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The Loser (Vintage International)by Thomas Bernhard
Like much of his other work, Thomas Bernhard's The Loser has suicide at its core. Three men met and became friends while attending the Mozarteum in Vienna, and only one — the narrator — is still alive. The other two characters are a heavily fictionalized Glenn Gould (one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century) and the "loser" of the title, Wertheimer. Both the narrator and Wertheimer abandoned their art upon encountering Gould; Wertheimer ultimately commits suicide, and the narrator lives because he can't give up his obsession (unlike his piano) with Gould. Written as an unbroken interior monologue, The Loser is arguably as stunning as Gould's music.
Synopses & Reviews
Thomas Bernhard was one of the most original writers of the twentieth century. His formal innovation ranks with Beckett and Kafka, his outrageously cantankerous voice recalls Dostoevsky, but his gift for lacerating, lyrical, provocative prose is incomparably his own.
One of Bernhard's most acclaimed novels, The Loser centers on a fictional relationship between piano virtuoso Glenn Gould and two of his fellow students who feel compelled to renounce their musical ambitions in the face of Gould's incomparable genius. One commits suicide, while the other — the obsessive, witty, and self-mocking narrator — has retreated into obscurity. Written as a monologue in one remarkable unbroken paragraph, The Loser is a brilliant meditation on success, failure, genius, and fame.
"A complex and unsettling novel...about genius and obsession...mirroring the thought process of a compulsive mind." The New York Times Book Review
"Bernhard writes like a sacred monster....He is a remarkable literary performer: a man who goes to extremes in ways that vivify our sense of human possibilities, however destructive." The Wall Street Journal
"Bernhard is one of the masters of contemporary European fiction....After Kafka's and Canetti's, his sensibility is one of the most acute, the most capable of exemplary images and gestures, in modern literature." George Steiner
A brilliant account of an imagined relationship among three men — including the late piano virtuoso Glenn Gould — who meet in 1953 to study with Vladimir Horowitz.
”In this early and seminal novella, Thomas Bernhard raises many of the themes he will elaborate on in later work: madness, death, suicide, the fragility of identity, and his hatred for his native Austria. The story takes the form of a conversation between the narrator and his friend Oehler, walking together and talking about their mutual friend Karrer, who has gone mad. Oehler does most of the talking. He often quotes Karrer, and he repeats phrases in rhythmic patterns, providing the text with fugue-like complexity. Brian Evenson calls this “In some respects the most overtly philosophical text in Bernhard’s highly philosophical oeuvre.”
Thomas Bernhard is “one of the masters of contemporary European fiction” (George Steiner); “one of the century’s most gifted writers” (Newsday); “a virtuoso of rancor and rage” (Bookforum). And although he is favorably compared with Franz Kafka, Samuel Beckett, and Robert Musil, it is only in recent years that he has gained a devoted cult following in America.
A powerful, compact novella, Walking provides a perfect introduction to the absurd, dark, and uncommonly comic world of Bernhard, showing a preoccupation with themes—illness and madness, isolation, tragic friendships—that would obsess Bernhard throughout his career. Walking records the conversations of the unnamed narrator and his friend Oehler while they walk, discussing anything that comes to mind but always circling back to their mutual friend Karrer, who has gone irrevocably mad. Perhaps the most overtly philosophical work in Bernhard’s highly philosophical oeuvre, Walking provides a penetrating meditation on the impossibility of truly thinking.
About the Author
Thomas Bernhard was born in Holland in 1931 and grew up in Austria. He studied music at the Akademie Mozarteum in Salzburg. In 1957 he began a second career, as a playwright, poet, and novelist. The winner of the three most distinguished and coveted literary prizes awarded in Germany, he has become one of the most widely translated and admired writers of his generation. His novels published in English include Gargoyles, The Lime Works, Correction, Concrete, Woodcutters, and Wittgenstein's Nephew; a number of his plays have been produced off Broadway, at the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, and at theaters in London and throughout Europe. The five segments of his memoir were published in one volume, Gathering Evidence, in 1985. Thomas Bernhard died in 1989.
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