"At first I could not understand the offensiveness of certain customers—which did not make them any worse or any better than the others; I just could not make it out. I missed the point of their double-edged, triple-edged, or multi-edged remarks and turns of phrase, but it took me only a few days to realize what they were talking about and why. They spoke about things that were naturally not mentioned openly by people in the city, and it soon became clear to me why this open way of talking seemed sensible and more appealing than the silent hypocrisy of others. In no time at all I naturally became familiar with the so-called indecent remarks and turns of phrase that were current in the Scherzhauserfeld Project in hundreds and thousands of variations. These people never minced their words. I very soon got used to this openness, and after a few weeks and months I was often able to outdo them all in inventiveness on this score and did not hold back. " (163-64) from Gathering Evidence by Thomas Bernhard.
"Bernhard's life was marked by recurrent misfortunes, including the humiliation of an illegitimate birth and a childhood spent in part with a mother who never disguised her contempt for him, the physical illnesses that brought him several times close to death, the loss of his beloved grandfather as the result of a misdiagnosed illness, and his discovery of stupidity, brutality, and mendacity as the ruling passions of his fellow Austrians. Once he had discovered in the Scherzhauserfeld Project the aggressive verbal style that would permit him to transform his suffering into art, he held onto it with a tenacity that would give to each of his major novels an unmistakable air of authenticity.
Bernhard's major work combines an unflinching recognition of the radical ugliness at the core of life with an equally determined affirmation, however implicit, of its inexhaustible beauty. This paradoxical vision too was one of the gifts that his grandfather had bequeathed to him: "I now had an opportunity to examine my grandfather's assertions. I had an obsessive desire to gather the evidence in my head, and so I began a strenuous search for the evidence, tracking it down in every direction, in every corner of the city of my youth and its surroundings. My grandfather had been right in his judgment of the world: it was indeed a cesspit, but one which engendered the most intricate and beautiful forms if one looked into it long enough, if one's eye was prepared for such strenuous and microscopic observation" (305). Thomas Cousineau-originally published in the Review of Contemporary FictionVolume 21, No. 2 available through their web site.© 2001 Thomas Cousineau and the Review of Contemporary Fiction used with their kind permission
visionaryoutsiders says At times exhausting, but never boring, Bernhard. like Beckett, is writing his way out. Out of life, out of time, his characters are often quite mad, in the meaning of angry, and the meaning of insane. A good place to start with Bernhard is The Voice Imitator, a collection of short works.