all’unico cambio di prospettiva del romanzo, l’abbandono della bergère per accedere al tavolo da pranzo a più stretto contatto con i convitati, mettendo così maggiormente a fuoco (in tutti i sensi…!) i singoli partecipanti a questo inferno dantesco in brodo viennese.

Anche se l’autobiografia dell’autore è ufficialmente contenuta nei cinque magnifici volumetti che la compongono, più o meno in tutti gli altri scritti di Bernhard l’elemento autobiografico è dominante, inserito in un periodo della vita e nei rapporti con altri artisti (come avviene in Il Soccombente o Il nipote di Wittgenstein) oppure nell’arco di un’unica serata come questo “A colpi d’ascia”, una serata che diventa nottata, interminabile e trascorsa tutta d’un fiato fra ricordi, divagazioni, giudizi e sentenze inappellabili, che come sempre lascia estenuati e ipnotizzati.

Ma invero, oltre al passaggio dalla bergère al tavolo da pranzo, un ulteriore e decisivo cambio di scenario all’interno del romanzo esiste ed è custodito nella magnifica pagina finale, quando dopo l’immobilità fisica pressoché assoluta dell’intero libro, l’uomo fugge via e le sue parole deliranti assumono quasi un significato liberatorio.

”…e intanto correvo lungo le strade di Vienna come fuggendo da un incubo, e intanto correvo, correvo sempre più velocemente verso il centro della città…e correvo, correvo come se adesso negli anni Ottanta fuggissi ancora una volta via dagli Anni Cinquanta verso gli Anni Ottanta, verso questi pericolosi, disperati e ottusi Anni Ottanta e pensavo di nuovo che anziché andare a questa volgare cena artistica meglio avrei fatto a leggere qualcosa del mio Gogol’ o del mio Pascal o del mio Montaigne… e correvo, correvo e pensavo che così come sono riuscito a mettermi in salvo da molte altre atrocità, anche da questa atroce cosiddetta cena artistica nella Gentzgasse sono riuscito a mettermi in salvo, e su questa cosiddetta cena artistica nella Gentzgasse io scriverò, pensavo, senza sapere che cosa, semplicemente ci scriverò sopra qualcosa e correvo, correvo e pensavo, scriverò subito su questa cosiddetta cena artistica nella Gentzgasse, non importa che cosa, solo subito, pensavo, immediatamente scriverò qualcosa… e intanto attraversavo di corsa il centro della città, subito e immediatamente e subito e subito, prima che sia troppo tardi.”
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